Paving the Way for Better Journeys III – Survey Winners

Better Journeys 3 SMRT Brochure

SMRT Trains is working to renew the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest and most heavily utilised MRT lines.

In May, SMRT published ‘Paving the Way for Better Journeys: Edition 3’ to inform residents of these upgrading efforts that aim to bring commuters better connectivity, greater convenience, more comfortable rides, timely information, smoother transitions, and safer and more reliable journeys.

This complex set of engineering projects is the first major upgrade for the lines since operations began in 1987. With trains serving commuters around 20 hours every day, work crews optimise the remaining hours to maintain and renew the network.

Thank you for your feedback and support. We take your comments seriously, and will continue our rail renewal efforts to provide you with better journeys.

The following winners have won an exclusive stored-value card, and will receive an email from us shortly. If you did not provide your email address, do look out for a phone call.

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Working at SMRT: More than Just a Day Job

 Principal Engineer, Wayne Chen

– Wayne Chen, Principal Engineer, Permanent Way

After seven years at a statutory board, I made the move to SMRT Trains in 2015 with the hope of contributing more to the rail industry. What attracted me to the company, was the fact that SMRT has many brownfield projects to work on, whereas it was all about introducing new systems where I was at.

I need to be in the depot early every weekday morning to attend our daily Permanent Way morning meetings at 8am. These meetings start early as the night engineering teams from around the country would update the day teams on maintenance done on our tracks and issues encountered during the wee hours before. The rest of the day is spent working with the day teams investigating root causes behind various issues, finding long-term fixes, and working to optimise our maintenance processes. I usually leave the depot in the evening for dinner with the wife and children.

Sometimes, that is not the end of my work day.

Once I’ve tucked my children in at 10pm, I head back to the depot to spend the night with the engineers and technicians working the night shifts. This is not just about working on the maintenance of our tracks to keep it safe and fit for operations. It is also about being there with my team to show them we are in this together. We are #OneSMRT.

The team thinks that I am there to motivate them. In reality, I rely on them for motivation. The passion they possess and the pride they take in their work keep me focused on the goal. Many of my colleagues have clocked 30 years on the job. Their work ethic and the ownership they have over the job is simply quite mind-blowing.

We are determined to provide Singaporeans with better journeys every day. This is not your usual office job. It is definitely worth it when I know my team and I have contributed in ensuring our commuters get to their destinations safely and comfortably.

#LetsPressOn #SMRTogether


Wayne Chen is a principal engineer at SMRT Trains. He performs engineering analysis and trending assessments to improve the reliability of rail track components and equipment for the North-South and East-West Lines.

Bridging the Reliability Expectation Gap

In transit systems from London to Sydney, rail passengers are told to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform.

For Mr Shahrin Abdol Salam, Senior Vice President, Plans and Development, SMRT Trains, the phrase takes on a deeper meaning as his team works on the massive renewal of the 30-year-old North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily-utilised MRT lines.

One of the biggest challenges is the way commuters judge the MRT system. “A commuter only cares about one train – the one that is either at or not at the MRT station at the moment he arrives. He does not care about the trains that have been running since 5am, or the ones that come after he has completed his journey.”

SMRT Trains, like many other rail operators, including Hong Kong MTR and Taipei Metro, uses Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) as a measure of service reliability. In the first half of 2017, MRT trains in Singapore travelled an average of 393,000 train-kilometres before a delay of more than five minutes, about three times better than 2015. The target is 1,000,000 train-kilometres in 2020.

The commuter, however, judges the system by what is happening the moment he’s on the platform, so past – smooth, comfortable and uneventful – journeys are quickly forgotten, he says, adding: “That’s why there will always be that gap.”

It is worth looking at what it takes for that single train to run without incident, Shahrin suggests. It takes interconnected systems of thousands of moving parts not just to work together, but to not break down. A failure in any one of these systems or subsystems can lead to a delay while the situation is rectified. Replacing any one of the systems also means having to ensure that they have to snugly fit into and sync with both the hardware and software of all the other existing systems.

