THE FAILURE of a driver to follow the correct procedure when isolating brakes on a failed three-car train that was being coupled to another unit sent to haul it back to the depot is believed to have led to the collision on Bangkok’s underground metro line at 09.15 on January 17.

The failed unit rolled back and struck the front of a following train being held by Control in Cultural Centre station. There were no fatalities, but more than 200 of the 700 passengers on the stationary train and one of the drivers were injured. Both trains were significantly damaged by the impact.

Built at a cost of US$2·75bn, the 22 km Blue Line with 18 stations was opened on July 3 2004 between Bang Sue and Hua Lamphong. Constructed under a DFBO concession, it is intended to be the first of four metro lines totalling 116 km that Bangkok Metro Co Ltd hopes to construct by 2011.

However, on the day after the accident the Governor of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority, Prapat Chongsanguan, said MRTA was considering building and operating the 94 km of new lines itself, although still seeking private finance where possible.

The Blue Line remained closed for 14 days while the cause was investigated, and the operator retrained its drivers. BMCL also took the opportunity to put staff through emergency drills covering situations such as fire, collision, derailment or terrorist attack.

To boost public confidence, Chongsanguan took Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for a ride on January 31, with his Transport Minister and MRTA executives. Alighting at Silom station, the Prime Minister declared the line safe and ’100% ready to open’.

The line re-opened next day. BMCL said 95000 passengers used it between 06.00 and 18.00 compared to 120000 in the same period on the Tuesday before the accident. Normal operating hours are 06.00 to 24.00. Police said rush-hour traffic jams were cut from ’several km’ to ’only 400m’.