LTA Takes Action against Rail Operators for Service Disruptions

News Releases 21 Jul 2014 service withdrawals service disruptions financial penalty

Train Service Withdrawals Continue to Improve across the Network

            The Land Transport Authority (LTA) intends to impose financial penalties of $1.6 million on SMRT for four separate incidents on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), and $50,000 on SBS Transit (SBST) for one incident on the North East Line (NEL). Details of these incidents are at Annex A.

SMRT’s Incidents

2         LTA’s investigations showed that these incidents, and the resulting service disruptions, had occurred due to SMRT’s failure to comply with established procedures and processes. On 9 October 2013 and 22 January 2014, train services along the East-West Line were disrupted after a train passed a red signal light, damaging a track point[1] in the process. Normal train services resumed after checks by SMRT confirmed that the track was safe for operation.

3          On 20 January 2014, train services along the North-South Line (NSL) were disrupted when a train stalled between Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio stations after its on-board battery drained out. The battery had failed to charge up as two circuit breakers[2] on board the incident train were not closed after routine nightly checks by SMRT. On 2 May 2014, northbound train services on the NSL between Yio Chu Kang and Yishun stations were disrupted due to a traction power fault because of SMRT’s failure to remove a Short Circuiting Clamp[3], which had been installed for sleeper replacement works that morning.

SBST’s Incidents

4          Train services on the NEL were disrupted on 21 March 2014 and 6 April 2014 due to tripping of the Overhead Catenary System (OCS) traction power supply. The former incident arose from a staff error during maintenance work at Potong Pasir station. The latter incident was caused by an aluminium-foil helium balloon that was accidentally released into the station by a passenger. LTA has found SBST liable for a maintenance lapse for the 21 March incident.

LTA Tightening Regulatory Oversight through Audits and Checks

5          Mr Yeo Teck Guan, LTA’s Group Director of Public Transport said “LTA takes a serious view of these incidents as they were fully preventable if the operators had exercised due diligence and vigilance when carrying out their duties. Lessons from these incidents have been shared with both operators. At the same time, LTA has tightened its regulatory oversight on operators’ staff training.”

6          LTA will further tighten oversight on the operators’ training regimes and carry out audits and checks on operators’ training processes. This step-up in regulatory oversight is to ensure operators enhance their processes to learn from incidents and deliver effective training to their staff.

Service Delays Arrested and Train Service Withdrawals Improved across the Network

7          Since the NSEWL incidents in January and February this year, the operators have worked hard to arrest such occurrences and prevent the onset of a new uptrend in service delays, as can be seen in Annex B. The number of service delays lasting five minutes or longer, normalised per 100,000 train-km, has come down in the first and second quarters this year for the NEL and CCL. For the NSEWL, the frequency of such delays has stayed about the same for both quarters (please see Annex B). We expect service delays on the NSEWL to be further reduced in the coming year as we address track-related issues and upgrade older trains.

8         In addition, train service withdrawals across the network have continued to decrease from 2013. In particular, the number of train withdrawals for the NSEWL, normalised to 100,000 train-km travelled, has dropped to 1.3 by the second quarter this year, compared to 3.3 in 2012 and 2.2 last year. This is an improvement of about 60% compared to 2012, before improvements by the LTA-SMRT and LTA-SBST Joint Teams.  Similarly, the number of train withdrawals for the NEL and CCL has also dipped to 0.2 and 0.5[1] respectively compared to 0.7 and 2.1 in 2012 (please see Annex C).

9          To sustain these improvements, LTA and the two operators will continue to enhance their predictive maintenance to systematically inspect, detect, correct and prevent failures, and conduct regular reviews of asset health. Rail operators are also undertaking active condition monitoring of rail assets.

Financial Penalties to be Donated to Public Transport Fund

10        Under Section 19 of the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Act, a licensed rapid transit system operator may be penalised

  1. up to $1 million per incident (in the case of incidents before 25 March 2014); and
  2. up to $1 million or 10 per cent of its annual fare revenue of a rail line, which is the subject of the licence, whichever is higher (in the case of incidents from 25 March 2014)

for failing to comply with operating performance standards and regulatory requirements. In assessing the penalty amount for each of the above incidents, LTA had considered the facts of the incident, the severity of the incident and relevant mitigating factors.  

11        The total intended penalties of $1.65 million will be donated to the Public Transport Fund to help needy families with transport fares.

[1] A track point refers to the connection between two tracks to guide train movements.

[2] A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit.

[3] A Short Circuiting Clamp is a safety device that protects the working party on the track from electrocution by connecting the de-energised third rail to the running rail.

[4] For 2013, train service withdrawals normalised to 100,000 train-km was 0.5 for the NEL and 0.9 for the CCL respectively.


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