First MRT accident

by Tan, Lay Yuen

The first major accident on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system since it started operation in 1987 was a front-to-back collision between two trains at the Clementi Station on 5 August 1993. The accident resulted in 156 injured commuters.1

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, which comprised six carriages, had a full capacity of 1,800 passengers, 156 of whom were injured during the peak-hour collision. Several passengers were flung against panels and steel railings inside the train or piled on top of one another, suffering multiple injuries.2

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 two members, Chang Meng Teng (deputy chairman, Public Transport Council) and Natarajan Varaprasad (principal, Temasek Polytechnic) as well as a secretary, Low Tien Sio (general manager, MRTC).3

On 19 October 1993, the inquiry panel issued a report on its findings. It revealed that the accident was caused by a 50-litre oil spill from a maintenance locomotive, which had been 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 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. All maintenance locomotives would also be checked for oil leakage upon their return to the depots. In addition, MRTC also announced the plan to purchase new locomotives to replace the existing ones for track maintenance as the new locomotives are not prone to the same type of hydraulic leakage.4


Tan Lay Yuen

1. Dhaliwal, R. (1993, August 7). Spilled oil may be cause of MRT train collision. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Pereira, B. (1993, August 6). MRT trains collide at Clementi: 132 hurt. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Panel of inquiry formed. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Elias, R. (1993, October 1993). Murphy’s Law and a 50-litre oil spillage. The Business Times, p. 2; Leong, C. T. (1993, October 20). Oil spillage led to MRT train collision: Panel. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Further resources
At least three components in safety-check system. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Bang! Then screams, cries. (1993, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Commuters’ confidence still high after Thursday’s accident. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Compensation claims counter and hotline set up. (1993, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Oil ring and human error. (1993, October 20). The New Paper, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Safety restriction imposed after MRT accident lifted. (1993, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


MRT Accident, Singapore, 1993
Transportation accidents--Singapore