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    Jul 22, 2014

    $1.3m fine for trains jumping red lights

    WHAT happens when SMRT train captains jump the rail network's red signal light? They did that twice and the rail operator was slapped with a fine of $1.3 million.

    Both lapses took place on the East-West Line - one on Oct 9 last year and one on Jan 22. In each case the track points, located about 100m to 150m after the red lights, had not been set in favour of the oncoming trains, and were damaged in the process.

    In each instance, train services were disrupted for more than an hour, affecting over 10,000 commuters each time.

    Both disruptions could have been prevented if the staff had been vigilant, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.

    Yesterday, the regulator announced a financial penalty of $1.6 million for SMRT and $50,000 for SBS Transit.

    SMRT was fined $400,000 for jumping the red light between Pioneer and Joo Koon stations on Oct 9. It was fined $900,000 for the Jan 22 incident, between Expo and Tanah Merah stations.

    LTA said in both cases, SMRT's Operations Control Centre (OCC) had failed to stop the trains before they damaged the track points.

    A $200,000 penalty was also slapped on SMRT for a disruption on the North-South Line (NSL) on Jan 20.

    Lapses by a technician and train captain resulted in a train having no auxiliary electrical supply that day.

    The train later stalled when it drained its back-up battery, and had to be pushed by another train.

    On May 2, NSL services were disrupted again after a short circuiting clamp was left on the rails during upgrading works earlier in the morning. This resulted in a traction power fault and SMRT being fined $100,000.

    Singapore's other rail operator, SBS Transit, was fined $50,000 for an incident on the North-East Line on March 21.

    Staff carrying out maintenance work at Potong Pasir Station caused a short-circuit that disrupted traction power supply at that station and two adjacent ones.

    Yeo Teck Guan, LTA group director of public transport, said the authority will tighten its regulatory oversight on the way SMRT and SBS Transit staff are trained, and carry out audits on the training processes.

    The red-light breaches took place when the trains were being driven manually. This happens only a "few times a month", when the signalling system is not working, said Mr Yeo.

    Park Byung Joon, head of the urban transport management programme at SIM University, described the two incidents as "serious offences", and said that an "over-reliance on an automated system can result in a form of complacency".

    On the whole, train service withdrawals have fallen since last year.

    SMRT plans to include more hands on-pratice in staff training and enhance radio protocol with train captains.