Who to blame for MRT breakdowns?

The next time the train breaks down, don’t be too quick to pin the blame on Khaw Boon Wan.


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For the culprit could very well be a balloon.

No, we’re not joking.

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Balloons, especially the metallic shiny ones typically given on graduation ceremonies or birthdays, could disrupt train services.

Two months ago, these posters started surfacing at North East Line (NEL) train stations, reminding commuters to hold on to their balloons tightly:

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Destructive potential of balloons

According to The Straits Times, SBS Transit decided to put up these posters following a train disruption that happened on 6 April last year.

Thanks to a power trip, NEL train services were disrupted for almost an hour in both directions between Boon Keng and Farrer Park stations.

Land Transport Authority’s investigations revealed that a passenger had unintentionally let go of an aluminium foil helium balloon. This balloon somehow made its way into the tunnel when the platform screen doors at Boon Keng Station opened.

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The balloon subsequently came into contact with the overhead catenary system’s electrical insulator, causing an electrical fault. The overhead catenary system is the power supply system fixed on the train tunnel’s ceiling.

National University of Singapore’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s Professor Liew Ah Choy said:

The aluminium foil is an electrical conductor and when it comes into contact with the live overhead wires a short circuit occurs. This would trigger the circuit breakers to trip, to prevent further damage to the electrical equipment.

Precedent in Hong Kong

Such incidents are uncommon here, but occur more often in cities such as Hong Kong. A Hong Kong magazine said that balloons were banned in 1996 after a Minnie Mouse balloon floated into a tunnel during rush hour, causing a short circuit.

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All trains between interchange stations Admiralty and Quarry Bay came to a stop for 1.5 hours, affecting 100,000 commuters.

With Singapore’s reputation of being a fine city, we wonder if balloons will eventually be banned in MRT stations.

Only NEL

Only the 16-station NEL is run by overhead catenary systems. The other MRT lines are powered by a power-supplying rail on the ground.

You know what this means…

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Featured image via Hardware Zone
With reference to The Straits Times