SMRT Trains and two employees charged over deaths of two on railway track
SINGAPORE - SMRT Trains and two of its employees were charged in court on Thursday (Dec 1) over the accident along the MRT tracks earlier this year (2016) which claimed two lives, and investigations are ongoing to see if others may also be liable.
SMRT is accused of contravening the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
The company, which is expected to plead guilty, is said to have failed to ensure that its employees complied with the approved operating procedures when accessing the track between Tampines and Pasir Ris MRT stations.
It also did not ensure that the procedures practised by its employees to access the track passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated, it is alleged.
In the same court, the company's director of control operations, Teo Wee Kiat, 40, is accused of a similar offence under the Act.
The company's officer-in-charge of the work party, Lim Say Heng, 47, is alleged to have caused the deaths of Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 25, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24 on March 22.
He allegedly failed to ensure that the necessary safety measures were in place to ensure that trains would not enter the track before accessing it, causing a train to hit the men.
The two men were part of a work party of 15 SMRT employees led by the officer-in-charge Lim , to carry out inspection works on the MRT tracks.
The six signalling workers and nine track workers were on a maintenance walkway near Pasir Ris station to check a possible fault in a component. As they approached the device, the signalling team, led by a supervisor, stepped onto the track.
The supervisor narrowly avoided being hit by the oncoming train but Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf, who were second and third in line, were unable to react in time.
The two young men were just two months into the job.
A pre-trial conference is set for Dec 30.
If convicted, Lim faces a jail term of up to two years and a fine.
Teo faces a fine of up to $200,000 and/or a jail term of up to two years.
SMRT Trains faces a fine of up to $500,000.
In a statement on Thursday (Dec 1), the Attorney-General's Chambers said that investigations are still ongoing to determine if any other individuals may be liable for workplace safety lapses in connection with the tragedy.
Responding to the charge against Mr Lim, the National Transport Workers' Union Executive Secretary Melvin Yong said the union would continue to work closely with Lim, a union member, to provide him and his family with support, and ensure that he was fairly represented.
"Whilst we cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings, the union maintains that it is important to allow due process to take its course and all facts to be revealed before drawing any conclusions," he said.
Singapore, Malaysia have made very good progress on high-speed rail agreement: PM Lee
SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore and Malaysia have made very good progress on a bilateral agreement on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail (HSR), and hopes both sides can sign the agreement when he and Prime Minister Najib Razak meet at the Leaders' Retreat.
"It is a very ambitious, very complicated and a very expansive project, in terms of scale. We have to try our best to anticipate what the likely issues are, when we build it, when we operate it, and have a clear understanding on how we will deal with it if a situation arises," Mr Lee said in an interview with the chairman of Malaysian state news agency Bernama Azman Ujang on Monday (Nov 28).
"The first thing is to have a sound agreement between the two countries on the basis of how the project is structured, how it is going to be executed, and how it is backed by the two governments," said Mr Lee in the interview, the transcript of which was released by the Prime Minister's Office today (Nov 30).
"That is the first requirement, that we have a very good agreement which sets out clearly a sound basis to build and operate the system."
Both countries have been discussing the agreement for more than a year, Mr Lee noted.
"We are almost there, and I hope that when I meet Prime Minister Najib at the next retreat, we will be able to sign the agreement," he said.
On Tuesday (Nov 29), Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan met Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, and Mr Abdul Rahman said on Instagram they met "to harmonise last minute details of the Bilateral Agreement on Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail project before signing ceremony in December".
A memorandum of understanding for the HSR project was signed in July this year by Mr Khaw and Mr Abdul Rahman, and it was witnessed by the two prime ministers.
Construction for the project is expected to begin in 2018, with trains running in 2026.
Secondly, Mr Lee noted that the project's execution will be very important - designing it, calling for tenders, evaluating the proposals.
"Several high-speed rail systems in the world have been lobbying very hard to get this contract - the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese high-speed rail," he noted.
"Each has its strengths, and we will have a very difficult decision evaluating the bidders who come along and deciding which one is the best overall."
Asked about the cost-sharing of construction, PM Lee said things like that had to be clearly specified, and it was one of the items that made the project complicated.
