Monday, February 27, 2012

Seriously SMRT, what on earth is going on?

I wanted to blog about this issue when I saw the news article last weekend about a 2nd rail clip being found in 4 days. But today, I open the news and then I see that a 3rd (!) rail clip has been found in a week!
3rd MRT rail clip found dislodged near Ang mo Kio
Feb 17, 2012
By Lin zhaowei
Another dislodged rail clip has been found below an MRT viaduct - the third in a week.

This 10cm, palm-sized metal piece was found a few hundred metres from Ang Mo Kio station along Ang mo Kio Avenue 8, near a jogging track in the space below the viaduct.

But train operator SMRT said its checks did not turn up any clip missing from the track near where it was found.

These rail clips are supposed to secure the MRT rail to the wooden plank under it.

Now, I don't want to be an alarmist here, and I'm certainly no expert on railroad safety, but this article gives me the chills. The rail clips that have been reported in the news are those that have come off and that were flung off the viaduct onto the ground. These reports are about the damage what we KNOW.

what about the damage that we don't know? How many other rail clips have been dislodged from the MRT rail tracks and did NOT get flung off the viaduct onto the ground? For every rail clip that the public discovers on the ground, there could be dozens more rail clips that have been dislodged and that dld not make it off the viaduct. And how about all the rail clips that came off in the MRT underground tunnels that nobody would have discovered? This is the elephant in the room that nobody seems to be talking about in the media and that LTA seems to be making no efforts to address.

on top of that, the SMRT executives seem to be clueless. Apparently, "train operator SMRT said its checks did not turn up any clip missing from the track near where it was found." So the clip came off the track a distance a way and was carried all the way to Ang mo Kio and SMRT has no idea where it came from? Either that or it knows where it came from but is not telling us?

And then, we have SMRT giving us the "black swan" argument after the first incident:

After the first incident, an SMRT spokesperson was quoted as saying that it is "very rare" for a broken clip to drop off and that SMRT has encountered three other incidents in the last four years.
this is a similar argument as the one that PUB gave the public after the floods incident. PUB said the flood was a "freak" occurence that happens only once every 50 years. And then the floods kept happening again and again. After SMRT makes the above statement, the rail clips suddenly pop up again and again.

I take the MRT to and from work everyday and I shudder at what would happen if the MRT tracks somehow come dislodged, throwing a train off the tracks or to a sudden halt. or even if the rail clip gets caught in the  wheels of a train and causes the train to malfunction? Hundreds, if not thousands of people could be seriously hurt if not killed.

Seriously, SMRT, get your act together here. Do we need people to get killed before you wake up?


Anonymous said...

These rail clips are probably subjected to great stress whenever MRT trains pass over them. There can only be so much stress they can take before starting to fail. There are design specs for these clips.

Now that we are seeing some of these clips failing suggest that these clips, if they have not been replaced since the original installation of the MRT tracks, are they reaching the end of their functional lifespan.

Failure of a large number of components tend to follow a bell shape curve. Are we gonna see an increasing number of failures henceforth ?

What if a large number of clips in a contiguous stretch of tracks failed at the same time ? How will this impact the integrity of the tracks ? Will such a scenario cause a derailment ?

I don't want to be an alarmist. But the fact that the authorities are unable to offer any explanation is not comforting. One has to consider what is the worst case scenario.

Anonymous said...

Reliability of parts/components follow a bathtub curve. As the clips age, more and more will begin to fail as they reach the operational life. For the past one decade, SMRT top management may have fail to give priority to engineering matters instead concentrated on the peripherals like increasing shareholder value (big shareholders like TH, GLC ?)building malls, shop lots to increase rental income ? Maybe?

Anonymous said...

When there is smoke, there is a fire. You should be grateful that these people are not running SIA.

Anonymous said...

Criminal neglience on the part of the SMRT management past and present is not beyond consideration if something catastrophic happens.

Those affected should also consider taking a class action legal suit against the authorities concerned for compensation including the ministry and official bodies such as the LTA which oversees train operations.

Now I am beginning to appreciate the propensity for Americans to take issues to court - it is perhaps the only way to restrain the corporate world and govt from putting their greed for profit above the safety interest and well being of the ordinary consumers who are individually weak versus these goliaths. Consumers/Commuters must band together to protect themselves from runaway corporate greed.

Anonymous said...

Very excellent comment! It's the bottomless corporate greed all around us - not only SMRT but the govt also. Always thinking of how to squeeze every cent from the ppl for more profits and reserves so that they can themselves millions of salary!
This will not happen in US bit only in Sinky where the whole govt machinery is controlled including the union!

Back to the topic. Our SMRT is in torrid or telok condition. If u don't believe me try it yourself in this simple experiment!

Just take any train. Choose the latest new train and take a ride. When the train is on a straight track, YOU WILL EXPERIENCE IT WOBBLING from side to side like a SAMPAN! Here we are talking about straight track NOT the crossover just before the terminal station. Why is the brand new train wobbling, jerking, unstable and shaking about?

You are free to ask any railway experts and they will tell you same thing! Firstly the track alignment is out! It's not maintained properly. It has sunk down. The track is resting on ballast - those small granite stones or aggregates. There is a special machine that props those ballast up in railway terms is called "thumping"! Ballasts must by thumped to make them compact so that the track resting on ballasts is stable able to withstand the weight of the train which is equivalent to six 40 foot containers. Each saloon car or carriage is the weight of a 40 ft container.

Next the wooden slippers are all rotten! It's due to wear n tear u Ser our weather conditions. Most of them need replacement. The slippers are out of shape and soft. That is why the rail clips - the metal clips or rings that hold the metal track to the wooden slippers keep flying off at Jur and Clementi Stns! That us the reason. Now they use netting ! WTF! Lol! This is the first time it happened in the railway world.

This is all cutting costs. If they spend money to maintain then the profits will be reduced. End of year profit declaration won't look good.

Our govt still insist that our transport system need to be run as private enterprises. This is the result of corporate greed.

Whoever take over SMRT as the new CEO will have to clean the mess and years of shit left behind! It is rotting !