Improving the MRT

Multi-year, multi-project efforts are making good progress in renewing the North-South East-West Line (NSEWL) for better customer service and future growth. This marks the biggest transformation of the NSEWL since it was built in the 1980s. Here’s a snapshot of the work-in-progress.

Re-signalling will allow us to run more trains with less signalling faults
Next year, MRT trains serving the North-South Line (NSL) will operate with a new signalling system that replaces the legacy signalling system that dates back to the 1980s. The project is progressing well with 91% of the North-South Line completed and 44% of East-West Line re-signalling work done. Re-signalling is expected to be completed on the NSL in 2016 and on the EWL in 2018.

These are significant milestones as the new signalling system will substantially improve the capacity of the NSEWL to run trains at shorter interval hence ease congestion at station platforms. But this capability will be maximised only after the train fleet is enlarged by end 2016 to allow more trains to be deployed on the NSEWL.

The new system supplied by Thales Canada is one of the most advanced train signalling systems in the world. It will allow trains to be spaced 100 seconds apart, which is an improvement from the 120 seconds time between trains under the decades-old system. More frequent train arrivals, especially during peak hours, means less congestion at station platforms and a faster journey for passengers.

Compared to the legacy system, the new signalling system is designed with more redundancies, which makes it more reliable because signal faults are less likely to occur. This is because critical components in the signalling system are duplicated as a form of back-up or fail safe to improve system reliability. Other useful features include functionalities that provide greater flexibility in train services to lessen the impact of service disruptions or delays in the event of track faults.

Towards the end of the year, we expect to start trials to fully test the new signalling system. The trials involving trains fitted with the new signalling system will be done on the NSL early in the morning during non-passenger service hours so as to minimise inconvenience to passengers. We are mindful that trials in the early morning may affect residents living close to train tracks. These early morning trials are disruptive but necessary. We will do our best to complete the tests required as quickly as possible without compromising the safety, reliability and thoroughness of these trials.

Upgrading older trains to enhance fleet reliability
Four types of trains serve on the NSEWL. The oldest C151 KHI train model entered service in 1987 while the second oldest model, the Siemens C651, was introduced in 1994. We are making progress on the project to upgrade the C651 Siemens trains which have reached the mid-life status. We have identified some of the ageing components on this train model that need to be replaced with latest technology to improve train performance. The upgrade will aim to improve the reliability of the 19 C651 Siemens trains. By the end of this year, the SMRT project team and Singapore Rail Engineering would finalise the proposed improvements for this train design and will proceed with upgrading work and testing of a prototype train in 2016.

We expect to start upgrading the C651 trains thereafter and will time the upgrading work with the delivery of new trains. Such coordination is important to ensure the number of trains available for passenger service is maintained at a healthy level.

The upgrade is more than a makeover that gives our passengers clean and brightly lit cabins with comfortable seating. When completed in 2018, the upgraded C651 Siemens trains will have new or refurbished train sub-systems such as new air conditioning, electric doors (which are more silent and reliable compared to pneumatic doors powered by compressed air on older trains), brakes and propulsion systems. These have been the primary causes of delays due to train faults. In addition, upgraded trains will have sensors that furnish the Train Captain and engineering staff with the train’s state of health, thus making it easier to operate and maintain the train.

The next series of trains due for an upgrade are the C151 Kawasaki Heavy Industries trains, which are the oldest train model deployed on the NSEWL. We plan to equip these 66 trains with the same advanced equipment as the soon-to-be upgraded C651 Siemens train fleet to achieve greater commonality for more efficient fleet management. The new lease of life from these end-of-life upgrades will result in rejuvenated trains that will serve our passengers with much improved levels of reliability and ride comfort, offering safer and faster journeys across our network.

New trains increase passenger capacity
Two new C151B trains, part of a fleet of 45 new trains for the NSEWL, are delivered to Bishan and Tuas Depots where the trains are being fitted out and will be tested extensively. These trains, designed to operate with the new signalling system, will lead to improvements in the NSEWL that will allow it to run more trains and provide safe, reliable and timely train services.

Before a new train is allowed to carry its first passengers, SMRT’s engineering staff will work closely with the Land Transport Authority and train maker to get the new train ready for passenger service. It takes about a year to complete installation, checkout, integration and testing of a new train with its onboard equipment such as air-conditioning, automatic doors and sensors, propulsion and brakes, communication equipment as well as interior fittings like seats, poles and handles for standing passengers. Every item will be rigorously tested before it is certified safe for passenger service.

