Safety on the Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore)

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Captain SMRT demonstrating the use of a refurbished C151's emergency detrainment ramp.
The Emergency Stop Plunger, found in all MRT Stations enables trains to be stopped before entering stations, in the case of an emergency.

The safety of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore was questioned by the public after several accidents on the system during the 1980s and 1990s. Most problems have been addressed, and many safety measures are visible to users of the system.

Significant incidents[edit]

5 August 1993 (7:50 am) – Two C151 trains collided with each other at Clementi, resulting in 132 injuries. The collision occurred because a work train that did maintenance work earlier that morning had spilled oil onto the tracks. One of the trains on that stretch of track that morning had been unable to brake in time because of the oil, resulting in a collision with a stationary train which was waiting to move off upon the recharging of its brakes.

9 October 1997 (2:00 am) – A maintenance train derailed in the tunnel near Toa Payoh. The derailment occurred because a staff member had failed to reset the track alignment properly. Disruption to train services between Bishan & Newton lasted about 8 hours.

13 April 1999 (10:00 am) – An empty C651 train on its way back to Bishan Depot after the morning peak service derailed between the Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio. The derailment occurred because the station master had failed to reset the track alignment properly. Disruption to train services lasted about 7 hours.

23 April 2002[1] – 21 C751B trains were withdrawn from service due to faulty gearboxes, though there were no safety implications. There were reduced train services on all lines resulting from this shortage of trains.

3 March 2003 (7:30 pm)[2] – A car crashed onto a stretch of at-grade track along Lentor Avenue in between Khatib and Yio Chu Kang, resulting in a light, minor collision by an oncoming train. Disruption to train services between along this section of the line lasted almost 3 hours.

20 April 2004 - Nicoll Highway collapse: A construction accident that occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. Singapore Time (UTC+8:00) on 20 April 2004 in Singapore when a Circle MRT Line tunnel being constructed near Nicoll Highway station collapsed; the supporting structure for the deep excavation work failed, resulting in a 30-metre (100 ft) deep cave-in that spread across six lanes of Nicoll Highway.

The collapse killed four people and injured three; the accident delayed the construction end date for the MRT station. The accident left a collapse zone 150 m wide, 100 m long, and 30 m deep. Four workers were killed, with three more injured. Steel beams were twisted, with two construction cranes being swallowed up. A substantial chunk of the main highway running over the tunnel was also knocked out.

The rescue efforts were called off on 23 April 2004 because of the low chance of survival by that point, as well as danger to the rescue teams. There was also the increasing need to stabilize the ground around the accident site to reduce the risk of further collapses. All six lanes of the Nicoll Highway were heavily damaged, rendering the road unusable; the highway re-opened on 4 December 2004 after reconstruction efforts.

A committee of inquiry found main contractor Nishimatsu Construction Company (ja:西松建設) and its officers as well as Land Transport Authority officers responsible for the collapse. Several other officers and subcontractors were reprimanded and issued warnings in connection with the accident; as a result of the accident, Stages 1 and 2 of the Circle line were delayed. Stage 3 of the line, Bartley to Marymount stations opened first on 28 May 2009; the partially built station structure was abandoned, and the affected station has been shifted about 100 metres (330 ft) away from the accident site. Eventually, Nicoll Highway station started operations on 17 April 2010.

24 July 2006 (12:45 pm)[3]HarbourFront, Outram Park, Chinatown and Clarke Quay were closed due to a loss of traction power with a train stalling after Outram Park. Attempts to bring the power back failed and hundreds of passengers were evacuated from the trains. According to later investigations, a cable which supplied traction power came loose. Train service was disrupted for hours and operator SBS Transit activated shuttle bus services to ferry commuters between affected stations.[4]

21 January 2008 (5.30 am–12 pm)[5] – There was no train service from Tanah Merah to Pasir Ris due to an accident involving a service train in the middle of Simei and Tampines at midnight. Trains were disrupted; there were no trains from Tanah Merah to Pasir Ris. Many commuters were affected as the incident occurred in the morning's peak hours. SBS Transit and SMRT deployed buses to replace train services.

20 September 2011 – On 20 September 2011, a power fault disrupted train services on all 16 stations on the Circle Line. The four hours delay left thousands of commuters stranded during rush-hour, it was reported that leaks and a damaged cable along the Circle Line were the cause of the disruption.[6] The disruption started at about 5.30am. Train services were gradually restored from 8am and all services were restored just before 10am. Dakota and Mountbatten stations were the last two to resume operations.[7] Investigations were carried out, and it was found that a faulty cable beneath the platform level at Dakota Station caused a power fault on Tuesday morning that affected train services at all 16 stations on the Circle Line.[8] 27,000 passengers were affected by the disruption during the four hours delay, with bus bridging services plying the Circle Line route.[9]