"When you have two authorities involved, you have to decide how to partition, where the line is drawn. I build my part, you build your part, and we have to meet at the same point," he said. "If it does not meet then we have a big problem."
PM Lee added: "It is complicated but there is a will. And there is a goodwill, and we would like to make it succeed."
He was also asked if a third bridge between Singapore and Malaysia - which some in Malaysia had suggested recently - is necessary with the HSR project.
Mr Lee said there are currently no plans for it.
"We are not currently planning for a third bridge," he said. "I have seen some statements in Malaysia suggesting one, but the high-speed rail is a very ambitious project. I would focus all my energies doing that one before we launch a new big project."
As for an update on two joint projects between Singapore and Malaysia, in Marina South and Ophir-Rochor, Mr Lee said: "Both buildings are coming up and rising steadily. I read that they have reasonable sales so I think the projects will succeed."
The developments were born out of a land-swop agreement, where Malaysia gave up control of its railway land that ran through Singapore in exchange for a Malaysia-Singapore joint venture involving six land parcels near the Central Business District.
He also noted the Afiniti Medini Wellness centre project is Iskandar was making progress.
PM Lee was also asked how Singapore tries to remain corruption-free, as well as the Presidential Election next year, which will be reserved for Malay candidates.
He noted that civil servants and ministers are paid a fair salary to minimise temptation, adding: "You come in, you cannot expect to get rich in the Government, but you should not become poor because you had to do public service."
The People's Action Party, from the start, also wanted to "run a clean system, a clean civil service, and a clean political leadership".
"We have been quite unsparing in enforcing that. Whoever transgresses, whether it is senior or not, whether it is a civil servant or a minister, we have to investigate and consequences have to follow," he said.
The public has also come to expect its government to run a clean system.
"The public attitude is very important. Because without that, if the public accepts that it is a normal way to do business, that if you are in power then these are perks of the office, that will be a very different situation even if we have the laws," said Mr Lee.
As for the presidential election, he said the Government did not have a specific candidate in mind, "but we know there are people who will qualify".
"There is no shortlist. It depends who comes forward. It is not for the Government to arrange. It is for the candidates to come forward," he added.
Asked whether Singapore could see a non-Chinese PM, Mr Lee said: "It could happen in our lifetime." He cited how Barack Obama became president, saying: "It is a long process but it is possible and I hope one day it will happen."
"The racial patterns of voting is something very deeply ingrained. It is so in Malaysia; it is so in Singapore, perhaps less so in Singapore but it exists," he added.
"If you look at America, even in this election, it was quite clear that the different ethnic groups had very different voting patterns. So that is a reality of human nature which we have to accept."
FUKUOKA CITY, Japan: Authorities in Japan temporarily closed a road which had been rebuilt after it had collapsed into a huge sinkhole, as it showed signs of sinking again early on Saturday (Nov 26) morning.
Police cordoned off the area near downtown JR Hakata Station at 1:45 am (16:45 GMT Friday) after officials found the newly paved road had sunken by up to 7 cm over a 30 square-metre area.
No injuries, power outages or gas leaks have been detected due to the sunken road according to local police and utility companies, Japan's Kyodo News reported.
Giant sinkhole swallows up busy road intersection in Japan's Fukuoka city
The police reopened the road around 5:30 am local time as authorities determined it no longer posed a threat to traffic or pedestrians.
The road had been closed for a week from Nov 8 after a giant sinkhole, which measured 30 metres long and 15 metres deep, devoured a five-lane intersection near the central station.
Officials and engineers had battled against time as the sinkhole continued to fill up with sewage water and swallow nearby sidewalks from which commercial buildings stood only inches away.
Workers dumped about 7,000 cubic metres, or about 2,000 trucks' worth, of soil containing cement into the sinkhole to reopen the road in a week.
The Fukuoka government spokesperson said the sunken surface of the rebuilt road may have been caused by compression of the cement mixed in the special soil they used to fill the sinkhole, Kyodo News reported.
