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Maintenance shortfalls behind water pump failure that caused massive NSL disruption: Report

Maintenance shortfalls behind water pump failure that caused massive NSL disruption: Report
A malfunctioning water-pumping system had been behind the massive rail disruption on the North-South Line over the weekend, thwarting the journeys of thousands of commuters. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

Maintenance shortfalls behind water pump failure that caused massive NSL disruption: Report

SINGAPORE — Inadequate maintenance is believed to be behind the malfunctioning water-pumping system blamed for last weekend’s North-South Line (NSL) train disruption, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported on Thursday (Oct 12).

“The pump was not operable during a critical period due to a lack of maintenance,” the report said, citing anonymous sources.

Zaobao added that SMRT staff overseeing equipment maintenance could be transferred out of their posts for failing in their duties.

The newspaper also reported that SMRT’s management was mulling over the staff transfers, although the company did not confirm the matter. The report gave no indication as to how many employees from the transport operator could be affected.

SMRT’s vice-president for corporate communications Patrick Nathan told TODAY that the company does not comment on staff matters, but it was strengthening its building and facilities team in light of the disruption.

TODAY’s queries to SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on what caused the malfunction, and when the pumps were last serviced and how often they were maintained, have gone unanswered since the start of this week.

The LTA had earlier disclosed that a malfunctioning water-pumping system was behind the underground tunnel flooding that started on Saturday evening and halted services across six stops on the 26-station NSL.

The faulty system sent water overflowing from the stormwater sump pit, where rainwater accumulates, into the tunnel through the rail tracks where trains from Bishan travel underground towards Braddell.

SMRT was forced to de-activate the trackside power supply as a safety precaution, crippling services from Ang Mo Kio to Newton stations until Sunday afternoon. The disruption affected the journeys of thousands in one of the worst rail trip-ups since 2011.

A spokesperson for SBS Transit, which operates the Downtown Line, told TODAY that it had conducted extensive checks on its water-pumping systems and “have not found any issues”.

Earlier this week, TODAY reported that the downpour over parts of Singapore on Saturday, though heavy, was relatively short and not unusually high by historical standards.

The Meteorological Service Singapore said Bishan received the second-highest rainfall of 42.2mm within a half-hour period that day. During that period, heavier rainfall of 45.6mm beat down on Queenstown.

However, in terms of daily total rainfall, Ang Mo Kio had the highest rainfall on record of 74.9mm.

“While the rain over some parts of the island on Saturday was heavy, it was of relatively short duration and the rainfall recorded was not unusually high if compared to the long-term highest rainfall records for October,” the Meteorological Service Singapore spokesperson added.