PETALING JAYA: The joint technical team of train signalling experts and rail engineers are already in overdrive to find the root cause behind the dangerous train signal disruption which led to the suspension of LRT services across 16 stations on the Kelana Jaya line.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong was briefed yesterday afternoon by the technical team consisting of signalling experts from Canada-based Thales Group and local engineers on the possible causes behind the intermittent disruption to the communications between the trains – those transiting between Kelana Jaya and Ampang Park – and the operation and control centre.

The instability in the signalling system – supplied by Thales Group – that began last Saturday meant that at some points, the control centre could not see where the trains actually were within the network, undermining the entire foundation of a fully automated rail line.

The continued emergence of the problem despite software updates and multiple resets led Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, to take the difficult decision on Tuesday night to suspend services along that stretch for a week, starting Wednesday.

After chairing a meeting at Putrajaya attended by transport ministry secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak, land transport undersecretary Wan Mohd Asraf Wan Salleh, Prasarana group CEO Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah, Rapid Rail CEO Amir Hamdan, Dr Wee visited the Kelana Jaya train control centre where he also met two Thales representatives from Singapore.

Two more Thales experts from Canada are on their way to Malaysia by plane, and they should arrive today.

“MOT will monitor the development closely to ensure services will be restored as soon as possible with no compromise on safety,” said Dr Wee in a Facebook post after the briefing.

He also thanked Smart Selangor and Mara Liner for stepping in to assist Rapid Rail by supplying 20 buses from their fleet to boost the brigade of bridge buses that are serving the affected stations to provide free services.

Mohd Azharuddin said in yesterday’s press conference that trains “disappearing” intermittently from the monitoring screen of the LRT operation and control centre poses a huge hazard for any operator.

“The trains were unable to move automatically, which indicates a problem. As an accountable organisation, we had to make the difficult decision to suspend operations (for a week beginning Nov 9).

“We acknowledge it greatly inconvenienced many but we certainly do not want to risk any accident,” he said with the latest test on Wednesday night involving running a train between Ampang Park and KLCC to generate data for analysis which will be investigated by the experts from Thales Group.

For the past few days, Rapid Rail engineers have performed software updates, swapped some modems and replaced some power supply components to narrow down the source of the problem.

By design, any signal loss in automated metro systems will cause the activation of emergency brakes that will either halt the trains or cause them to run in “crawl mode” to minimise risks.

For passengers, this could result in either a jerky ride or trains stopping for much longer than necessary at platforms.

For trains that are halted in between stations, technicians will have to access these trains to perform a manual reset before these trains can move again.

Sometimes, manual driving of affected trains may be necessary, depending on the nature of the problem.

Manual driving on an automated line, on the other hand, carries the risk of driver or operator error, as demonstrated by the May 24, 2021 accident in which two LRT trains, one driven manually, collided between Kampung Baru and KLCC, injuring 213 passengers, 47 of whom were seriously injured.