'It's an awful day today': Khaw Boon Wan on Joo Koon train collision

SMRT staff inspecting at a platform of Joo Koon station on the morning of 15 November 2017 after a moving train hit a stationary train at the station, causing injuries to 28 persons. (PHOTO: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore)

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has apologised for the “awful” MRT train collision at Joo Koon station on Wednesday morning (15 November).

“It’s an awful day today. Commuters were inconvenienced, and some even injured. So we are deeply sorry for that,” said Khaw, who was speaking to reporters after a media conference to announce the preliminary findings into the collision that injured 36 commuters.

Those who were injured and are in hospitals, Second Minister (for Transport) Ng Chee Meng, as well as Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Lam (Pin Min) visited them. They have been most understanding and we are deeply grateful,” Khaw added.

At the joint conference on Wednesday evening involving the Land Transport Authority (LTA), train operator SMRT and French conglomerate Thales, officials from the three organisations said a software glitch in the East-West line signalling system was the cause of the incident, according to their preliminary findings.

Thales, the supplier of the new MRT signalling system, said both the new and old systems are safe for operation. To facilitate further investigation into the incident, train services between Joo Koon and Tuas Link stations will be suspended for the whole of Thursday (16 November).

Calling it the “first major incident” of the new signalling system, Khaw added, “Thales is confident of their system but I advised the team, let’s play doubly safe, safety is involved.

“That’s why I advised them to suspend the Tuas West Extension tomorrow, so we have a whole day to do a thorough check before we resume the Tuas West Extension.”

In response to a question on whether a Committee of Inquiry (COI) would be convened to look into the collision, Khaw said the investigation should take its course before deciding on whether a COI is necessary.

When asked if commuters now have less confidence in the MRT system following Wednesday’s collision and last month’s MRT tunnel flooding, Khaw said, “Obviously people will be upset…I’m equally upset.”

The last such front-to-back train collision took place in August 1993 at Clementi station, which left 156 people injured. In the wake of the accident, an independent inquiry panel was formed to look into the matter and SMRT subsequently revised some of its operating procedures.

Note: This story was updated at 7pm on 16 November 2017 to reflect the latest number of injured persons involved in the collision

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