SMRT suspends staff whose bad call triggered epic rail fail

At left, a crowd swarming to board the bus, a line of commuters walking on the train tracks to the nearest station, at right. Images: @Meteorjeon/Twitter, @Reeeyou/Twitter
At left, a crowd swarming to board the bus, a line of commuters walking on the train tracks to the nearest station, at right. Images: @Meteorjeon/Twitter, @Reeeyou/Twitter

Train operator SMRT has suspended two employees two weeks after a major rail disruption left thousands of commuters stranded.

SMRT said yesterday that it sent a supervisor and employee for “retraining” over a bad judgment call while fixing a fault along the North-South and East-West rail lines that led to cascading failures. It said they should have isolated the electrical problem before drawing power from a substation in Buona Vista.

“But our power staff misread the graphics display and thought that the fault had been isolated and proceeded to draw power from [Buona Vista], which caused a trip on the Circle Line,” CEO Neo Kian Hong said yesterday

Both employees would need to earn their certifications again before they could return to work, it added.

The nearly four-hour outages on the night of Oct. 14 affected more than 30 stations across the North-South, East-West, and Circle lines, causing 120,000 commuters to be rerouted. The Land Transport Authority concluded its probe of the incident yesterday, saying in a report that the outages were mainly due to faulty cables, melted circuit breaker coils, and failure to isolate faults. Twelve trains were inoperable at the time and at least 120 free bus services were “immediately” deployed to help stranded commuters. 

The authority added that all the melted coils and faulty cables would be replaced by the end of next year. 

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung responded to the commuter crunch with a rare apology for the “rough and stressful evening” faced by commuters that night. 

Thailand’s tourism authority also chimed in to mock the disruption, saying that their trains were running as “smooth as silk tonight” in a now-deleted post replying to Singapore Airlines. 

Other stories you should check out:

Transport Minister sorry for ‘rough and stressful’ night without rail service

Thailand takes low jab at Singapore’s epic rail fail

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