The age and design on the system creates its further limitations – the primary one being the design of the initial system. There is no room for additional parallel tracks. That means, unlike in Tokyo or London, there is no option of shutting down a main line like the NSEWL, and diverting commuter traffic to alternatives.

“The NSEWL, which bears the brunt of most failures and complaints, is the backbone of our rail travel, and we don’t have the option of closing the system down. All our lines feed into it. So this 30-year-old system has to be renewed as it runs, and we continue to work hard and minimise the inconvenience associated with that.” The multi-year, multi-project rail transformation includes new concrete sleepers, a new signalling system, new power rails, refurbishment of midlife trains, progressive addition of 45 new trains and the delivery of 12 new trains by 2018.

Predict, Prevent, Recover

Various contingency plans have also been put in place to allow for quicker recovery from incidents when they do happen. When a hiccup occurs, inspection continues until the fault is identified, Shahrin says. “It is very easy for two- to three-minute faults to evolve into faults that last five minutes or longer. That is why we keep a close eye on every single fault.”

Through the 24-hour SMRT Maintenance Operations Centre located at Bishan Depot, engineering staff from different technical disciplines work together to react to incidents – big and small – faster. Frontliners at stations are also being trained as first responders to incidents.

From electronic displays in stations, real-time in-train information, mobile app SMRTConnect (iOS / Android), a Twitter feed with live updates and a dedicated WhatsApp number (97884398) for fault reporting, a growing list of options allow for effective two-way communication.

“We anticipate that there will be issues, and adapt our processes accordingly. We have trained staff to be more responsive in dealing with delays,” says Shahrin.

But for many of these moving parts, there will continue to be limitations.

“We are dealing with assets that are reaching end-of-life. Replacements are due and must be carried out to provide the safe and reliable journey that our commuters depend on us for,” Shahrin explains. For us, this means listening to our commuters to both identify and bridge those gaps.

 

Credits: Infographic – SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

Trains Operations Review: Giving at SMRT

SMRT's Inclusive Playground

At SMRT, we believe in Moving People, Enhancing Lives. We believe in giving back to society and fostering a fair and inclusive community.

Three pillars – Enabling Mobility, Empowering through Arts & the Education, and Encouraging Environmental Sustainability – form the foundation of our Corporate Social Reasonability efforts.

SMRT's CSR Efforts Graphic

“I am very happy that I can go for the Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) outing in the mini bus! It is not easy for patients like me to go out because it is very inconvenient. The mini bus is also very spacious and comfortable. Thank you SMRT!”

– Lim Ah Moi, HNF beneficiary

Close to 70% of the patients HNF serves have mobility issues or are bed-bound. For patients in wheelchairs, such as 59-year-old Lim Ah Moi, the custom-fitted passenger mini bus sponsored by SMRT offers the gift of mobility so they can attend social and recreational events.

Previously reluctant to leave her house, Ah Moi readily agreed to join in a Lunar New
Year luncheon for beneficiaries upon hearing about the sponsored mini bus.

Pathlight School Student contributing artwork to SMRT's Train Stations

“I enjoy looking at every detail on trains and buses, and learn more about the different models. I even construct my own transport system with Lego bricks at home. I love train and bus hopping with my parents on weekends. Travelling on public transport makes me happy. When I grow up, I hope to work in SMRT.”
– Trusten Ng, Pathlight School Student

Trusten was one of the students from Pathlight School who contributed his artwork. Trusten’s art piece was displayed at Bishan MRT station, along with 18 other paintings by his fellow schoolmates.

Get more details on our CSR efforts in the SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

Trains Operations Review: Nurturing Our People

Train Captain at Work

SMRT Trains has a workforce of 5,200 to support our goals of delivering service and reliability to our commuters. Stationed across the island, with some starting their day long before the first train service, our people are the cornerstone of our success.

Profile of SMRT Employees

As SMRT Trains’ headcount increases to meet growing capacity and maintenance needs, we continue to shape a lean and productive workforce.

Profile of SMRT Staff Age

Our people play a critical role in meeting commuter service expectations. We believe in cultivating an empowered engineering technical and operations workforce, and are focused on offering opportunities aplenty for their professional development to ensure that our engineering staff are well-equipped to manage our new and complex systems.