More new trains are on their way to Singapore and more than half of the 45 trains will be delivered by the middle of 2016. We look forward to having your step aboard our new trains to experience how these trains will lead to a better travel experience.

Transforming our engineering workforce to serve you better
Our engineering workforce has grown substantially as part of our commitment to strengthen maintenance and upsizing our engineering capability ahead of future growth of the network.

Since December 2011, we almost doubled the number of executive engineers to 326 today, and technicians by more than 30% to 2265. By 2018, SMRT aims to have more than 400 engineers (127% increase from 2011) and more than 2600 technicians (50% jump from 2011). This will complement the enlarged trains fleet and will be needed to keep the renewed NSEWL network in good working order.

The SMRT Trains Engineering Program (STEP) and enhanced Career Roadmap introduced in May 2015 aim to better recruit, retain, as well as professionalise our engineering staff. STEP will see our Engineers attain a professional rail engineering chartership awarded by the Institute of Engineers Singapore. The roadmap underscores SMRT’s commitment to develop staff throughout their careers to their fullest potential in order to better serve commuters and overcome future challenges in the transport network and rail industry.

Providing outstanding customer service
More than two million passenger trips are made on SMRT rail network every day. Every journey is important to us. As hardware is improved, our commitment to providing quality “heartware” to operate and maintain the improved NSEWL is no less important. Passengers at all our NSEWL stations will find staff close at hand to help from the first train till the last train. Many examples abound of how SMRT staff have gone the extra mile to help our passengers in need. These include the maintenance staff who helped a passenger retrieve a $50 note that had slipped under the escalator stairs and the numerous notes of thanks that our station staff have received for extending a helping hand to passengers who lost their way along our network or needed help finding lost items.

We seek to constantly improve every touch point with passengers in out transport network to serve you better. Recent initiatives include dedicated Care Zones for passengers with needs, escalator safety announcements and free charging stations for mobile devices.

Where we have lapsed with service recovery during train disruptions, we will learn from such episodes. We are working towards better provision of information to staff assisting bus and train passengers so that our staff can provide better travel advice. We aim to serve you even better.

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek Speaks on Getting SMRT Back to Health


Singapore Healthcare Management Congress 2015
18 August 2015, Sands EXPO & Convention Centre
SMRT President and Group CEODesmond Kuek

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to your Congress. I wondered at first what I might be able to meaningfully share with you; what transport and health might have in common. Then, on 7/7, when a problem in one part of our arterial NSEW Lines brought down the entire transport network, it became immediately evident how very much our public transport network is like the human circulation system.

2. Keeping that system well requires regular health checks throughout its life-cycle, with accurate predictive diagnosis, timely preventive maintenance, surgical corrective interventions, renewal of parts when necessary, all while ensuring uninterrupted service. Like with the health-care industry, our transport challenges are also about sustainable financing frameworks, safety and reliability of the network, availability and frequency of trains to ease congestion, maintainability over whole asset life and the timeliness of renewal, cost-benefit of services and quality, affordability of fares across transport modes, subsidies for needy commuter groups, management of customer experience and commuter expectations… It’s a very long list of challenges and I suspect they sound uncannily familiar to many of you.

3. I would like to share with you how in SMRT, we are transforming ourselves and getting back to health again.


4. But first it would be instructive to jog through a quick history of SMRT’s development as part of the Singapore transport landscape so that we can understand the context and backdrop of challenges faced. The idea of a rail system was proposed as early as 1967, two years after independence. Detailed studies and reviews were carried out, but after more than a decade, the public transport plan remained inconclusive. Should we invest so much in a rail system, or stay with a lower-cost public bus system? In a significant leap of faith for a small country, the Government declared in 1982 that it would build the MRT at a whopping $5B, Singapore’s largest infrastructure project then. More than just a transport investment, the MRT was viewed in its wider economic perspective as a boost to long term investor confidence and enhancement of the intrinsic value of Singapore’s real estate.

5. The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) was established in 1983 to oversee all roles and responsibilities of the train network, the precursor to the now separate entities of the Land Transport Authority and SMRT, with the latter subsequently incorporated in 1987 to operate the NS and EW lines. A 5-station section on the NS Line between Yio Chu Kang and Toa Payoh was officially opened on 7th November 1987, and work continued through the years to expand the network.

