Little girl activating Downtown Line detrainment switch

From ‘More info given for Downtown Line fault’, 29 Dec 2013, article by Christopher Tan, Sunday Times

Downtown Line operator SBS Transit yesterday gave more details of how a child passenger could have activated a detrainment switch that triggered a power cut which disrupted the newly opened line on Friday. A spokesman said preliminary findings showed that “the internal laminate of the metal cover which holds the detrainment door switch had debonded”. This, she said, caused the cover to be loosened.

“When the cover was moved, the detrainment switch was triggered,” she said. As a safety precaution, power is cut off when the switch – which lowers a ramp for emergency evacuation – is activated.

SBS Transit said closed-circuit television footage showed a little girl may have caused this. It declined to share the footage.

…Netizens have questioned the cause of the breakdown. Commenting on Facebook, Charlton Gan asked: “Why is the device so easily accessed by the kid in the first place?” Another, Neo Eng Hin, asked how the system could be “so fragile and sensitive”.

SBS Transit said it has since “enhanced the cover for a tighter fit” on all its Downtown Line trains. It has also stationed staff at both ends of trains to prevent a repeat of the incident.



In a previous statement, SBS Transit reported that some children were playing around the detrainment door area and a small girl appeared to have triggered the power disruption by accident. Train manufacturer Bombardier argues that detrainment was unlikely when the train was still moving. If you look at SMRT’s emergency protocol for passenger-activated detrainment, you’d have to perform a series of actions as a safeguard against accidental triggering in order to access the train captain’s cabin, before finally operating the ramp. For this ill-fated ride, you just needed a tiny human to rattle the cover in order to turn on a detrainment switch, which from the description of events seems more like a touchscreen button than a lever that you need to push or lift with considerable force.

If you look at how the detrainment device is positioned on a DTL train above, right before a tunnel view of the ride, you can imagine how tempting it is for kids to clamber all over the counter.  SBS’s remedial actions of ‘enhancing the cover for a tighter fit’ and employing staff just to guard the thing seems more like a cosmetic, stopgap attempt than a real effort to childproof an emergency button, like painting the lever for a hot water dispenser red than making it slightly more tedious for a child to maneuver. I shudder to think if the same manufacturers were behind the panic button that presidents push to unleash nuclear warheads.

Without divulging any evidence of the exact nature of the playtime causing the downtime, I suppose the only way to determine what really happened around the detrainment device and what kind of rampage the kids were on would be for our ministers to launch a Committee of Inquiry (COI) into this incident to expose all this ridiculous secrecy over CCTV footage once and for all. Until then, a campaign to keep our hands to ourselves unless in case of emergency would suffice.


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