Financial Penalties on SMRT and SBS Transit for Five Rail Incidents

News Releases 01 Oct 2013 financial penalty rail incidents rail reliability service disruptions

LTA working together with Public Transport Operators to put in place corrective measures

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) intends to impose financial penalties of $860,000 on SMRT for four separate incidents on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), the Circle Line (CCL) and the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT). Separately, LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $250,000 on SBS Transit (SBST) for a service disruption on the North East Line (NEL).

Newton Station Trackside Fire

2. On 13 February 2013, SMRT detected a fire on the Direct Current (DC) cables about 5 metres from the headwall of Newton station. Northbound train service (towards Woodlands) between Marina Bay and Toa Payoh stations was disrupted for 2 hours and 20 minutes. About 17,700 passengers were affected. The fire was subsequently put out by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers, after which normal train service resumed. Forensic laboratory tests indicated that the cable fire could have started from arcing1 between exposed conductor wires and the wet conditions in the cable trough. The findings also indicated that this was a localised incident, as no further abnormalities were detected after the inspection of all the DC cables in the tunnels of the NSEWL. Cable samples from Orchard station that were sent for laboratory tests were also found to be in good condition. 

3. The damaged cables were replaced in the morning of 14 February 2013 before revenue service commenced. In addition to its regular visual inspection and insulation tests, SMRT will carry out more active monitoring of the conditions of DC cables, especially at locations that are likely to be more susceptible to damage. Cable samples from such locations will also be sent for laboratory tests periodically.

4. In managing the incident, SMRT had committed several lapses. These include detraining passengers at Newton station rather than at an earlier station further away from the fire, delaying the switching off of traction power to the cables, and ineffective deployment of the tunnel and station ventilation systems which resulted in smoke entering the platform and concourse areas. SMRT has since updated its operating procedures for managing trackside fires, as well as its training for staff to handle fire incidents, to incorporate the lessons learnt from this incident. LTA and SCDF will also conduct more joint exercises with public transport operators to ensure that frontline staff are better prepared for such instances.

5. SMRT’s lapses in managing the fire incident were in breach of the licence conditions and Code of Practice 52 under the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Act. LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $300,000 on SMRT for this incident. 

Train Launching Incident at Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) Depot

6. In the morning of 4 July 2013, BPLRT train services were affected when only three trains were initially launched for service. Investigations found that the operator had failed to put in place a robust process to ensure correct registration of train identification against their locations in the depot. As a result, the BPLRT Operation Control Centre (OCC) misidentified the location of a sweep train3 that was scheduled to be launched that morning, and had launched it along an unauthorised route. While travelling along the incorrect route, the sweep train stalled at one of the launch tracks, and this held up the launch of remaining trains for revenue service. During the incident, free boarding of regular bus services and bus bridging were activated.

7. SMRT Light Rail had since implemented a formal system for the OCC to have closer tracking of all its trains. It had also enhanced its procedures and conducted training for its staff to prevent similar occurrences in the future. For this incident, LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $60,000 on SMRT Light Rail for breach of its licence conditions.  

Rail Defects on the Circle Line (CCL) and Incident at Ulu Pandan Depot

8. In addition, SMRT will be penalised for two other incidents:

  1. SMRT had failed to ensure timely rectification to two corroded sections of CCL tracks. The first defective rail located near Promenade station was brought to LTA’s attention on 10 November 2012 after thumping sounds were reported as trains passed over the affected rail section. The second defective rail near Stadium station was identified through a joint inspection by LTA and SMRT in late November 2012 for the entire CCL, following the Promenade incident. While SMRT had taken interim measures, such as installing a G-clamp to stabilise the affected rail and carrying out weekly monitoring of the affected rail stretches, there was undue delay in carrying out the necessary remedial works which was not acceptable. In doing so, SMRT had breached the license conditions which require the operator to diligently inspect, maintain and repair the Working Network, and to keep it in good, safe and efficient condition. Since November 2012, SMRT had set up a separate CCL maintenance team to ensure more attention is given to maintenance. LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $250,000 on SMRT for these maintenance lapses.

