'Earthquake' in Bukit Batok? That's just the sound of the MRT trains

Bukit Batok MRT station.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

Imagine being scared out of your wits every five minutes while at work.

No, it has nothing to do with paranormal encounters this Hungry Ghost month nor aftershocks from an earthquake, but a situation that some shop employees at Bukit Batok bus interchange have had to deal with whenever an MRT train pulls into the station.

A 76-year-old staff member told Shin Min Daily News that the frequent loud sounds, said to resemble claps of thunder or an earthquake, have taken a toll on her nerves.

She described being so rattled by the sudden jolts out of the blue that she is unable to focus on her job. At times, she has even found herself giving customers the wrong change. 

"During peak hours in the mornings and evenings, the frequency [of the noise] is even higher and it gives me a headache," she said.

The employee, who has been working at the Bukit Batok bus interchange for close to two years, shared that the noise levels were still tolerable in the past, but appeared to have intensified in recent times.

The nine-hour ordeal she goes through each day has left her wondering if the issue lies with the train tracks.

Another worker in the area whom Shin Min Daily News spoke to agreed that the noise level at the bus interchange have been unbearable, especially during peak hours when the trains would come and go every two minutes.

She too, would worry each time it happens if the train could have derailed. 

Said the 25-year-old employee: "I'm still young and can still tolerate [the noise], but the older colleagues have a harder time."

Shin Min Daily News said they conducted a decibel meter test at the Bukit Batok train station along the North-South line running from Jurong East to Marina South Pier.

And it found that the noise generated whenever a train passes through the station typically reaches between 82.97 and 84.55 decibels, with the loudest sounds measuring up to 89.6 decibels.

The noise would typically last for 15 seconds each time a train comes in, at an average of one train every five minutes.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, any noise above 70 decibels over a prolonged period of time can start to damage one's hearing.

In particular, equipment such as gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers which emit noise levels between 80 and 85 decibels can cause hearing damage after two hours of exposure.

One passerby whom Shin Min Daily News spoke to noted that the noise levels get especially bad when one is at the bus interchange, but not when walking between the MRT station and bus interchange.

He suggested that putting up sound-proofing boards might help to solve the problem. Another person whom the Chinese evening daily spoke to said he noticed that the noise had gotten much worse just this year.

In response to feedback, SMRT told Shin Min Daily News that their staff are currently performing checks to ensure that the noise generated falls within safety limits. They also said that track maintenance procedures are underway.

ALSO READ: Government panel on 'neighbourhood noise' to develop set of norms for residents

candicecai@asiaone.com