Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Singapore probes metro after thousands trapped


Singapore is to carry out a major review of its transport network after a breakdown trapped thousands of commuters underground until emergency operations were carried out to free them.

A power outage plunged trains into darkness and left thousands of people stuck on trains or in stations during Thursday’s evening rush hour on the SMRT North-South line.

Passengers in one train with no lighting or air conditioning smashed windows to let air into the cabins after drivers refused to open the doors for safety reasons, the Straits Times reported.

Some stranded passengers walked along dark tunnels to reach stations after what is believed to have been the worst breakdown in the system’s 24 years of operation. The metro has suffered other, more minor glitches in recent weeks.

One woman fainted inside a stalled carriage during Thursday’s blackout, the Straits Times said.

“There were no lights and ventilation, and it got so dark that at one point of time, the only sources of light were from mobile phones,” said passenger Oh Shu-fen, 23.

No injuries were reported, while services resumed before midnight on the affected line and it was operating normally yesterday after delays of more than two hours during the breakdown.

Operator SMRT, which also runs bus and taxi services and is listed on the Singapore Exchange, apologized to passengers in a statement, while Singaporean Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew (呂德耀) said he did not know whether a wider underlying problem was behind the blackout.

“I do not know if these are isolated incidents or whether there are systemic and more serious underlying issues causing these breakdowns,” Lui, who is visiting Cambodia, wrote in a Facebook post.

“We will therefore conduct a thorough health check on our train systems, determine how the faults happened and also whether the maintenance, communication and recovery processes were adhered to and can be further improved,” he added.

Overseas experts may be asked to assist, he said.

The 11 stations affected included stops in the Raffles Place financial district and City Hall hub, three within the Orchard Road shopping belt and residential districts near central Singapore.

The city-state’s civil defense force sent ambulances and other emergency services to some stations, but no casualties were reported.

An average of 1.78 million people used SMRT’s trains each day from July to September, figures published by the firm showed.

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