No early trains for Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore; SMRT refutes claims it did not give ample notice
SINGAPORE - SMRT has refuted claims that it did not give ample notice to organisers of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) that it would not be providing early train services for this year's race on Dec 4.
Explaining the late announcement to participants- just three weeks before race day - SCMS organisers said on Nov 14 via Facebook that they were only informed "recently" that train services could not be provided, despite discussions starting in June.
They added that there was "track maintenance" to be done on the race day.
This has been sharply refuted by rail operator SMRT Corp on Friday (Nov 25), which said that it had told SCMS organisers of its decision in May.
"The organiser was given ample notice to plan alternative travel arrangements and communicate these early to its participants," said Mr Patrick Nathan, SMRT's vice-president for corporate information and communications.
He added that SMRT is reaching a "critical point" in its network maintenance and renewal works, that include "sleeper replacement, re-signalling and third rail replacement efforts".
"Such projects are planned as far as 12 months in advance in order for engineering staff to maximise track access time on viaducts and tunnels," Mr Nathan said.
"Every minute of track access time is valuable because engineering staff have around three hours every night to set up the work site, perform the maintenance or renewal work and then dismantle the work site in preparation for the first train service."
Since 2011, SMRT has been starting train services earlier on the SCMS' event day, to bring participants to the marathon, which will flag off as early as 4.30am this year.
The SCMS, now its 15th edition, is the largest running event in Singapore, and organisers have set aside 52,000 spots across five race categories this year.
In place of train services, first-time organisers Ironman Endurance Asia said they have arranged for buses to ferry participants from 30 pick-up locations across the island. It is also working with taxi companies to bring participants to the race site.
Ironman also added that discussions with SMRT started back in May.
The firm declined to say when it was informed by SMRT that train services could not be provided, when asked by The Straits Times.
Just days after the surprise election of Republican candidate Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, the world has seen an unusual parade of personalities entering Trump Tower in New York to be interviewed for top jobs in his new administration.
Much has been made of his picks, and initial statements, as political watchers - and global leaders - try to figure out just what the business leader who has never held any political office will do once he enters the White House. Our reporters and commentators weigh in on this and what's to come on this front.
We also look at the debate on whether Singapore should extend the run of the F1 night race in the Republic and ask whether the so-called "crown jewel" of grand prix racing has lost its shine.
Singapore's Olympic hero Joseph Schooling was back home this week, and kindly took some time to visit us at News Centre. He also met fans and sat down to read to some young beneficiaries of the ST School Pocket Money Fund from the new book on him, From Kid to King, published by ST Press. Giving back to society "meant a lot to him", he said. Check out the video of him below.
Enjoy this week's picks, and once again, thank you for reading The Straits Times.
Warren Fernandez Editor-in-Chief The Straits Times & SPH's English, Malay, Tamil Media Group
IMDA partners SPH to produce digital videos under pilot Public Service Broadcast funding scheme
SINGAPORE - Singapore Press Holdings is partnering the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to produce and distribute digital video content on the media group's multimedia platforms.
Under the partnership, 10 programmes in English and Mandarin will be produced as part of a pilot Public Service Broadcast initiative, with a focus on local content.
The key themes that will be covered include current affairs, culture, sports, entertainment and lifestyle. Each episode will be three to eight minutes long.
IMDA chief executive Gabriel Lim, who announced the partnership at the opening reception of the Singapore Media Festival on Wednesday (Nov 23), said the convergence between infocommunications and media presents opportunities to showcase and deliver "compelling content" to a wider and more digital savvy audience.
"We hope our collaboration with SPH, known for its strength in factual content, will continue to encourage Singaporeans to watch and appreciate local productions," he said.
The first programme, to be launched on Friday (Nov 25), is a 24-part fortnightly travel show in English called InstaScram, which features "Instagram-worthy" heritage locations in Singapore. It is produced by SPH Razor, a lifestyle video site.
The Straits Times is helming five English programmes, which will be launched from Dec 5.
AskST, which is one of the anchor series, features experienced ST journalists answering readers' questions on a range of topics such as education, cars and health. The programme builds on content from the paper's reader engagement initiative, AskST, which was launched in print and online in January.
