According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in yesterday’s conference (Oct 16), SMRT left over 100 foreign objects on their track for over 13 years. The LTA made the harrowing finding only after they investigated a fire that occurred in the train tunnel between Raffles Place and Marina Bay on Oct 7.
LTA announced their finding confirming that SMRT has yet to remove the 100 base plates that were installed in 2003:
“The fire was caused by arcing, or an electrical discharge that jumps across a gap in a connection. This resulted from a difference in potential between two items on the tracks – a concrete bed screw which was earthed, and the base plate of a point machine, that was connected to the running rail. The running rail carries the return current from the power-supplying third rail. The concrete bed screw involved was non-functional and was left in place after the point machine, which is used by trains to change tracks, was upgraded in 2003 by SMRT. Arcing does not typically occur between the concrete bed screw and the baseplate, but in this case, a built up of foreign material over time, such as rail grindings or brake dust, caused a “flow path of current” between the two components (causing the fire). There are more than 100 of these concrete bed screws, which are found at point machines in tunnels.”
Although LTA did not explain the dangers of having a fire in the train tunnel, the incident has the potential to cause catastrophic-level tragedies killing thousands if a train break down in the tunnel. There is no mention of punishments by the LTA, and neither did the SMRT CEOs resign. All blame has been pushed to the maintenance staff, which SMRT said will have their bonuses cut.
SMRT said that they will insulate the plates as a temporary measure and remove the plates only by end December this year.