Staff Programmes

At SMRT, we believe that creating a workplace that is healthy, safe and conducive to high standards of performance is everyone’s responsibility.

We nurture a caring and cohesive culture supported by fair employment practices; proactively provide recognition, training and development for our people; and encourage them in their own journeys to build a rewarding life.

With our people at their best, we know that our commuters are in good hands too.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review

Trains Operations Review: Improving Reliability and Connectivity

SMRT staff at work

There are over two million commuter rides on our trains every day. SMRT Trains is working to ensure that we bring you safe, reliable and comfortable rides every day.

Our multi-year, multi-project efforts in renewing the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) as well as our plans to increase reliability on the Circle Line and Bukit Panjang LRT are in full force. Here’s a snap shot and progress update on our ongoing renewal works.

SMRT Rail Renewal figures

The NSEWL will receive 57 new trains by 2018, of which 45 new trains have been delivered to Bishan Depot and Tuas Depot. The trains are being fitted out and tested extensively to ensure they are certified safe for passenger service.

Designed to operate with the new signalling system, we will be able to deploy more trains on the NSEWL in the foreseeable future.

SMRT upgrades older trains and buys new trains

As we work toward improving rail reliability, we place strong emphasis on growing our operations capability.

The Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC), the first of its kind in the region, was set up in 2015 to allow us to solve complex technical issues in real-time, so we can rectify track faults more quickly. The MOC has introduced new condition monitoring technologies and real-time data analytics to bolster our existing fault rectification arsenal.

Here’s a look at how we measure reliability and how we perform against the Land Transport Authority’s benchmarks.

SMRT measures reliability

From June 2017, SMRT began operating the Tuas West Extension, an extension of the EWL from Joo Koon Station.

With this, commuters travelling to Jurong and Tuas enjoy significantly better public transport connectivity.

Opening of the Tuas West Extension and Circle Line Loop

SMRT Trains will continue to bring you greater convenience and comfort.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017

Trains Operations Review: Our Service Commitment

In 2017, SMRT celebrates 30 years of MRT operations.

Delivering a world-class transport service that is safe, reliable and customer-centric is at the heart of what we do.

As Singapore’s iconic train operator, we carry more than two million passengers on our train network daily. Throughout our 30 years of service, we have connected communities and transformed the way people live, work and play.

As we embark on our next leg, your journey matters. We look forward to the boundless opportunities to continue serving you and delivering safe and reliable travel experiences.

***

Firstly, we thank you for your support! With 162 compliments to every complaint received, your feedback goes a long way in encouraging SMRT staff. Always there to help you, our station managers and ambassadors are ever-willing to go the extra mile to make you feel safe and comfortable on our trains.

 

Feel free to tap on the many commuter service touchpoints we have across our stations, passenger service centres, platforms and trains to make your commute with us more comfortable.

Stay in touch with us through our digital platforms. Our two-way communication channels provide you with real time travel updates and a platform to give us feedback too.

At SMRT, we strive to create and provide a safe, inclusive and accessible environment for all our commuters. Here are just some initiatives we have implemented.

SMRT Trains will continue to bring you greater convenience and comfort.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017

SMRT-LTA Joint Media Conference

System-level performance checks of the new signalling system have placed SMRT in the spotlight recently. Mr Lee Ling Wee, Chief Executive Officer, SMRT Trains, updated the media at the SMRT-LTA Update on the re-signalling project today (14 July 2017). We share his remarks here.

***

Good morning, members of the media.

I just have three key points to make before we proceed with the presentation.

Seeking commuters’ patience and understanding

Firstly, I would like to thank our commuters for their patience and understanding and seek their continual support as we go through this process of system renewal on the oldest MRT line in Singapore as a nation. I would like to also add that not every incident and delay on North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) over the past weeks was caused by the new signalling system. From time to time, we still encounter signalling faults due to the ageing legacy signalling system that is still running part of the East-West Line (EWL) from Pasir Ris to Pioneer station. For example, the incident that occurred on Wednesday morning 12 July between Jurong and Clementi station was due to a track circuit failure, and is not related to the new signalling system on the NSL and Tuas West Extension (TWE). The new signalling system is definitely superior to the legacy system by design because of the system redundancy that it offers. It is important that we get over this transition phase where we rigorously check the system during passenger service and resolve all the initial teething problems. This is a necessary process that we must undertake because the NSEWL is an operational line.

