Power trip in Singapore after lightning strike stalls MRT services on NSL for over two hours on gloomy Sunday (June 3)

SMRT said on Facebook at 7.17pm that no trains would be plying from Choa Chu Kang to Woodlands. - PHOTO: NAW PA ZAW PHAW/FACEBOOK via The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): A traction power fault disrupted commutes along the northern stretch of the North-South MRT Line for more than two hours during peak traffic on June 3.

Transport operator SMRT said the fault, which occurred at about 5.50pm, meant that no trains could travel from Choa Chu Kang to Woodlands.

Preliminary investigations so far found that a lightning strike caused traction power to trip, and a small fire had broken out in a power control box next to the train track, about 20m from the platform of Kranji station.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said the fire had burned itself out before its officers arrived.

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire and root cause of the traction power fault is under investigation, said SMRT.

As the operator’s staff and engineers worked to get the system back up, commuters were told to take free regular bus and bridging bus services between the affected stops.

The operator also advised passengers to take the Thomson-East Coast Line and the Circle Line.

However, those who spoke to The Straits Times reported confusion on the ground.

Legal secretary Norazlin Omar, 48, was just three stops away from home at Kranji station when the train stopped. According to an announcement, the delay was due to a passenger who had pressed the emergency button, she said.

SMRT said in an update on June 4 afternoon that a train captain had noticed the fire and immediately activated the emergency switch push button, which caused the train to stop at Kranji station.

“This quick decision prevented the train from potentially stalling on the tracks, which could have required commuters to walk to the nearest station,” the operator said.

Passengers alighting from a bridging bus service at Yew Tee MRT station at about 8.30pm on June 3. - ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAYPassengers alighting from a bridging bus service at Yew Tee MRT station at about 8.30pm on June 3. - ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Train services in both directions between Kranji and Woodlands were also halted to allow engineers to perform repairs safely, it added.

Madam Norazlin said passengers got tired of waiting on the stalled train and made their way to the bus stop as there was no train service or staff directing them.

Photos on social media show crowds of commuters at the affected stations and bus stops.

Madam Norazlin said: “The bus stop was so overcrowded. People started to push one another just to board the bus. To make it worse, it was raining heavily.”

Others reported snaking queues and long waits for bus services.

Mr Bhagwant Kurade, 50, who works in trading, said he was stuck for almost 1½ hours at Choa Chu Kang station.

“They didn’t inform us at Jurong East. They should have informed us to go via the yellow line, but there was no information. We just took the train and got stuck at Choa Chu Kang,” he said.

Student care teacher Bella Ravi, 26, was travelling to Woodlands from Clementi.

“If not for the disruptions, I would already be home. It normally would have taken me 30 minutes, but I had to wait for the bus for an hour,” she said.

By 8.10pm, regular train services progressively resumed between Choa Chu Kang and Yew Tee stations, according to SMRT.

Singapore has one of the highest occurrences of lightning in the world, earning the Republic its reputation as a lightning capital.

In January, three workers on the roof of a Build-To-Order block in Bartley were taken to hospital after a bolt of lightning struck near them.

Stray streaks of lightning have also resulted in delays after striking trains or trackside equipment in 2016 and 2017.

Additional reporting by Whitney William - The Straits Times/ANN

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