By Dilip Laxman
Without surprise, the PNQ of the Leader of the Opposition Hon Dr Arvind Boolell was focused on the accident that resulted in the unfortunate loss of life of 27-year old Yannick Permal on Sunday last. Essentially, Dr Boolell sought clarifications about the safety features of the LRT system, with the PNQ being framed as:
‘To ask the Honourable Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail –
Whether he will state if:
(a) a road traffic risk assessment and impact analysis was carried out to identify risks for road users and if so when?
(b) whether TMRSU (traffic road management safety unit) and Metro Express Limited have apprised members of the public of safety precautions that need to be taken at accident prone areas like Beau Bassin Junction;
(c) if the cause of accident involving a person on his motorbike and the tramway at Pope Hennessy junction Beau Bassin at 18.57 hours on Sunday 23 February 2020 has been established?’
After conveying ‘my deepest sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family’, Minister Allan Ganoo stated that ‘With regards to the accident involving a motorcycle and the LRV, I am informed by MEL that as per established protocols, the Emergency Services comprising Police, Mauritius Fire & Rescue Services and SAMU were contacted immediately and the Operations and Safety staff of MEL were present on site for assistance and co-ordination. The metro service was immediately stopped. MEL is fully collaborating with the Police, which is investigating into the causes of the accident’.
He went on to give a very long, detailed and comprehensive reply, and the relevant extracts are as follows:
‘The LRT alignment is the product of planning and engineering design that has considered various options and satisfies various criteria such as safety, risk, operational efficiency, engineering, space, affordability and urban integration.
The intent of this alignment is to maximise the opportunity and capability of LRT technology to integrate with the urban environment… Detailed analysis has determined that the introduction of level crossings (i.e. rail – road intersections), were deemed to be necessary in line with the principle of LRT efficient and safe operations with a view for better integration with other modes of transport.
The safety aspects of level crossings are to be managed through effective traffic signalised system design, safety management procedures, along with progressive sensitisation exercise and strict enforcement of rules.
The design of the level crossing…has incorporated various design inputs which require early involvement, effective cooperation and communication of all stakeholders (TMRSU, Police, RDA, Local authorities) to identify safety hazards and related risks.
These hazards and risks are then analysed to allow mitigation via engineering control. The hazards and risks mitigation process has been iterated through the whole life of the project, i.e. concept stage, design stage, project execution, implementation stage, post-implementation stage (operation and maintenance) to ensure that the safety of the system across the asset lifecycle is properly monitored and managed.
In 2013, the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise undertook a risk assessment which was done on the safety aspect of the reference design and documented the risks associated with the LRT operation and interface with the road users. Both implementation and operation mitigation measures identified included the establishment and enforcement of road rules with line marking, traffic signals and appropriate signages, public education and sensitisation, geometric design based on international standards, careful selection of train captains, robust and adequate training with safe operating speed and procedures.
The intersections are designed based on the road and rail interfaces with due consideration to the following: signalised road intersections, changes to road direction, road or intersection geometrical changes, shared zones between road vehicles and trains, footpaths, traffic lanes and shoulders, slope, sight distances, grades and clearances. The design also considers road and pedestrian crossings of the LRV corridor and the speed of the LRV with respect to other road vehicles.
The traffic signalling is designed based on the Traffic Signalling Priority System (TSPS) giving priority to the train movement (bold added).
The Contractor, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, as part of their contract, ensured that a Road Safety Audit (RSA) was conducted for the full extent of the Works by an Independent qualified road safety audit team… The corrective actions highlighted in the Road Safety Audit report have also been implemented before operation such as improvement of signages, channelling of pedestrians, installation of speed breakers and additional warning signs…There was also an independent safety assessment carried out by Metro Transit Solutions from Singapore which mobilised experts in different engineering disciplines… Based on their assessment and observations, the ISA team recommended that the system is safe for normal operations and revenue passenger service (bold added)’.
Coming to Part (b), he stated that ‘there are different levels of communications in the form of a multi stakeholder communication cell at the Prime Minister’s Office, and Communication teams at MEL, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, TMRSU and Police’ and that ‘Since last year, over 20 meetings have been held specifically on Stakeholder Meeting – Safety and Security along Metro Express Railway Corridor where Sensitization on Safety at Intersections are discussed and agreed collaboratively with TMRSU, Police and all stakeholder concerned.
Metro Express Ltd (MEL) started its education, sensitisation and awareness campaigns since early 2019 through radio, TV, print and digital media. Over 50,000 leaflets and 5,000 posters specific on road safety at the rail and road intersections have been distributed to road users, the public in general as well as directly to over 72 organisations such as ministries, parastatal bodies, schools, universities and other organisations.
Moreover, multiple videos have been realised with the help of the MBC under the Metro News item. Specific videos on the sensitization of traffic signs and warnings at junction/intersection have also been produced to ensure that a maximum of people are sensitized on how to interact with the LRV system where it intersects with the road.’
As regards Part (c) of the Question, he said that ‘the Police is investigating the matter and the train captain has already given his statement. The cause of the accident is yet to be established.
However, preliminary observations from the staff of Metro Express Ltd at the Operation Control Centre (OCC), who were instantly aware of the accident through the CCTV system, present at the junctions, have confirmed that all traffic lights at the junction were red for all road users and the LRV had priority to proceed. From the video footage, it is established that the LRV had already engaged through the junction when the motorcyclist involved did not observe/respect the red traffic lights and proceeded through junction, which resulted in the collision with the LRV. The Train Captain immediately applied the emergency brake and the train stopped. MEL will be providing all the evidences necessary, including the footage to the Police and all other concerned Authorities.’
Importantly, it is noteworthy that ‘that at all junctions, the LRVs run at reduced speed at less than 20 Km/h and the train captains strictly follow established safety protocols. Such was the case before the accident took place (bold added)’.
Further, ‘the Train Captain involved in the accident has already given his statement to the Police (Beau Bassin) on the day, and as per established protocols, the Police carried out necessary alcohol test on the Train Captain, which revealed to be negative Bold added)’. He concluded by saying that ‘MEL is fully collaborating with the Police and other concerned Authorities. An enquiry is ongoing at the level of the Police and a Police Investigation report is being awaited.’
Questions were raised about the issue of barriers at the intersections, and these are being placed but apparently they will only be temporary. We can only pray that the Police completes its investigation promptly and the report submitted, and the public informed of its contents.
* Published in print edition on 28 February 2020