North-South Line full service resumes after longest ever breakdown in SMRT’s history

SCDF personnel clearing the flooded MRT tunnel. (PHOTO: SCDF)

Train services on the North-South Line (NSL) between Ang Mo Kio and Newton resumed at 1.52pm on Sunday (8 October), after services were disrupted for about 20 hours.

It was the worst breakdown of SMRT train services since the disruptions on NSL and East-West Line (EWL) on 7 July 2015. The duration of the latest breakdown also surpassed that of the disruptions on the NSL over two days in December 2011. The disruption occurred after rainwater had seeped into the train tunnels from Bishan to Braddell stations as a result of torrential rain on Saturday afternoon.

SMRT said in a Facebook post that an “all-out, overnight effort to clear water in the tunnels” was conducted, with teams from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Public Utility Board (PUB) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) helping out. Teams from the SMRT and LTA also “conducted network-wide checks on MRT tunnels”. The train operator also apologised for the inconvenience caused.

The disruption started around 5.36pm on Saturday, when SMRT announced shortly later that there was no train service between Bishan and Toa Payoh towards Marina South Pier, following a track fault that was not linked to the new signalling project. SMRT said there was a track fault in Bishan about 10 minutes later.

At about 6.05pm, SMRT tweeted that there was no train service from Ang Mo Kio to Marina South Pier, and asked for commuters to consider alternative transport.

At 7.32pm, SMRT said in a Facebook post that a train captain had reported a small fire on the trackside in the tunnel between Raffles Place and Marina Bay. SCDF personnel were activated, although the fire had died out on its own.

At 9.30pm, SMRT said services between Newton and Marina South Pier resumed at 9.22pm, adding that it was working to clear water from the tunnel from Bishan to Braddell stations – the first time that the flooding issue was mentioned.

SMRT subsequently said that services in both directions would not resume for the rest of Saturday’s operating hours between Ang Mo Kio and Newton.

SCDF said in a Facebook post at 1.56pm on Sunday that it was alerted to a call from SMRT about “a flooding situation” in the tunnels at 7.07pm and worked with personnel from SMRT, LTA and PUB overnight to pump the water out. At about 11am on Sunday, the water in the tunnels had been cleared, SCDF added.

The disruption was the longest outage since December 2011. Then, train services along NSL were disrupted over two days for about close to six hours on 15 December and five hours on 17 December, affecting over 200,000 commuters.

The NSL and EWL services started later than usual at 10am on 18 December 2011 for SMRT to conduct checks in the wake of the 15 December and 17 December breakdowns.

On 7 July 2015, train services on the NSL and EWL were both disrupted at the same time during the evening peak hour, affecting more than 400,000 commuters. Service only resumed completely the next day at 10:40am. SMRT was fined $2 million and $5.4 million for the 2011 and 2015 disruptions.