Things are not looking up for Singapore’s largest transportation company, SMRT, which manages the country’s heaviest traffic MRT lines stretching along the North-South and East-West of the country.
A stuttering start saw several train breakdowns just weeks after GE2016 and PM Lee Hsien Loong’s appointment of former MND minister Khaw Boon Wan as the new Minister of Transport.
Today, a tragic accident, which took place at 11.10AM along the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT station, caused train services along the East-West line between Tanah Merah Station and Pasir Ris Station to be delayed for more than 2 hours. 2 young SMRT maintenance staff, Singaporeans Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were believed to have been hit by a train.
Yet the true tragedy behind this unfortunate accident is the fact that this accident could have been prevented.
SMRT spokespersons say that permission had been granted for the technical team to use the track, and that the personnel had been walking in a single file along the track towards a signalling location.
Yet important questions remain:
How could the technical team have missed the sight and sounds of an approaching MRT train?
Was the train driver aware of the group of staff walking along the tracks and why wasn’t the emergency break deployed earlier? Why was permission granted for the track to be used?
Did MRT control know that a technical team was deployed on the tracks where an active train was still plying the route? Does the company have procedures to assess the risks of deploying teams in such close proximity to active trains?
Preventable accidents like these only serve to deter confidence in the large and some say aging transport conglomerate, which has so far failed to impress commuters and investors alike about its ability to rejuvenate infrastructure and improve reliability and confidence in its services. If it cannot implement, or worse still, lacks the proper safety protocols to ensure the workplace safety and health of its staff, how can we trust the company to run the nation’s massive MRT system without a hitch?