6. In 2000, SMRT was listed on the Singapore Exchange, and in early 2001, it merged with bus and taxi operator, Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) Holdings, to become Singapore’s first multi-modal transport operator. The other is SBST who operates the NEL and DTL. Today, SMRT is the dominant rail operator in Singapore with business lines also in buses, taxis, commercial property management, media and advertising. The rail network has become an integral part and a symbol of the modern metropolis that is Singapore. By its very nature, SMRT is incredibly public facing, with passenger journeys crossing the 1 billion mark as of last year.

7. In a move to integrate the various modes of transport, a distance-based fare structure was introduced in 2010 so that commuters who travel the same distance would pay the same fare regardless whether they travel from point to point directly or make transfers across modes. Concession schemes for special interest groups were introduced, many of them funded from SMRT’s profits which grew through successful commercial enterprise in the transit network. These commercial non-fare earnings have helped to keep transport fares low. The question of maintaining fares in Singapore at an affordable level while ensuring the viability of the public transport operators continues to be a politically thorny issue. When compared to major cities around the world, Singapore’s public transport fares are actually amongst the lowest. In fact, fare adjustments have not matched the exponential increase in operating costs over the years, and significantly lags the theoretical cap allowable under the fare formula used by the Public Transport Council to set fares.

8. In a way, the run-up in commercial profitability in the last decade masked the issues which were to later surface about rail financial sustainability in the face of aging assets that needed to be replaced or renewed. With rising profitability, questions were raised too about the reasonable level of returns for shareholders, many of whom are retirees simply looking for a steady dividend, and the appropriate amount that should be sunk back as re-investment to upkeep the system. The transformation of the transport industry is now underway with a new fee-based bus contracting model where government takes on all fare-revenue risk. The intention is also to migrate the rail business to an asset-light model to facilitate future expansion and renewal of the rapid transit system by the authorities in a more timely and sustainable manner. These are however not easy industry changes to implement and there are many consequential effects to take care of.

9. Meanwhile, those oldest NSEW lines are now nearly 30 years old and in urgent need of mid-life upgrade or end-of-life extensions or complete replacement and renewal. These are currently being dealt with through an ongoing multi-year, multi-project effort while still keeping the system live. Passenger services continue to run for nearly 20 hours each day, even more intensively and with higher loading than ever before. A doctor friend recently commented to me that what we are doing is like heart surgery while the patient is still awake and complaining about the pain.

10. Recent troubles in SMRT however are what has captured public attention most vividly. Two vandalism incidents in 2010 and 2011, the Dec 2011 train disruptions and more recently, the 7/7 disruption, have shaken public confidence and affected the institution and reputation of a Singapore-grown company that had been painstakingly built up over 28 years.

SMRT Staff all hands in

11. Against such a formidable backdrop of challenges, where do you start? How do we define the problem? What is the roadmap going forward? We decided to focus squarely on people – getting our many diverse stakeholders on board and on track, to be on top again. This key focus on people is seen in our efforts to (1) go back to basics with our shared vision, mission and values and a comprehensive strategy for action; (2) centre on the commuter in our approach to service and recovery; and (3) inspire a service excellence mind-set in all 8,500 of our staff. Let me talk briefly about each of these.


12. We started by going back to the basics. No change effort can be sustained without conviction, and our people must first believe that there is a need for change and agree on the direction forward. So we brought all our staff together by forging alignment towards a common vision, mission and core value system.

13. We reviewed our Vision statement and kept it because it remained apt. “Moving People, Enhancing Lives” spoke not just to our physical transport goals, but also emotively about winning the hearts and minds of our commuters.

mother and baby on SMRT train

14. We refreshed our Mission statement to be more relevant to the times, placing special emphasis on key ideas such as people’s choice, world-class, safe, reliable and customer-centric. Our aspiration was that people would take public transport as their preferred choice – because they want to and not just because they have to.

15. And we identified a set of shared core values to define ourselves and shape collective and individual attitude. Not coincidentally, they spell SMRT n I, signifying the mutual relationship and commitment between the company and each member of the organisation.

16. Having a vision and aspiration clearly aren’t enough. They have to be meaningfully translated into strategy and action. So we decided on 5 strategic thrusts to guide our priority of effort in bringing about a robust recovery across all fronts in the company:

• Improving Operational Performance;
• Enhancing Customer Service;
• Strengthening Workforce Health;
• Entrenching Organisational Excellence; and
• Ensuring Sustainable Growth.

