SINGAPORE: The lawsuit filed by a Thai teenager against rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) wrapped up on Monday.
Lawyers will file their submissions after an 11—day hearing.
More than a year after her legs were severed by a train on the tracks of Ang Mo Kio Station, Pen—Eakchanasak Nitcharee returned to fight her case at the High Court. She is seeking compensation of at least $3.5 million.
Her lawyers took aim at the safety measures at the station, arguing that they were not enough to prevent her from falling off the platform; and that SMRT and LTA had been negligent in failing to put in place adequate barriers between the platform and track.
They argued that temporary barriers should have been installed at above—ground stations first, during the wait for the half—height platform screen doors to be installed.
Work on half—height platform screen doors began in 2009, and the project was only completed earlier this year. During that time, no physical interim measures, like temporary barriers, were put in place to prevent further track intrusions.
The court heard that there was at least one previous incident of someone falling onto the tracks, even though the victim stood behind the yellow safety line.
The incident happened in 2009 at Clementi MRT. Video footage showed the victim standing among the crowd and behind the yellow line. She appeared to have fainted and fallen onto the tracks, where she was hit by a train.
SMRT and the LTA maintained there was no need for temporary barriers, as the premises are reasonably safe with adequate audio and visual warnings.
SMRT’s witnesses who took the stand said that besides the yellow line, tactile warning studs, signs and announcements, two safety officials armed with whistles and light sticks are usually deployed during peak periods to alert commuters if they were breaching the safety protocol.
The court also heard that SMRT placed strong emphasis on its public education programmes such as the SMRT Community Emergency Preparedness programme, and its courtesy and safety programmes.
Expert witnesses also noted that interim measures, such as temporary barriers, has their own sets of complications, and can impede work on the half—height platform screen doors.
SMRT’s expert witness testified that installing the half—height screen doors went well beyond industry norms, as many rail systems in the world don’t have platform barriers and still operate safely using adequate warning systems.
SMRT’s expert witness John O’Grady, who is Head of Safety and Environment (Department) at the Toronto Transit Commission, said during the hearing that even without a platform barrier, the safety of commuters at Ang Mo Kio MRT station had not been compromised.
Ms Nitcharee returned to Thailand after testifying on the first day of the trial.
The court was later shown video footage of her falling onto the tracks. She was seen standing behind the yellow safety line.
She suddenly fell forward, flipped over the edge and landed on the tracks. Seconds later, the train ran over her legs.
She didn’t appear to have been pushed.
Train driver Mohamed Faizal Mohd Yunos said she looked like a ’leaf dropping’.
Following Ms Nitcharee’s fall, the court heard that no preventive measures were introduced at Ang Mo Kio station.
Mr Teo Wee Kiat, who was Head of SMRT’s Safety Services Department (SSD) at the time of the incident, told the court that the SSD had determined the station was as safe as reasonably practicable. Also, Ang Mo Kio station was already slated to get the half—height platform screen doors.
He added that the SSD had also conducted studies in April 2009 to review yellow safety line distances from the platform at stations, and concluded that they were comparable to those in other metro systems.
SMRT and LTA said it was Ms Nitcharee’s negligence that caused her fall, as the video showed that the platform was not crowded at that time.
The next step is for lawyers to file their submissions.
The case will be heard again early next year.
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