It has been sleepless nights for train crash task force


Putting their heads together: (from left) Nor Aziati, Yuslizar, Anthony and Wong are on the task force.Putting their heads together: (from left) Nor Aziati, Yuslizar, Anthony and Wong are on the task force.

PETALING JAYA: Sleep is the most treasured thing for members of the special task force under the Transport Ministry investigating the collision between two LRT trains on May 24.

“For two weeks, we started our day at 8am and ended past midnight, practically every single day, ” said Associate Prof Dr Nor Aziati Abdul Hamid, a railway signalling expert, who is now a principal researcher at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia’s Industry Centre of Excellence for Railway.

Her fellow investigator, Yuslizar Daud, who is a railway system, engineering and integration specialist, also said he only managed “a few winks”.

The other two co-investigators were Anthony Arokianathan, a maintenance support signalling engineer for the Express Rail Link (ERL), and Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon, a professor in mechanical engineering at Universiti Putra Malaysia, and who is also a board member of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research.

The other five members of the nine-person task force were Transport Ministry (MOT) secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak, who acted as chairman; the ministry’s deputy secretary-general for policy Normah Osman, who is deputy chair, as well as Wan Mohd Asraf Wan Salleh, secretary of the ministry’s land division, Azlin Sabtu, MOT legal adviser, and Brig-Gen Izani Ismail, chief inspector at MOT’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

According to Yuslizar, the panel started collating documents almost immediately after the crash, and they had been basically “fuelled on adrenaline” for the fortnight as they compared notes with Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, who is the operator of the LRT service, the Land Public Transport Agency (Apad), the Fire and Rescue Department, the Malaysian Civil Defence Force, and several other agencies.

The panel members walked back and forth through the tunnel, boarded a special train similar to those involved in the accident, and retraced the steps taken by the train driver involved in the incident.

They also interviewed dozens of people, from the operator, witnesses and passengers of the train involved in the incident, as well as the driver (hostler) of the other train.

Visits were made to the Kelana Jaya line depot at Lembah Subang, which is also next to the line’s operation control centre (OCC).

Wong conducted simulations of the crash impact and assessed the kinds of injuries sustained by the passengers, other than examining the train wreck, as well as the level of protection given by the trainsets.

The collision involving a manually operated off-service train with an automatically operated train with 213 passengers aboard is categorised as “catastrophic” in rail safety assessment. It caused serious injuries, with six passengers critically injured, 15 passengers had semi-critical injuries while 43 others sustained minor injuries.

The findings were presented to the Cabinet on Wednesday, along with recommendations, spanning from the short, medium to long term, to bridge the gaps in Prasarana’s culture as well as safety and standard operating procedures.

Depending on rail safety standards used, the soundness of any rail system is chiefly influenced by reliability and maintainability of the overall system, other than the operation and maintenance of the system.

“The purpose of the report is not to point fingers or to apportion blame, but to address deficiencies or root causes behind the direct reasons, ” said Nor Aziati, who is very familiar with the Kelana Jaya line Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (Scada) system, which allows remote train monitoring and control.

She said the panel had to pore through mountains of documents to help them arrive at the correct picture behind the incident, and it was fortunate she was able to juggle the intense pace of the inquiry with her academic duties at her university as she was able to provide pre-recorded lectures for her students.

Wong, who is into his third rail-based investigation, said an accident was seldom due to one solitary cause, and the entire ecosystem must be looked into comprehensively to improve things.

The experts also benefited from each other’s experience and perspective, with Brig-Gen Izani sharing how air incidents are probed, adding value to the investigation process.

In an earlier statement, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong congratulated the team for their tireless efforts and for “burning the midnight oil”.

“I am satisfied that the report compiled by the nine-member committee led by our Transport secretary-general was indeed professionally done, and comprehensive in its details, ” he said.

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