Systematic approach to address and resolve issues

Secondly, we have put in place a systematic approach to implement the new signalling system. This includes a comprehensive and progressive plan to weed out teething issues, starting with software testing and verifications in Thales software lab, followed by proof of concept testing on the Changi Airport Line before carrying out engineering tests during off-service hours, and progressing to testing with passenger service from 11 pm onwards. When all these tests were successful, we moved on to full day service on Sundays, progressively increasing the number of trains until we ran a timetable on Sundays that is identical to weekdays with morning and evening peak hour patterns. Along the way, we systematically logged down and investigated every issue that we encountered. For each issue, we develop short term mitigation measures and operational workarounds so as to minimise impact to commuters. We also work out permanent solutions, such as software enhancements, with Thales engineers. Unfortunately, all these may not be obvious to commuters because a delay is a delay and commuters would not be able to distinguish a new category of faults from others that have been mitigated the day before. Later, Alvin Kek, who heads the NSEWL Rail Operations, will share with you some of these issues and explain how we have addressed them. While it may not seem like it, our data shows that delays due to teething problems relating to the new signalling system have reduced over past weeks and we are looking forward to software enhancements that we will be implementing tonight.

Working as a team

Last but not least, teamwork. Staff from LTA, SMRT and Thales have been working closely to deliver the new signalling system on both NSL and TWE over the past few months. We have joint meetings and task forces at all levels. During traffic hours, SMRT operations controllers in the Operations Control Centre (OCC) are supplemented by signalling engineers from LTA, SMRT and Thales so that we can quickly react to incidents caused by the new signalling system. Alvin (SVP, Rail Ops, SMRT) chairs a daily meeting involving staff from all three organisations to review new issues in the preceding 24 hours and plan for the activities ahead. Hoon Ping (LTA Chief Executive) and I co-chair weekly meetings with Thales management to make sure that we have the necessary resources to make good progress in this project. There is also a LTA-SMRT joint board committee to look into safety and service reliability issues relating to the new signalling system. As a team, we are sparing no efforts to stabilise the launch of the new signalling system on NSL and TWE so as to minimise inconvenience to commuters.

Conclusion

To conclude, on behalf of SMRT, I apologise for the inconvenience to commuters over the past weeks. SMRT is committed to serving our commuters. As a nation, this is the first time that we are implementing a re-signalling project on an existing line. We will make sure that the lessons learnt from the North-South Line are ported over to the East-West Line. The completion of the NSEWL re-signalling project will bring long-term benefits to our commuters. These include more reliable train services and an increase in train capacity, translating into shorter waiting time and less platform congestion during peak hours. I would like to assure commuters and the public that as a team, LTA, SMRT and Thales are sparing no effort, working hand-in-hand to iron out teething issues with the new signalling system.

Thank you.

Fine-tuning the New Signalling System

Since we began regular system-level performance checks on the new signalling system for the North-South Line, we have received valuable feedback and suggestions from many individuals and organisations. I thought it would be useful to share with commuters the intricacies of implementing a new signalling system on an existing line.

Greenfield projects in railway engineering refer to those conducted on completely new lines, e.g. the Downtown Line, while brownfield projects are those executed on existing systems, e.g. the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). New enhancements in a brownfield project would have to integrate seamlessly into a ‘live’ system.

A greenfield signalling project typically takes a few months of intensive daily testing involving thousands of hours. For a brownfield project, if we were to restrict the performance checks to only weekends, or engineering hours (i.e. 1.30AM – 4.30AM), it would take Singapore years to implement the new signalling system on the NSEWL. This is why we have no choice but to conduct checks throughout the day, including weekday peak hours, when trains are running at high frequencies with heavy commuter loads. In addition, we have about two million passenger trips on the NSEWL every day. It would not be prudent to shut down the lines for extended hours to conduct the performance checks.

