A front-to-back collision between two trains at the Clementi Station on 5 August 1993 was the first major accident on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system since it started operation in 1987. This first MRT accident resulted in 156 injured commuters.
At 7:50 am on 5 August 1993, an East-bound train from Jurong stopped at the Clementi Station for two minutes longer than scheduled due to a technical fault. It was then hit by another train.
Operations at the three affected stations, namely, Clementi, Buona Vista and Commonwealth resumed within a day after intensive checks were carried out by Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) engineers to ensure that the tracks, signals, power and other installations were functioning properly.
The train, comprising six carriages, had a full capacity of 1,800 passengers. The peak-hour collision injured 156 commuters. Several passengers were flung against panels and steel railings of the train or piled on top of one another, suffering multiple injuries.
Immediately after the accident, an independent inquiry panel was set up by MRTC to investigate the cause of the accident and to review the operating procedures and safety measures of the MRT system. The inquiry panel was chaired by Chua Koon Hoe, who was then Deputy Director-General of the Public Works Department. Besides Chua, the inquiry panel comprised of two members, Chang Meng Teng, then Deputy Chairman of the Public Transport Council, and Dr Natarajan Varaprasad, then Principal of Temasek Polytechnic, and a secretary, Low Tien Sio, then MRTC’s General Manager. The inquiry panel issued a report on its findings on 19 October 1993.
The report revealed that the accident was caused by a 50-litre oil spill from a maintenance locomotive which was carrying out maintenance work at about 5 am on the day of the accident.
According to the findings, a broken rubber ring caused oil from the locomotive to drip on part of the tracks stretching from Buona Vista to the Ulu Pandan depot.
Although a cleaning crew was alerted of the oil spill, cleaning was delayed because the station masters were changing shifts and there was also some confusion over who was in charge of the cleaning.
The inquiry panel pointed out that the accident could have been prevented had the staff understood the gravity of the situation and dealt with the oil spill “sufficiently aggressively or promptly”.
Following the findings of the inquiry panel, train operator Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Ltd (SMRT) revised its operating procedures to require station masters to inspect the platform tracks for oil, and in the circumstance of an oil spill, the train at the station preceding the oil spill must remain at the station until the train ahead has left the station.
Tan Lay Yuen
written on 17-Apr-1999
At least three components in safety-check system. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 25.
MRT trains collide at Clementi: 132 hurt. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 1.
Panel of inquiry formed. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 1.
Spilled oil may be cause of MRT train collision. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 1.
Elias, R. (1993, October 20). Murphy’s Law and a 50-litre oil spillage. Business Times, p.2.
Leong, C. T. (1993, October 20). Oil spillage led to MRT train collision: Panel. The Straits Times, p. 1.
Bang! Then screams, cries. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 25.
Commuters’ confidence still high after Thursday’s accident. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 27.
Compensation claims counter and hotline set up. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 27.
Safety restriction imposed after MRT accident lifted, (1993, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 21