Train Captain Was “Never Trained To React For” Joo Koon Collision

It’s been almost two months since the infamous Joo Koon train collision.

Since then, fingers have been pointed at both SMRT and signalling system supplier Thales.


However, thanks to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, it would seem that the train captains involved weren’t at fault for the incident.

Because according to him, they were never actually trained to handle such an incident.

Train captains not mentally prepared

On Wednesday (10 Jan), Mr Khaw was questioned in Parliament by Workers’ Party’s Dennis Tan — he was asked on whether SMRT personnel could’ve taken alternative measures to prevent the trains from colliding.


In a response that some would consider “not politically correct”, Mr Khaw responded that SMRT personnel involved were not properly trained to handle the incidents leading up to the collision.

The operations control centre staff and train captains did not know that the protective bubble could be deactivated.

The Non-Communicating Obstruction (NCO) Bubble is basically a distance limit set around the affected train that prevents other trains from coming into close contact. A simplified explanation of it can be found here.

However, what’s perhaps more astounding was Mr Khaw’s admission that the train captain wasn’t mentally prepared at all.

In hindsight, one can blame the captain but I don’t. Because he was mentally not prepared and never trained to react for that kind of scenario.

What, then, was the point of having a train captain in the first place?

Thales to blame for the collision

Furthermore, Mr Khaw added that Thales – the signalling company that designed the very system used by our MRT trains – weren’t aware that the bubble could be deactivated as well.

Last known location: under the bus.


Which is exactly the reason why he doesn’t blame the captains for the incident — because even Thales wasn’t prepared for the collision.

Thales has accepted full responsibility [and] apologised.

Simple enough, right? Guess the collision wasn’t SMRT’s fault at all.

Mr Khaw’s uncertainty

According to Mr Khaw, had the captain been mentally prepared for the incident, he would’ve been able to prevent the collision from happening.

Had they been aware of this, the train captain on the second train could have switched from automatic to restricted manual mode to drive the train manually or, as a last resort, engaged the emergency stop button to keep the train from moving.

So what would’ve happened then, if the driver had applied the emergency brakes without switching to manual? You know, like what every other driver would do.


Here’s Mr Khaw’s reply to that:

I think it would depend on the design. I’m not perfectly sure of my answer here, but I’ll check.

There you have it, breaking news — our Transport Minister is unsure of his transportation.

We’re done here, nothing else needs to be said.

In any event, here’s the full video of Minister Khaw’s statement:

Featured image from Channel NewsAsia, Facebook