Singapore Suspends Part of Rail Line After ‘Awful Day' of Crash

Updated on
  • Rail network has faced public criticism in recent years
  • Some services halted to conduct thorough check on system

A SMRT staff walks past one of the two trains that collided at a train station in Singapore on Nov. 15.

Photographer: TohTing Wei/AFP via Getty Images

Singapore suspended part of a rail line to conduct checks after a train collision Wednesday left more than two dozen people injured and prompted an apology from the Transport Minister.

At least 29 people were injured after a train hit a stationary one near the Joo Koon station in the western part of the city state. The Land Transport Authority said a software glitch was behind the rail collision, the country’s second in three decades.

The incident dealt another blow to a network that has faced public criticism in recent years for frequent breakdowns. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan called it "an awful day" and apologized to commuters, saying authorities "are deeply sorry," Channel NewsAsia reported.

SMRT Corp. the affected line’s operator, tweeted early Thursday that services between Joo Koon and Tuas Link stations on its East-West line were suspended, though trains on another major line were running normally. The Transport Minister had advised SMRT and LTA to suspend services between the Joo Koon and Tuas Link stations for the day for system provider Thales to conduct a thorough check.

Here’s what we know so far, according to local media citing statements by LTA officials at a press conference at SMRT’s headquarters late Wednesday:

  • The software protection feature on the first train was removed when it passed a faulty signaling circuit
  • The second train detected the first train as a three-car train and misjudged the distance between the two trains, resulting in the collision
  • SMRT is investigating if the driver could have reacted in time and applied breaks

Facts and Perspective:

  • SMRT operates the two oldest train lines in Singapore, North-South and East-West, as well as the newer Circle line. SBS Transit Ltd. runs the North-East line and the newest Downtown line.
  • Singapore’s worst rail glitches occurred in December 2011, delaying more than 200,000 people in the last weekend before the Christmas holiday, and led to the resignation of SMRT’s chief executive officer at the time. Subsequently, Lui Tuck Yew, the former transport minister who oversaw an expansion of the public-transportation network, left politics. There have been frequent disruptions since then.
  • Wednesday’s collision came in the midst of the Singapore FinTech Festival, a glitzy networking event that links banking executives with startups, and the persistent transport woes have accompanied the country’s drive to become a so-called Smart Nation.
  • The local shock from the accident -- particularly after breakdowns and increasing furor over inefficiencies in transport in recent years -- is unlikely to significantly harm the views of outsiders, according to Sebastien Deschamps, chief executive officer and founder of ExpatFinder.com.
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