17. These five strategic thrusts were developed into a weighted scorecard that tied everyone’s incentives to their attainment, from CEO to the worker on the ground, obliging everyone to build trust and seek stronger collaboration across functional lines and responsibilities. At the heart of this 5-prong strategy however is people. People underpin operational reliability, customer-focus, strong workforce relations and productivity, process excellence and business growth.


Commuter References

18. To get everyone on the right track, we placed our focus squarely on the commuter. While system efficiency continues to be important and has been the dominant consideration in early design and implementation, the quality of our public transportation network is no longer defined only by technical and operational KPIs. Numbers and statistics mean little to the commuter. Their reference is not the international benchmarks from which we know we have one of the best public transport systems in the world, but on the substantive quality of their travel experience – measured specifically at the time and place that they use the system. Their perspective, not unexpectedly, is shaped more by how far it is to walk to the nearest station, how long the wait time for the next bus or train is, how crowded the buses and trains are, and whether arrivals are as scheduled.

19. So although we have 180 km of rail network and 140 stations in Singapore, this is an irrelevant statistic for that resident who has to walk 2 km to find the nearest node. Despite running a tight schedule with a cumulative train distance travelled of nearly twice around the equator each day, this apparent trivia is of no significance to that passenger who was late for a job interview because he was on that particular train service that happened to be delayed for a few minutes. And although our average train service availability is more than 99.8%, this is of little comfort when the passenger has to put up with the rush hour crunch on congested trains.

20. Improving rail network performance therefore goes beyond the rationality of operational and maintenance data. Managing public expectations and satisfaction levels is an emotive issue, entwined in the socio-economic well-being of the country. It explains why the national conversation about public transport revolves around that desire for a reliable essential service, an affordable public good and a vital ingredient in our quest for liveability and sustainability.

SMRT Care Zones

21. So we are rethinking the older station architecture and commuter flow because demographics and travel patterns have changed since they were first constructed 30 years ago. Much has been done to improve accessibility for a more inclusive society especially as our population ages. Recognising that commuter safety and security are essential to quality rail service, we demarcated “care zones” on station platforms for passengers with special needs so that they can be monitored through CCTV, with emergency telephones nearby. We are even revamping in-train displays so that commuters can see the location of exits in the destination stations as even this can be aggravating. To give commuters more real-time information on services and delays, so that they can make informed decisions early, we reworked our apps on mobile devices, in addition to Twitter and Facebook to disseminate real-time network information. And for those who remain un-connected to any forms of media, we rolled out a traffic light system at the station entrance – with green, amber and red – to denote the extent of crowdedness in the stations so that passengers can choose an alternative mode, set aside more time, or have a coffee outside if the network is disrupted or overly crowded at that time.


22. The third key area that we embarked on aggressively was to lead a culture change. No change in structure, technology or process can have lasting value if there is no accompanying change in culture. Building on the existing culture of compliance and commitment in the company, we wanted to bring about a higher degree of team collaboration, open communication, continual learning, critical thinking, and customer-focus.

23. Shaping and nurturing that desired culture takes time, and is a journey more than a destination. Despite more pressing operational reliability and financial sustainability concerns that needed to be urgently addressed, we felt that it was as vital to find and define that desired culture right from the onset. Just because one can never quite finish it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever start.

Communicate the why behind what we are doing - Desmond Kuek

24. In leading that culture change, communication was key, in straight-talk and straight from the top. We opened up every possible channel and opportunity to engage staff directly, through town-halls, informal and unannounced visits to our business units, dialogues, union cascade meetings and small group discussions with junior staff. Even now, I continue to meet some cross section of staff every single week – to communicate not just the what, but also the why behind everything we’re doing. My senior management team do the same to translate key priorities in terms and language that the ground can relate to. There is no better way to build trust and confidence than to communicate directly, personally and honestly.

25. Fostering an open climate was next. On my first day at work, I sent out an email to all staff titled “What are you thinking?” It was an instigation to them to challenge the status quo, as well as an invitation for them to tell me candidly what they thought was good that we should keep doing well, what was worth doing that could be done better, and what should really be junked because it was unproductive or irrelevant except that nobody dared or cared in the past to say so. It was about building shared ownership, breaking through hierarchy in the company, and forging top to bottom alignment amongst all our staff of the company vision, shared values and desired ground actions.