17 October 2011 – On 17 October 2011, at approximately 8.36am, a train heading from Labrador Park to Pasir Panjang experienced a fault and had to be taken out of service. Announcements were made in the affected stations, while bus bridging services were provided plying the affected section of the Circle Line. Normal train services resumed at 11.12am.[10][11]

14 December 2011 (6 am–11.45 am) – A communication network problem caused service disruption between Marymount and one-north at 6 am.[12] Partial train service was restored by 6.40am but extra trains could not be deployed for the morning peak hours. Bus bridging services were provided for stations between Marymount and one-north MRT stations and also between Serangoon and one-north MRT stations. SMRT said services had resumed around 10am but TODAY's deputy news editor Leong Wee Keat, who was at Bishan MRT, reported that the service was still slow.[13] In an updated statement, SMRT reported that full services were resumed at 11.45am and bus bridging services were extended till 1pm.[12][14]

15 December 2011 (6.45 pm–11.40 pm) – A 40m stretch of power rail damaged between City Hall and Dhoby Ghaut MRT stations caused service disruption on the North-South line between Marina Bay and Bishan MRT stations.[15] Services on southbound trains resumed at around 9pm while North-bound train services between the affected stations resumed at 11.40pm. Lights went off and ventilation was inadequate in some trains. A window in C151 067/068 was smashed and doors were forced open to provide ventilation.[16] Commuters were evacuated from trains and moved out of the stations.[15] Bus bridging services were activated between the affected stations.

17 December 2011 – A 50m stretch of power rail damaged between Newton and Orchard MRT stations, causing disruption to southbound service from 6.50am to 1.50pm, as an early morning. As due to the procedure of damaged rails and dislodged claws, the MRT was closed from 5.30am to 12pm on 18 December 2011.

26 December 2011 – On 26 December 2011, a loud bang was heard coming from a train along the North-East Line at about 7.20 pm. Operator SBS Transit said it was due to a sudden electrical surge on the train heading towards Punggol. A short in the surge protector resulted in a loud sound. Passengers were asked to disembark at Hougang station as a safety precaution; this caused a delay of nine minutes for the service towards Punggol.

15 March 2012 – Train services disrupted, between 6.30 am to 4.35 pm, on North East Line between Harbourfront and Dhoby Ghaut stations due to a power supply fault.[17]

17 August 2012 – Train services along the whole stretch of North East Line disrupted due to a power supply fault and a subsequent signalling fault.[18] This was due to a broken U-bolt which caused train delays throughout the day.[19]

10 January 2013 – Train services in both directions on the North East Line was disrupted due to a power fault, between 9.50 a.m. to 4.35 p.m.[20]

22 March 2016 - Pasir Ris rail accident: 2 SMRT maintenance trainees who were part of a group of 15 tasked to investigate a possible signalling system fault near the tracks of Pasir Ris Station were run over by a Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 at around 11:10am, killing them. The incident took place 150m away from the station; this led to a 2.5 hour disruption from 11:10am to 1:56pm from Pasir Ris and Tanah Merah, and affected at least 10,000 commuters.[21]

On 7 October 2017, train services was disrupted between Ang Mo Kio and Marina South Pier after the tunnels between Bishan and Braddell flooded after a heavy downpour in the afternoon and a small fire was spotted between Raffles Place and Marina Bay. Train services between Marina South Pier and Newton resumed at 9.20pm on the day itself. However, train services between Ang Mo Kio and Newton were only restored around 2pm the next day, after nearly 21 hours since service was stopped, making this one of the worst disruptions in SMRT's history; the cause of the disruption was a faulty water pump that failed to pump out water from the collection pools in the tunnel. [22][23]

15 November 2017 - Joo Koon rail accident: At 8:20 am two trains collided at Joo Koon MRT Station, injuring 36 passengers and 2 SMRT staff.[24][25]


These incidents have prompted the authorities strengthen fences along sections of train track running beside public roads. Safety was also an issue as there was the risk that passengers might get trapped in the gap created between the platform gates and the train as a result of the platform gates. Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV) were installed in all MRT stations.

A proposal to install platform screen doors at elevated stations and platform gates (such as those installed on the Tokyo Monorail) was initially rejected, due to the high installation & maintenance costs, which could eventually be borne by the passenger; however such half-height versions of such systems have since been installed at all stations, as their cost has fallen.

Fire safety[edit]

After the Daegu subway fire incident in South Korea, fire prevention became an important consideration of the Mass Rapid Transit system of Singapore; the MRT uses the guidelines of the American National Fire Prevention Authorities (NFPA), which were established for enhancing fire safety within metro systems. The guidelines contain criteria concerning the availability of emergency exits (within 600m), emergency evacuation with detrainment time (max. 15 min), escalators, and other design features. All the MRT stations and all trains have fire extinguisher and smoke detection systems.