Other ST programmes include ST Sessions, which features Singapore musicians, and Living City, a documentary that looks at some of Singapore's interesting and little-known places.
Among the four Mandarin programmes to be produced is Why It Matters, a video animation series that will break down major global issues into infographics and illustrations, and explain their relevance to Singaporeans.
All programmes will be featured across SPH sites and platforms, including ST, AsiaOne and STOMP.
SPH CEO Alan Chan said: "With the digital medium becoming increasingly visual, videos are an important and growing segment of digital content consumption.
"We are pleased to be working with IMDA to contribute meaningfully to Singapore's PSB media ecosystem."
Mr Eugene Leow, who oversees digital strategy for the English, Malay and Tamil media group at SPH, added: "With this collaboration , our digital audience can look forward to more high quality and engaging shows. What's more, we'll experiment to push the boundaries of video storytelling."
Ponggol Seafood founder Ting Choon Teng, 90, dies of lung cancer
SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - If you grew up in Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s, the name Ponggol Seafood should bring back memories of fresh chilli crab, fragrant mee goreng and a beautiful seaside view.
When Mr Ting Choon Teng, the owner of Ponggol Seafood, opened the restaurant in 1969, it was just to support his family.
The restaurant was more popularly known as Ponggol Hock Kee Seafood Restaurant then.
But later it became a Singapore icon, attracting tourists and locals from all over the island.
Regular customer Liew Chuen Hwa, 61, who is self-employed, said: "When I was 18, during my army days, I would go to the restaurant with my friends. If you did not make a reservation in advance, you would have to wait for as long as 45 minutes or an hour to get seats."
Mr Liew, who still makes it a point of going to the restaurant every month, said that Ponggol Seafood has maintained its way of preparing food, unlike some other restaurants that have moved to fusion or more modern creations.
Ms Leslie Wong, 52, a butler, has been visiting the restaurant since she was five years old.
She said: "It was always so packed with people. I can still remember how the mee goreng there tasted, even at this age.
"That restaurant is like a childhood memory for people in the 70s because it was the usual place everyone went to with their families."
After 47 years of business, despite ups and downs, Ponggol Seafood has flourished to become one of the best-known local seafood restaurants.
Mr Ting, 90, died from lung cancer on Sunday, leaving the next generation of Tings to continue the business.
His life offers an abundance of lessons:
WHEN YOU HAVE AN IDEA, GO FOR IT
The eureka moment may come in many ways. For Mr Ting, it came by chance.
The idea for Ponggol Seafood Restaurant was born when Mr Ting drove to the end of Punggol Road and noticed that there was a restaurant for rent.
He was then a foreman at a sauce factory and the experience proved useful for the restaurant.
Mr Anthony Ting, 56, director of Ponggol Seafood, said: "My father worked in a sauce factory during his earlier days and he enjoyed experimenting with the sauces. That was how he came up with the recipes for the chilli crab and mee goreng, eventually developing it into a business."
He said: "My father never thought that the business would become so big but as a businessman he hoped and always tried his best."
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
The late Mr Ting would always be seen after closing hours, eating, playing the guitar and singing with his customers.
Mr Ting said: "My father always treated his customers politely and with sincerity. So they always came back to look for him. He was a very well-respected man among those who knew him because of the way he did business."
A regular, who wanted to be known only as Mr Koh, 56, , said: "Mr Ting was a very caring man and his family is also very friendly. So in addition to the quality of the food, I also return because of him."
Mr Koh added that he and the late Mr Ting formed a group of 10 friends, who were all restaurant regulars, and they would often eat and drink together.
TAKE HARDSHIP IN YOUR STRIDE
Ponggol Seafood grew up with Singapore, and has overcome some of the same obstacles: malaria, severe acute respiratory syndrome and bad economic conditions.
Mr Ting said: "There were good times and there were bad times. As a business, we have to be financially strong and be able to contain our losses well.
"There must also be a strong will and sense of hard work. There will be a lot of things that we (the bosses) have to do ourselves."
He said they had to sack some of their staff and cut back on ingredient costs when times were bad.
There were also uncertain times after the government acquired the land in 1994, and the restaurant moved to at least four locations before returning in 2014 to the Punggol Point area.