26. These efforts form part of a continuing effort by leaders at every level to set cultural norms that engage, energise and empower the entire workforce. Ironically, soft fuzzy subjects like culture need firm frameworks and clear processes to make them work. To lead and drive new behaviour, we needed a unifying platform that all 8,500 staff in SMRT who come from all walks could easily identify with. We chose Service Excellence because it applied to everyone, from front line staff to back office admin and technical crew, and because it was tangible, implementable and measurable.

27. We engaged Disney Institute and NTUC to work with us to tailor programmes for different groups, in English and Chinese. The customer was defined as both the commuter and our own internal staff. Every single employee from myself to bus drivers, station staff and maintenance crew attended a localised module that set out to build a mind-set and common purpose of building trust and bringing on smiles, every day and in everyone who journeys with us. Why Disney, some have asked me? We chose Disney as we needed to fire up a new level of imagination about customer experience and what it takes to go the extra mile in service excellence. That’s what’s iconic about Disney. What’s less obvious though is that the entertainment world of Disney is really also about engineering, transportation and massive crowd movement and control.

28. Our staff left the schoolhouse empowered to do more and better. It helped that their supervisors back in the workplace had similarly undergone their training too, and were aligned and supportive of ground up changes to improve service quality in the daily routine. Slowly but surely, we are fostering a climate where service excellence can be practised into habit, and both attitude and action can develop into second nature.

29. The results have been most encouraging and we have won numerous Service Excellence accolades in the past year. Even more heart-warming are the stories from commuters about staff who had gone beyond the call of duty to make a difference in someone else’s day.


30. It is a continuing journey. And there are road bumps along the way even as we gain critical momentum on the pathway to excellence. As I told the Straits Times recently, whatever has happened in the past doesn’t faze us, it only makes us stronger as we learn from the lessons, even if there are bitter pills to swallow.

31. There is much more to be done to improve rail reliability and renew the aging network, but while we strive on with a zero defect attitude, we are encouraged that efforts have been positive. The train withdrawal rate for every 100,000 km, a key measure of rail reliability, has improved more than threefold from 3.3 in 2012 to 1.03 as of end-June 2015 on the ageing NSEW Lines. It is the lowest rate in seven years. And although that recent major network disruption on 7/7 is seared in our minds, the rate of incidents lasting longer than 5 minutes has improved significantly from 1.54 to 0.73 last year.

32. We have also recovered on all other fronts. We were certified this year with ISO 55001 for rail asset management which is a significant international quality standard, and are only the second company in Asia to attain this. Bus operations have turned around from the loss-making spell suffered over the past four years to a small operating profit in the last financial quarter, and customer satisfaction over bus service quality and punctuality have improved. Despite these successes, more still needs to be done.

33. We engaged Towers Watson to do our organizational climate survey early this year and they found that 9 in 10 of our employees are proud to belong to SMRT. That surprised me, considering how difficult the work environment is. Our sustainable engagement score of 86% – which measures how engaged, energized and empowered are people are – is considered best in class in the world. We were awarded by NTUC this year with the May Day Plaque of Commendation (Gold) for our efforts in strengthening the partnership with the Union and introducing progressive wages and careers for our workers. It’s an especially meaningful award for us coming two years after that illegal bus strike in Nov 2012.

34. In our organisational excellence efforts, we have also gained ground. SMRT won a global risk management award in 2015 by the renowned London-based Institute of Risk Management, against an international field, for our efforts in delivering value through enterprise risk management. We are the first Singapore company to win this.


35. Let me conclude. I’d said earlier that, accolades and statistics, they tell us we are on the right track, but they don’t matter unless we can get people on board with us. We aim to keep winning back the hearts and minds of commuters and staff alike, through our sheer commitment to getting our basics and fundamentals right, and because we believe in putting people first.

36. Getting us back to health is not something that can be done overnight. It doesn’t come by chance, and past or present prognosis is not a matter of hope or despair. What is needed is to navigate forward with a calmness of mind, consistency of effort and constancy of purpose. We will need to continually evolve and innovate into the future, as we have done in the past that has brought us this far. We’re celebrating SG50. It’s as good a milestone as any to be… thinking again, planning ahead and implementing afresh the ideas that will shape the pathway of public transportation for the next 50 years and beyond. That journey needs to be taken with all stakeholders on board, regulator and operator, and most importantly with our public and commuters, to co-own, co-share and co-create the solutions that we want. We’re on track to getting there and getting SMRT on top again.