  2. In another incident, SMRT staff failed to apply proper procedures while track works were carried out at Ulu Pandan depot in December 2012. This resulted in a section of the third rail4 being made live, thus exposing workers who were carrying out track works in the depot to the risk of electrocution. The failure of SMRT staff to observe the necessary procedures to ensure the safety of workers was in breach of licensing conditions and Code of Practice 5, for which LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $250,000. SMRT had since reviewed and tightened its procedures for providing track access, as well as the training of its staff to ensure that they are competent in carrying out the procedures.

Failed Train Push-Out Incident on the North East Line (NEL)

9. On 19 June 2013, train services were disrupted on both bounds between Woodleigh and Punggol stations for about 2 hours and 20 minutes. About 54,900 passengers were affected. The disruption was caused by a southbound train that had stalled after departing Buangkok station. As the fault could not be reset locally, SBST carried out a train push-out operation5 to move the stalled train to Hougang station for passengers to disembark. However, the push-out operation failed due to procedural errors made by SBST’s recovery team. Due to the protracted delay, SBST had to conduct train-to-track detrainment for the 250 passengers on board the stalled train. However, SBST failed to meet the requirement6 for such detrainment to commence within 30 minutes after the train had stalled.

10. Investigations found that the train had stalled due to a short circuit of the train’s Rail Guard Switch7 (RGS). The insulation of two wires in the RGS Junction Box located at the rear of the train was damaged due to abrasive rubbing from train vibrations, resulting in the short circuit. Following the incident, SBST has inspected all RGS wires fleet-wide to ensure their insulation is in good condition. SBST has also adjusted the RGS wire arrangement to prevent abrasive rubbing. LTA will work with the operator on longer-term improvement measures, such as studying the feasibility of relocating the RGS Junction Box of existing NEL trains to the under-frame of the train-car body to reduce vibration. This measure will also be applied to all new trains, including those on the Downtown Line. SBST has also enhanced the training of its operations staff so that they are familiar and adequately trained for push-out operations.

11. LTA intends to impose a financial penalty of $250,000 on SBST for this incident. The penalty takes into consideration SBST’s failure to comply with the NEL’s Operating Performance Standards and its management of the incident. 

Donation of Financial Penalties to the Public Transport Fund

12. Under Section 19 of the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Act, a licensed public transport operator (PTO) can be penalised up to $1 million per incident, if the operator fails to comply with the Operating Performance Standards and other regulatory requirements. In assessing the penalty amount for each of the above incidents, LTA has considered the facts of each incident, severity of the incident and any relevant mitigating factors that may apply.

13. Mr Chew Hock Yong, LTA's Chief Executive said “The LTA takes a serious view of these breaches of the Licence & Operating Agreement (LOA) and Codes of Practice (CP) that disrupt the operations of the rail system. In particular, lapses on the part of PTOs which may potentially lead to safety implications are not acceptable, and we expect the PTOs to review and improve their respective processes to prevent future occurrences. The LTA recognises that many of these incidents happened in 2012 and early 2013, and both SMRT and SBST have since taken appropriate measures to tighten their processes. They have also improved staff training to emphasise safety and minimise lapses in incident management and service recovery. The LTA, as the regulator, will continue to strengthen our rail regulatory framework and exercise vigilance to enhance the reliability of our rail service. We will continue to work together with both operators to put in place the necessary corrective measures.”

14. The total intended penalties of $1.11 million will be donated to the Public Transport Fund to help needy families with transport fares.  


1 Arcing refers to the flow of electricity through non-conductive media such as air.
2 Code of Practice for the Operation, Maintenance and Safety of the Rapid Transit System.
3 A sweep train is deployed by the operator to comb the tracks to check for any obstacles or obstruction before revenue service.
4 The third rail refers to the conductor rail from which the train draws its traction power.
5 A train push-out operation involves coupling a defective train with a “good” train (or the rescue train) in order to move it to the next station and allow passengers to disembark, before withdrawing the defective train from service.
6 This requirement is specified in the Code of Practice on Incident Management During Train Service Disruptions on MRT Systems.
7 The RGS circuit is designed such that when a train detects an obstruction, it breaks the electrical circuit and emergency brakes are applied to stop the train for safety reasons.

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