Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 02/15/2013 22:42 | By Channel NewsAsia

Important to determine root cause of Newton MRT fire: Lui Tuck Yew

Important to determine root cause of Newton MRT fire: Lui Tuck Yew

Important to determine root cause of Newton MRT fire: Lui Tuck Yew

SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said it’s important to get to the root cause of the fire that took place in the tunnel of Newton MRT station on Wednesday.

He said, although the fire was small, the incident is "very serious" as any fire can be "potentially catastrophic".

Rail operator SMRT has said that an electrical short circuit caused a cable to burn.

Mr Lui said: "First of all, we need to get down to the root cause of it. We know that it is the cable’s insulation. We need to determine why it happened, because as I have said such incidents are very rare. I think the last time we had a fire of sorts was probably in 2004. So it is rare but still take it as a warning. We need to find out what exactly happened, the materials — we do not know why such a thing happened.

"Why the insulation failed? Is it because of ageing? Is it because it is time to be changed? These are all speculative at this point in time but just as we did for the root cause of the North East Line incidents, we need to go to the root cause of this.

"Because any fire is a very potential catastrophic one, very, very potentially catastrophic so we should not just say ’it’s a small fire, that’s it, we put it out, some inconvenience to commuters and then we move on’, we cannot be that way."

He said operators have performance standards to ensure there are no fires and the incident should be seen as both a warning and opportunity to re—look at procedures.

Mr Lui said: "Our performance standards require no fires on the permanent way. So we should take this incident — rare though it might be, as a warning and also as an opportunity to take a much more careful look at our inspection and our maintenance as well as our operations procedures."

The fire had disrupted train services for 15,000 people on the North South Line for more than two hours.

Mr Lui said SMRT did generally well in providing bus bridging services.

But he feels commuters, especially those who are already in the trains, should have been kept better informed in a timely manner. "There can be much further improvement to the way we convey information to commuters especially for those who are already in the network, especially those who are already riding the trains so that they are better informed of what’s happening, where the disruption is and maybe make alternative arrangements for themselves."

He added that some operational decisions should also be reviewed and that he’ll discuss this with the operator’s chief executive and chairman.

— CNA/ck

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