Our achievements renewing the NSEWL to serve you better

We have successfully replaced all 96,000 wooden sleepers on the North-South Line
Passengers on the North-South Line enjoy a smoother and safer journey with old wooden sleepers replaced with longer lasting concrete ones. We are now working to replace 92,000 wooden sleepers on the East-West line. Works began in May 2015. We are on track to finish this by end 2016.

Re-signalling makes good progress
The decades-old signalling system is being replaced by a state-of-the-art train signalling system – one of the most advanced in the world. The re-signalling work on trains, tracks and stations is making good progress with 91% of the North-South Line complete and 44% of East-West Line re-signalling work done. When completed, this project will allow trains to travel closer to one another, which means you will have a shorter time waiting for trains at MRT stations. More frequent train arrivals also reduce congestion. As trains can travel closer to one another, the benefits from the new signalling system will be optimised when SMRT’s Rail Operations planners have a sufficiently large fleet of trains for daily deployment.

On track to upsize the NSEWL train fleet
The NSEWL train fleet has never been bigger. More than half of the 45 new C151B trains for the NSEWL will be delivered by the middle of 2016. Two have already arrived and will start serving passengers next year.

Driving towards more Trains professionals
We have doubled the number of engineers since December 2011 and aim to increase this to 400 engineers in March 2018. We are also hiring more technicians and expect to have 2,600 technicians in March 2018. This represents the largest engineering workforce in SMRT’s history. The bigger number of trains professionals will be tasked with maintaining SMRT’s train network to serve passengers better by keeping reliability, availability and maintainability high.

We’ve started a blog to keep you updated
With behind-the-scenes stories and exclusive updates, the SMRT Blog (which we started in March 2015) keeps you informed and updated on progress of the NSEWL modernisation.

Twitter feeds provide real-time travel updates and advice
SMRT’s Twitter feed is one of the top actives among Twitter users in Singapore. Real-time travel updates via Twitter give travel advice and situation updates during disruptions that take longer to resolve. SMRT Facebook has also been steadily growing its subscriber base.

We are among the safest metros in the world
As we strive to renew the NSEWL, SMRT ranks among the safest metros in the world. We maintained a zero incident rate for rail service collision and derailment. The passenger injury rate in FY2015 was at an all-time low of 0.004 per million, while compares favourably to the safety threshold of 0.4 per million set by the regulator.

We have achieved much, but a lot more remains to be done.

We’re working on it!

A tremendous amount of work is being done to renew and upgrade the North-South East-West Line (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest and longest MRT line.

This modernisation effort will lead to an updated and renewed railway system that will allow SMRT to run more trains, carry more passengers and serve our passengers better with faster connections across the MRT network. The multi-year, multi-project effort takes place seven days a week, all-year round. Much of the work takes place away from the public eye in train depots, deep underground in train tunnels or during the early hours of the morning when trains stop running.

Progress is being made every day. But a lot more remains to be done to modernise the NSEWL to serve you better. So SMRT must press on.

The transformation of the NSEWL is a complex engineering project. It represents the first major upgrade for the line since it started operations in 1987. Indeed, the work being done is said to be the biggest modernisation project on a “live” MRT system anywhere in the world.

With just three hours every night for engineering staff to access the track when trains are not running, it is vital for SMRT to prioritise and allocate the engineering hours available, projects and resources properly. This allows our engineers and contractors to maximise the time spent on the track so that attention can be given to the more urgent tasks.

Even as we do so, the NSEWL continues to age. Just as important is close monitoring of train operations as well as the ability to adapt maintenance timetables to the ageing system because components that reach their end-of-life may need more attention.

At present, our attention is focused on key engineering projects such as:
• Sleeper replacement

• Third rail replacement

• Re-signalling

• Upgrading older trains

• Introducing new trains

• Improved monitoring of train operations and maintenance activities

• Increasing the number of engineering staff

• Providing outstanding customer service

Sleeper replacement
Working closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rail contractors, the SMRT team achieved a major milestone when we finished replacing wooden sleepers on the North-South Line with concrete sleepers in April 2015.

