After FactWire, a crowd-funded media source in Hong Kong, revealed that 35 Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains in Singapore were being shipped back to their Chinese manufacturer, Qingdao-based CSR Sifang, allegedly because cracks had been found on their bodies, public outcry erupted online, questioning the safety of Singapore’s metro, as well as the transparency of public transport operator SMRT.
To address the controversy, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority released a statement yesterday, only 3 years late. The statement says that in 2013, when routine checks were conducted, it was discovered that out of the 35 trains ordered from a consortium, 26 of them had hairline cracks on the car body bolster, which is displayed in the image below.
Lab tests showed that the cracks are due to “localized impurity in the aluminum car-body” and the most effective way to fix this would be to replace the entire car-body shell. However, they reassured the public that there is nothing to worry about because they are not structural cracks and pose no operational risk to the actual function of the train.
As the Ministry of Communications and Information eloquently echoed: “These are superficial cracks (like those that show up on the walls of a new house).” Well, we don’t know what kind of houses Ministry members live in, but should they be worried? A home certainly can’t be shipped to China for repairs.
If the LTA and the Ministry of Communications and Information aren’t enough to assure you, they also asked TÜV Rheinland, a global provider of technical, safety, and certification services in Germany, to conduct tests. The company also confirmed that the trains are safe to operate.
The trains are still under warranty and will be shipped back to China for repairs, with all costs being borne by the contractor. Looks like the cheap train, averaging to less than 14 million RMB, isn’t so cheap anymore. The trains are being shipped back one at a time in order the minimize the impact on train operations in Singapore, but starting from next year, two trains will be shipped at a time. Each train will take around 4 months of repair time and the LTA estimates that the trains will all be fixed by 2019.
Despite the government shedding light on the details of the case, many are still not content. One Facebook user commented:
The public appreciates the further clarifications by LTA. However, their focus seems to be on the technical aspects of the defective trains only. There is still no clarity why such matters of intense public interest was not disclosed in a timely manner until it was called out by a foreign media. The key issues of transparency and accountability have not yet been addressed.
Fortunately, we don’t have those kinds of problems over here.
By Sarah Lin
[Images via Land Transport Authority]