My team is now ironing out teething issues with the new signalling system. Every time we encounter a problem, we systematically log and investigate the issue. We then work with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and system supplier Thales to come up with hardware and software fixes to rectify the issues. When we began weekday checks, we encountered a number of software related issues that affected train services. After joint investigations with LTA and Thales, we managed to identify the root causes and developed operational workarounds while waiting for software fixes to be implemented by Thales.

Some – including my own friends – have asked why the re-signalling project takes so long. “Surely SMRT cannot be the first operator in the world to change signalling systems,” they exclaimed. A former classmate told me that one of her friends is now an engineering professor, and offered to have him advise us on this project. I had to clarify that this is unlike the Circle Line incident in 2016 when we dealt with unknown unknowns. We are adopting a planned, systematic approach to identify and rectify the issues in our signalling trials.

Each software update is thoroughly tested in the laboratory. It is also tested on the tracks during engineering hours, before being applied during passenger service hours. These fixes take weeks to be delivered. We are planning a software patch in the coming weeks. We hope for a smooth implementation.

The procedure is tedious, because no two railway systems are identical in the way they are designed and operated. The system hardware and software we have are customised for the unique local environment. While the system supplier had experience working with other operators in the world, they are unable to simply replicate the well-oiled systems of Taipei, Hong Kong and London, and import those here.

Safety is of paramount importance. The signalling system is like the brain that commands and controls trains on the network. We will fine-tune the signalling system and ensure that it can accurately track the exact position, speed and braking distance of all trains on the network. It will take us some time, but we are not taking any chances as far as safety is concerned.

My team and I have learned a lot from Singapore’s very first re-signalling project. We are keenly aware of commuter feedback and inconvenience due to the ongoing performance checks. I would like to assure commuters that we are working hard to get over with this phase of system renewal on the NSEWL. We remain committed to completing the performance checks as soon as we can, and to fulfil our promise of providing commuters with better journeys. Thank you for the patience and understanding.

Lee Ling Wee
Chief Executive Officer, SMRT Trains

Re-signalling Update: Your Questions Answered Here

Last month, we answered 7 commonly asked questions about SMRT Trains’ new signalling system.
As system-level performance checks on the new signalling system for the North-South Line (NSL) continue, we seek to regularly answer the questions you have on re-signalling.

 

1. Compared to the Circle Line (CCL) and the Downtown Line (DTL), why is it so challenging to run re-signalling checks on the NSL?

The signalling systems on the CCL and the DTL were implemented before the lines commenced passenger service. Each line has one type of train, which was easier. On the other hand, the NSL currently has four different fleets of trains. Each fleet has its characteristics, and every train is unique.
Moreover, the newer lines run completely underground so they are not subject to inclement weather conditions. In contrast, our NSL operates on both open viaducts and tracks underground.
All these factors add to the complexities of our re-signalling project.

2. Has there been any progress after a month of system-level performance checks?

Yes, we have rectified several teething issues including the following:
• Improved alignment of train doors and platform screen doors at stations;
• Better regulation of train service intervals and train dwell time at stations;
• Significantly reducing incidents of train overshoot at platforms; and
• Smoother train braking and acceleration along the viaduct during adverse weather conditions.

3. The Tuas West Extension (TWE) was launched on 18 June 2017. Why was there a disruption on 28 June 2017, just ten days later?

Unlike the main stretch of the East-West Line (EWL) which is still running on the legacy Westinghouse system installed since 1987, the newly-completed TWE operates on the new signalling system.
This explains why trains moving to and from the TWE will have to pause at Pioneer MRT Station for a few minutes each time to switch signalling systems. On the evening of 28 June, the radio communication network of the new signalling system failed and affected the NSL and TWE.

 


4. How long more will the re-signalling checks on the NSL last?

In a briefing last month (May 2017), LTA shared that a complex system like the new system would take about four to six months to stabilise from the time it is rolled out on a regular basis (29 May 2017). We are not alone in this. Our fellow operators in London and Hong Kong faced similar issues when they renewed their old signalling systems. They also took a while to rectify the issues.