SINGAPORE: Even standing behind the yellow safety line would not have prevented a commuter from falling onto the train tracks. Only physical barriers could have done so.
This was put to Chief Engineer Lee Siew Kee from SMRT’s Engineering and Projects by the lawyers of Thai teenager Pen—Eakchanasak Nitcharee on the eighth day of her lawsuit against rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority.
She lost her legs in April last year after falling onto the train tracks at Ang Mo Kio station.
Noting that platform safety features at the time of the incident — which included the yellow safety line, tactile strips, as well as visual and audio warnings — were ’passive’ ones, Judicial Commissioner Vinodh Coomaraswamy told Mr Lee that the yellow line cannot jump up to stop her from falling.
"The yellow line can’t jump up to stop her from falling ... none of the features would have prevented a person from falling into the tracks. I think you have to accept that," he said.
The Judicial Commissioner added that whether the platform safety measures at that time were adequate is a different question altogether.
Mr Lee, who has worked for SMRT since 1997, maintained that the safety measures in place were sufficient and were regularly reviewed each time an incident of someone falling into the tracks was reported.
For example, following an incident where a commuter’s leg got stuck in the gap between the train and platform, Mr Lee said that SMRT reduced the width of the gap by 25mm by adding a thick strip that extended out from the edge of the platform.
Thus, the half—height platform screen doors that were completed at all above—ground MRT stations earlier this year would merely enhance the safety measures already in place, as well as ensure no service disruptions occur because of people falling onto the tracks, he noted.
Train services can be disrupted for about an hour each time such an incident occurs.
While on the stand, Mr Lee also fielded questions about whether interim safety measures had been taken in 2008 following the announcement that the platform screen doors would be built, as work on the 36 above—ground stations would take place at a progressive rate.
Mr Lee said that to the best of his knowledge, service ambassadors had been deployed at peak periods to manage crowds and ensure that no one breached safety protocols.
He also said that reducing the speed of trains as they enter the platform might not prevent injuries or fatalities as a result of people falling on the tracks — adding that it depends on which part of the track they land on.
The trial continues, with the last witness taking the stand on Thursday.
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