MOT’s ‘blame the driver’ approach over LRT collision draws flak

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The Transport Ministry’s current approach of blaming the driver for the tragic accident involving two LRT trains on Monday has courted flak.

One of them is Ridza Abdoh Salleh, a former CEO of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, who said stalled or “timed-out” trains had to be driven manually, but only on the instructions of the command centre.

The command centre would then pause automated train operations to allow manually driven trains to head to a “re-entry point” before safely being back on the track, he explained.

“The procedure is not rocket science or something secretive. It’s done almost every day. If they failed to perform this simple procedure, and this led to the accident, then we have to worry. There are more underlying issues.

“How on earth did the hostler drive the other way?” said Ridza, according to Free Malaysia Today.

Ridza was in the LRT business between 1998 and 2010. He was the CEO of Prasarana between 2003 and 2005.

The incident involved train 40 going on a test run at around 8pm heading south. Prior to arriving at the Kampung Baru station, it stalled, and the holster put the train in reverse.

Train 40 eventually collided with train 81, which was leaving the KLCC station and ferrying 213 passengers. Six passengers were left in critical condition.

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Yesterday, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said preliminary investigations showed the accident was caused by the “negligence” of the hostler.

Ridza said such catastrophic failure of the LRT system does not happen overnight.

“There are signals, like how our bodies develop symptoms when we’re sick. If we overlook these signs, then it can lead to catastrophic results.

“I don’t blame people for raising questions no matter how irrelevant they are. The accident has created concerns of uncontrolled magnitude,” he said.

Meanwhile, former transport minister special functions officer Chung Yi Fan said while it was possible that the hostler drove in the wrong direction, which has yet to be ascertained, the bigger question was why tests had to be run at 8pm.

Chung said industry parlance for that particular time was “revenue service hour” and his checks with industry experts indicated that testing on a live track during this period was unusual.

“Let me reiterate the question because it’s so crucial. Why conduct testing during service hours and who authorised it? Was Prasarana under pressure to bring certain train sets back into service?

“Pinning blame on a fall guy was the last thing that we should allow to happen. Get to the bottom of the matter and find out who is really the men or women in the driving seat.

“Without a complete overhaul in addressing systemic and organisational shortfall, we are bound to fail, again,” wrote Chung on his Facebook page last night. – Malaysiakini