SMRT tragedy: No records of staff coordination to stop incoming train

(Infographic: SMRT)

An omission of a procedure involving coordination to stop incoming trains played a part in the deaths of two SMRT staff in the accident at Pasir Ris MRT on Tuesday.

SMRT released a timeline of events on Wednesday (23 March) that led to the fatal accident involving two of its staff, Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24. This was the first time a fatality involving SMRT staff has occurred on the North-South East-West Lines.

The train operator also said that it has formed a team to immediately evaluate workplace safety procedures and has also implemented mandatory work-team level safety reviews.

According to SMRT, the sequence of events was as follows:

On Tuesday at 8.08am, a signalling condition monitoring device installed along the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT Station registered a warning.

At 10.54am, two teams were authorised to move down from the station platform, cross the track and access the maintenance walkway to the location of the device.

The teams comprised 15 members: one engineer, five assistant engineers, five technical officers and four trainers. They moved in a single file along the maintenance walkway beside the track towards the device.

The team was led by an experienced assistant engineer. Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf were following immediately behind the lead assistant engineer. The team walked in the direction facing oncoming train traffic.

SMRT pointed out that before the team is allowed to step back onto the trackway, the team must coordinate with the signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop, and to ensure that no trains enter the affected sector. There were no records that the procedure took place, SMRT said.

The statement further explained that the Pasir Ris MRT station is a terminal station with two platforms, and trains can cross from one platform to the other as they approach the station.

“In this accident, the train moving in automatic mode was routed to Platform 2. When the train captain saw staff on the track, he immediately applied emergency brakes but was unable to prevent the accident,” said the statement.

When the accident occurred at 11.08am, it was immediately reported to the Operations Control Centre.

Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf were buried on Wednesday.

A letter circulating online, reportedly written by a relative of one of the deceased staff, has questioned the train operator’s safety procedures and the level of empathy shown by the operator.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s Facebook post in the aftermath of the two deaths has also drawn flak for being “insensitive”.