Singapore’s Joo Koon incident the second major MRT train collision in 24 years

Twenty-five people have been injured after a collision between two trains at Joo Koon MRT station on Wednesday morning (Nov 15). — Picture by Low Youjin/TODAY
Twenty-five people have been injured after a collision between two trains at Joo Koon MRT station on Wednesday morning (Nov 15). — Picture by Low Youjin/TODAY

SINGAPORE, Nov 15 — The train collision at Joo Koon MRT station this morning is the second such incident in Singapore’s transport history.

The first incident occurred on August 5, 1993, when a front-to-back collision occurred between two trains at Clementi MRT station at 7.50am, injuring 156 commuters.

At that time, a Jurong East-bound train had stopped at the station for two minutes longer than scheduled due to a technical fault, and it was hit by another train.

The crash caused many commuters in the crowded train carriages to be flung against panels and steel railings.

Eight were warded in hospital for head injuries, spinal injuries, a fractured arm and other injuries, while others received outpatient treatment for minor bruises, shock and sprains.

In this morning’s train collision at Joo Koon MRT station, 23 passengers and two SMRT staff sustained light to moderate injuries.

SMRT said a train heading in the direction of Tuas Link Station stalled at Joo Koon Station at 8.18am. A minute later, a second train stopped behind the faulty train but moved forward unexpectedly, bumping into the first train.\

A joint statement from the Land Transport Authority and SMRT at around 11.10am did not say what the cause of the collision was. Investigations are ongoing.

In the 1993 incident, an independent panel of inquiry comprising members from the Public Works Department, Temasek Polytechnic, and Mass Rapid Transit Corporation was set up about a week later to investigate the matter.

The panel reported two months later that oil spillage from a locomotive carrying out maintenance works that same morning had led to the collision.

A damaged rubber ring had broken and caused 50 litres of oil to drip onto the tracks from the locomotive in the pre-dawn hours on the day of the incident.

The panel found that staff did not act “sufficiently aggressively or promptly” to deal with the spill.

While the cleaning crew was alerted to the oil spill, neither the SMRT Operations Control Centre, nor the crew realised the seriousness of the situation even though 10 trains using the tracks before the accident had experienced braking difficulties.

The 11th train involved in the collision at Clementi station had used its emergency brakes to stop at Clementi, but was slightly delayed as air pressure in its brakes needed one to two minutes to recharge before moving off.

An automatic braking system was activated to stop the 12th train coming into the station, but the oil spill prevented it from stopping in time, resulting in a collision.

No staff were found to be negligent in their duties, and the panel recommended for maintenance locomotives to be checked for oil leaks when they return to the depots.

The SMRT also required station masters to inspect the platform tracks for oil.

The SMRT received over 150 claims for compensation which were filed personally and through their compensation hotline set up a day after the accident.

The majority of the claims were for medical expenses, while the rest were for damaged items.

Separately, in 2000, the Singapore Light Rapid Transit (LRT) was fined S$100,000 (RM307,780) by the Land Transport Authority for the collision of two LRT trains at Phoenix Station that caused injuries to three people.

The fine was the first then to be imposed on any train operator here, and LTA said that Singapore LRT had breached a strict performance standard that demanded that the operator not cause any collisions. — TODAY

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