With speed restrictions lifted along major portions of the NSL, passengers arrive at their destination faster. The new concrete sleepers provide a smoother and safer ride compared to the wooden ones that were approaching their end-of-life.

Wooden sleepers along the East-West Line are now being replaced nightly. Steady progress is being made thanks to the experience gained by our engineers while carrying out the NSL sleeper replacement project. When the work is completed at the end of 2016, passengers travelling from Pasir Ris to Joo Koon (and beyond to Tuas Link when the Tuas West Extension opens in 2016) on the East-West Line will also experience better train rides.

The sleeper replacement project will involve the installation of more long-lasting concrete sleepers that support the running rails, which are the metal rails on which the trains move, and this will lead to a smoother train ride for you.

Inter-related projects
An MRT train system is a complex work of engineering with many moving parts, all of which must work in a tightly coordinated manner for safe, speedy and reliable travel.

New sleepers provide you a smooth train journey.

A modernised signalling system will allow trains to travel closer to one another. This means passengers can expect to see trains arrive more frequently at MRT stations. With one of the most advanced train signalling systems designed with onboard redundancies, SMRT expects to see signalling faults much reduced.

With a new signalling system, we can place more trains onto the tracks safely, thus increasing the capacity of the line and reducing congestion at MRT stations. In order to do so, SMRT will introduce new trains.

And when the new trains are introduced, this will allow SMRT engineers to take older trains out of service to upgrade these trains with new equipment. This project will update older trains and will, in turn, lead to better commuter experience and train services once the reliability of older train types is improved.

Much has been achieved. But we need to press on as our task is not complete.
Note: Upcoming blog installments will explain the other engineering projects under our rail transformation journey. Bookmark this blog and stay tuned for more!

Gatefold HR-19

SMRT Celebrates our Nation’s 50th Birthday

Join us at 10 MRT stations and 5 bus interchanges today as we celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday with free travel and freebies.

*Update @ 1330: Some of our stations and all interchanges have stopped giving out the freebies. Scroll down to see which ones are still giving away gifts.

Orchard MRT Volunteers

The volunteers at Orchard MRT are ready!

Visit selected train stations and bus interchanges today to get a free badge in celebration of SG50

Visit selected train stations and bus interchanges today to get a free badge in celebration of SG50

At the interchanges, we have photowalls set up for your photo taking pleasure

At the interchanges, we have photowalls set up for your photo taking pleasure

SMRT Buses welcomes all guests to sign in the SG50 Guestbook

SMRT Buses welcomes all guests to sign in the SG50 Guestbook

Did you manage to get a bite of the SG50 cake that we had at the interchanges?

Did you manage to get a bite of the SG50 cake that we had at the interchanges?

The stations that will be giving away gifts from 3pm to 5pm are

  1. Esplanade
  2. Promenade
  3. Bayfront
  4. Raffles Place
  5. City Hall

SMRT SG50 Buses

As Singapore celebrates SG50 with the many different activities all over Singapore, SMRT will be joining in with free travel on 9 August, National Day. You won’t have to tap your EZ-Link cards at the MRT Stations’ fare gates or when you board the bus. Keep a lookout for these unique SG50 SMRT buses plying the streets of Singapore this Jubilee Weekend as well.

Read more

High Capacity Buses in SMRT

High capacity buses used by SMRT Buses can carry about 50% more passengers than our 12-metre single-deck buses. SMRT’s high capacity buses include the 0405G and MAN A24 articulated buses ( commonly known as bendy buses) as well as the Enviro500 Double-Deck bus.





Mercedes-Benz 0405G

Introduced in 1996, the MB 0405G comes in four body types.

Type: Articulated
Country: Germany
Engine/CC: OM447hA/11967 cc
Capacity: Up to 149 passengers (up to 59 seated, up to 90 standing)

Mercedes-Benz 0405G

Mercedes-Benz 0405G Hispano Citaro

Mercedes Benz 0405G Hispano Habit

Mercedes Benz 0405G Hispano Habit

Mercedes Benz 0405 Hispano Carrocera

Mercedes Benz 0405 Hispano Carrocera


Mercedes-Benz 0405G Volgren


SMRT Buses deployed a MAN A24 bus for trails in 2013.

Type: Articulated
Country: Germany
Engine/CC: MAN D 2066 LUH-33/10518 cc
Capacity: Up to 130 passengers (up to 54 seated, up to 76 standing)




Britain’s biggest bus manufacturer, ADL, will supply SMRT with new-generation double-deck buses, all of which will be delivered by end 2015.