Platform screen doors and gates[edit]

Platform screen doors by Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company Ltd (a member of the Knorr-Bremse Group) are installed at all underground MRT stations. In 1987, Singapore's MRT was the first heavy rail system in the world to incorporate platform screen doors in all its stations;[26] these doors serve to prevent suicides, enable climate control within the station (better ventilation and air conditioning), better security control as access to the tunnels and tracks is restricted and for overall passenger safety considerations.

Currently, there are 2 series of the full height platform screen doors in use; the first series, installed at several underground stations along the North South Line and the East West Line (except Changi Airport Station, Bishan station and Marina South Pier Station), have been in use since 1987. These cost about an additional S$1 million per platform; the latest series of platform screen doors, featuring a sleeker design and incorporating more glass surfaces, are installed at all underground stations along the three driverless MRT lines, the North East, Circle and Downtown lines.

In a speech[27] by the Minister for Transport on 25 January 2008, the government had announced plans for the retrofitting of HHPSD on platforms at all elevated stations by 2012; this was an about turn from the government's previous stance of not supporting the retrofitting of these gates at elevated platforms due to prohibitively high costs. Costs have since fallen due to the popularity of such gates worldwide, making such a project now feasible; the gates, supplied by Singapore Technologies, have been installed at Jurong East original platforms, Pasir Ris and Yishun in 2009, Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak, Chinese Garden, Clementi, Eunos and Lakeside in 2010 and the remaining stations except Sembawang, Yew Tee and Kranji were installed and fully operational on 2011. Sembawang and Yew Tee have been in operation on 31 January and 1 February in 2012, and Kranji Station have been in operation on 14 March in the same year.

Pasir Ris was the first elevated station to have platform screen gates and Kranji was the last elevated station to have platform screen gates.

By 2011, all above-ground East West Line stations have the platform screen doors installed and by 2012, all above-ground North South Line stations have the platform screen doors installed.[28]

Type Image Manufacturer Year Introduced Routes operated Variations
Full Height, 1st Generation Ns25 rafflesplace.jpg Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors 1987 North South Line
East West Line
Full Height, 2nd Generation Ne14hougang.jpg Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors 2002 North East Line
Changi Airport
North East Line Variation
Full Height, 2nd Generation Mountbatten-CCLPlatform.JPG Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors 2008 Circle Line
Circle Line Variation
Half Height Yishun MRT Station with PSDs.jpg ST Electronics
Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors
2009 North South Line
East West Line
Above-ground stations only except Bishan.
Full Height, 2nd Generation Marina South Pier Station.JPG Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors 2013 Downtown Line
Marina South Pier
Downtown Line Variation

Emergency equipment[edit]

The safety facilities in the MRT are listed below:

  • Emergency Stop Plunger (ESP)/Emergency Train Stop (ETS)
  • Emergency Telephone
  • GTM's Passenger intercom at SBS Transit stations
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Emergency Stop Button on escalator/travelator
  • Emergency Detrainment Ramp
  • Emergency Communication Button
  • Door unlock handle at SBS Transit stations
  • Emergency door handle of platform screen doors


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-04-29. Retrieved 2008-01-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-04-29. Retrieved 2008-01-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Welcome to SBS Transit
  4. ^
  5. ^[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Leaks, damaged cable cause of 4-hour delay on Circle Line". The Straits Times. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
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  8. ^ "Faulty cable led to Circle Line disruption". Channel News Asia. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  9. ^ "Call for thorough probe on Circle Line disruption". Channel News Asia. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
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  14. ^ Dec 14, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
  15. ^ a b "Partial train services resume after disruption on North-South line". AsiaOne. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  16. ^ "North-South MRT Line breakdown hits thousands". Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  17. ^ "NEL train service between Dhoby Ghaut and HarbourFront stations disrupted". Channel NewsAsia. 2012-03-15.
  18. ^ "Delay in the North East Line Train Service Due to Two Faults – Signalling Fault Resolved, Free Bus Shuttles Being Deployed for Evening Peak". SBS Transit. 17 August 2012.
  19. ^ "LTA probes train delays on NEL last". Straits Times. 22 August 2012.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "NEL services fully resumed at 4:35pm: SBS Transit". Channel NewsAsia. January 10, 2013.
  21. ^ "2 SMRT staff dead in accident near Pasir Ris station". Channel NewsAsia. 22 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  22. ^ "NSL disruption: Flooded MRT tunnels cleared, train service resumes between Ang Mo Kio and Newton". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  23. ^ "Flooded MRT tunnel, trackside fire caused train disruption on NSL: SMRT". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  24. ^ "MRT train collides with stationary train at Joo Koon station: Reports". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  25. ^ "Joo Koon train collision: Total number of injured rises to 38". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  26. ^ Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors – Completed Projects Archived 2008-02-13 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Doubling our Rail Network" (Press release). Minister for Transport (Singapore). 2008-01-25.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ "LTA Completes Installation of Half Height Platform Screen Doors". Land Transport Authority. 14 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2013.