The late Mr Ting introduced his eight children to the business when they were young.
Most of them started by helping out in small tasks before taking on heavier responsibilities.
Four of the them are working full-time for the family business, while three of them work part-time.
Mr Ting Cheng Yew, 52, head chef of the restaurant, said: "After three decades, the taste of our chilli crab and mee goreng remains unchanged because I have been cooking them.
"I started working as a kitchen helper when I was 20 years old, then I started to learn from the other chefs. But after that, the dishes were all done by me."
Mr Anthony Ting said that even though the future is uncertain for the second generation of Tings, they wish to carry their father's legacy into the third generation.
Tsunami hits Japan after strong quake near Fukushima disaster site
Tue Nov 22, 2016 | 6:54 AM EST
By Yuka Obayashi and Elaine Lies | TOKYO
A powerful earthquake rocked northern Japan early on Tuesday, briefly disrupting cooling functions at a nuclear plant and generating a small tsunami that hit the same Fukushima region devastated by a 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The magnitude 7.4 earthquake, which was felt in Tokyo, sent thousands of residents fleeing for higher ground as dawn broke along the northeastern coast.
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries hours after the quake hit at 5:59 a.m. (2059 GMT Monday). It was centered off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
A wave of up to 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) high was recorded at Sendai, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, public broadcaster NHK said.
Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from harbors as tsunami warnings wailed after alerts of waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) were issued.
"We saw high waves but nothing that went over the tidal barriers," a man in the city of Iwaki told NTV television network.
Aerial footage showed tsunami waves flowing up rivers in some areas, and some fishing boats were overturned in the port of Higashi-Matsushima before the JMA lifted its warnings.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Tuesday's quake at magnitude 6.9, down from an initial 7.3.
All Japan's nuclear power plants in the area have been shut down in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, which knocked out cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing reactors to melt down and spew radiation into the air, soil and sea.
The cooling system for a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel at the reactor at its Fukushima Daini Plant was initially halted on Tuesday, said a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, but was restarted soon after.
Only two reactors are operating in Japan, both in the southwest. Nuclear plants need cooling systems operating even when in shutdown to keep spent fuel cool.
Tohoku Electric Power Co said there was no damage to its Onagawa nuclear plant, while the Kyodo news agency reported there were no irregularities at the Tokai Daini nuclear plant in Ibaraki prefecture.
Japanese Minister for Disaster Management Jun Matsumoto told reporters there had been no reports of significant injuries. One woman suffered cuts to her head from falling dishes, Kyodo reported, citing fire department officials.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.
The March 11, 2011, quake was magnitude 9, the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan. The massive tsunami it generated knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.
Systems have been updated since the 2011 disaster to spread warnings more quickly, said Tsunetaka Omine, head of the Disaster Management Division in Iwaki, a city in Fukushima prefecture.
Previously, there were complicated directions on where to evacuate. "But now, we basically just tell people to head away from the sea, to the highest possible ground," Omine said.
Authorities now also send tsunami warnings to every mobile phone in the area and broadcast on local radio.
Staying in a traditional Japanese inn on the coast in the city of Ofunato with a dozen international high school students on a study tour, teacher Kathy Krauth said the shaking began just seconds after a quake alarm on her phone went off.
"I felt like the lessons of 3-11 were really taken to heart," said Krauth, who teaches a class on the March 2011 disaster and its aftermath. "The feeling was, we just don't know, but we're going to be as cautious as we can."
Nissan Motor Co said it would suspend work at its engine factory in Fukushima at least until the latest tsunami warning was lifted. A spokesman said there were no injuries or damage at the plant, which was badly damaged in the 2011 disaster.
Toyota Motor Corp said all its factories in northeastern Japan were operating as usual.
Japan's famous Shinkansen bullet trains were halted along one stretch of track and some other train lines were also stopped.
Japanese financial markets were little affected, with the Nikkei 225 index closing up 0.3 percent and the yen steady against the U.S. dollar.
(Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher, Jon Herskovitz, Osamu Tsukimori, Aaron Sheldrick and William Mallard; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing Paul Tait)