Type: Double Deck
Country: United Kingdom
Engine/CC: Cummins ISL8.9E5340B /8849 cc
Capacity: Up to 134 passengers (up to 83 seated, up to 51 standing)




Behind the Scenes : Changi Depot & Ulu Pandan Depot

Ulu Pandan Depot

With less than 50 people working at Ulu Pandan Depot, the team play an integral part in providing a smooth journey for our commuters on the North-South, East-West lines.

Chan Gam Fai has been working at SMRT for 27 years. Since 1995, he has been based at Ulu Pandan Depot as a Technical Officer in the Rolling Stock Department(RSD). He usually works on corrective maintenance, which are reported faults. These could be faults with the air con, power or train doors. He can service all four main line train models and works on two to three trains a day on average.

Chan Gam Fai, Technical Officer

Chan Gam Fai, Technical Officer

Fixing a train could take anywhere between three to four hours to a day depending on the fault. Chan is happy at Ulu Pandan Depot as he works with a reliable team and they have forged strong bonds over the years.

Jimmy Lim Jui Mui, another unsung hero, has been working at SMRT for the last 14 years. He and his team concentrate on preventive maintenance. They work in shifts, rotating between morning, afternoon and night. Work lasts between 8-10 hours a day.

Jimmy Lim Jui Mui, working tirelessly on our trains

Jimmy Lim Jui Mui, working tirelessly on our trains

Jimmy feels that it is important that you like your job and strongly believes in team work. He said that although they are six different teams here everyone helps each other and sharing of knowledge is common.

Changi Depot

Changi Depot-SMRT

Changi Depot-SMRT

Officially opened in 1989, Changi Depot is one of our four train depots and is heavily utilized by the Rolling Stock Department (RSD). Located at 5 Koh Sek Lim road, the 25 hectare depot is home to around 70 of our colleagues.

At Changi Depot, the RSD assists with basic maintenance and repair works such as changing small components. They also conduct weekly and monthly checks of our trains. There are a total of 47 trains comprising of 3 models; the KHI C151, SIE C651 & KSF C151A.

Line Manager Abdul Hamid Bin Awang, who is part of RSD, has been with the depot since its opening. He enjoys working at Changi as it is very quiet as compared to Bishan. His only complaint is that there’s no canteen but he’s grateful that there’s a chartered bus to take them to Bedok Interchange for lunch.

 Line Manager Abdul Hamid Bin Awang (Middle) posing with Technical Officer Shamsuri Bin Amat (left) and Technical Officer Kelvin Wong (right). Collectively they have close to 75 years of experience working at SMRT.

Line Manager Abdul Hamid Bin Awang (Middle) posing with Technical Officer Shamsuri Bin Amat (left) and Technical Officer Kelvin Wong (right). Collectively they have close to 75 years of experience working at SMRT.

The existing Changi depot will be demolished with a new depot to be built beside the current site. The new Changi depot, shared between SMRT and SBST, will house the rolling stock of the East West, Downtown and Thomson-East Coast lines and is expected to be ready in 2024.



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Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit

On 10 February 1996, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced the building of the first fully automated Light Rail Transit (LRT) system at Bukit Panjang. The LRT system would operate as a feeder service to complement the existing MRT network.

Construction began in April 1996. On 6 November 1999, the Bukit Panjang LRT system was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan. Comprising 14 stations along a 7.8 kilometre elevated track, the LRT provides an expedient link between Bukit Panjang New Town and Choa Chu Kang MRT station.

Passengers onboard the LRT

Passengers on board the LRT

The LRT adopted state-of-the-art technology and design. The trains have misting windows to protect the privacy of residents living in apartments close to the tracks. The driver-less trains are controlled by a central system, while close circuit television cameras were installed to ensure the safety and security of the passengers.

The new Bombardier CX100 in our new livery

The new Bombardier CX100 in our new livery

SMRT officers designated to operate the LRT system were sent to Pittsburgh, United States of America, to be trained on the system. These pioneers, in turn, helped to coach future operations officers.

Did you know?

– Each train-car can take up to 105 passengers.

– Approximately 50,000 passengers travel on the LRT on an average day.

– The total length of the route is 10.5km.

– The total number of stations in 14.