Transport Minister Khaw 'will sort things out': K Shanmugam

One of the two trains that collided at Joo Koon station. Photo: Yahoo News Singapore

Referring to recent issues plaguing Singapore’s MRT system, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said he was confident that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan “will sort things out”.

In a post written on Thursday night after two trains collided at Joo Koon Station injuring 29 people, Shanmugam said Khaw had made “significant improvements” since going to the Ministry of Transport in October 2015.

“Since then there have been significant improvements, building on the good work of his predecessor, Min Lui Tuck Yew. Of especial note, Min Khaw has moved to strengthen the engineering teams,” wrote Shanmugam.

Shanmugam added that Khaw volunteered to go to the Ministry of National Development in 2011 to sort out Singapore’s housing issues. Shanmugam said, “I remember him telling me: ‘Housing is the Government’s signature success. And how can we let that drift.’ So he asked to go to MND, and within four years, got the job done.

“In 2015, he was asked if he could go to MOT. I remember him saying to us, his colleagues: ‘In 2011, I volunteered to go to MND. Now I am not volunteering. But I will go where I am needed.’”

It has been a “tough two years” for the transport minister, added Shanmugam. “But I have every confidence that he will deal with the challenges,” he said.

Shanmugam ended his note saying that his “prayers and thoughts” were with those injured in the Joo Koon incident.

Preliminary investigations showed that a software glitch in the signalling system caused one train to misjudge the distance between the two trains, leading to a collision.

Commuters told the media that the impact jolted everyone in the train, causing some to fall on the floor.

Of the 29 people who were injured, 25 were taken to the National University Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) for treatment while the other four were walk-in patients at NTFGH.

Most of the injuries were related to knocks, falls and bruises, with one passenger suffering a broken tooth and another having fainted.

Speaking on Wednesday night at a media conference on the preliminary findings into the collision, Khaw had referred to Wednesday as an “awful day” that also saw three disruptions on the Circle Line, East West Line and North South Line. He also said the Tuas West Extension would be suspended on Thursday to facilitate investigations into the collision.

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 that accident, an independent inquiry panel was formed to look into the matter and SMRT subsequently revised some of its operating procedures.