SMRT Rail Renewal Milestone: 188,000 Sleepers Replaced

To enhance rail reliability and to provide better journeys for millions of commuters who travel with SMRT every day, we embarked on the biggest rail transformation programme since rail operations began in Singapore in 1987. The sleeper replacement project on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) began in 2013, where 188,000 ageing timber sleepers were to be replaced with concrete sleepers.

A joint team comprising SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was formed in June 2012 to look into reducing disruptions and increasing the reliability of the NSEWL. Other rail transformation projects, including re-signalling and third rail replacement programmes were carried out concurrently.

The Works

All rail renewal and maintenance works are carried out between 1.30 AM and 4.30 AM, after the last trains arrived at the depots, and before the first trains depart the depots for the start of service. Actual work hours are much more limited because of the time needed to transport machinery to the work site.

Starting with four road-rail vehicles (RRV) in 2013, before increasing the fleet to 14 in early 2016, these vehicles were used to mechanise the replacement of sleepers, a process which was initially done manually. The use of RRVs helped to accelerate the sleeper replacement schedule. In addition, fixed gantry cranes were brought in in early 2016. They were located at two ends of the EWL – at Pasir Ris overrun, and between Chinese Garden and Lakeside stations.

The gantry cranes, which were 20 metres in height and weighed 74 tonnes, were used to hoist the RRVs and concrete sleepers from the ground on to the tracks. They allowed the RRVs to deploy more quickly to the work front and thus allowing more sleepers to be replaced each night. Six Temporary Staging Areas (TSAs) were located at Kallang, Redhill, Chinese Garden, Pasir Ris, Changi, and Ulu Pandan to act as holding bays for RRVs and other heavy machinery.

Roger Lim, Project Director, Track and Infrastructure; and concurrently Vice President, Circle Line and Bukit Panjang LRT Projects, said “As we take apart parts of the track each night, we need to be very judicious on safety and quality checks when we put back everything within the three-hour engineering window. We have to make sure all systems are in order and ready for service each morning.

We had to look into the inter-operability within and across other work teams. Managing close to 1,000 personnel with 14 RRVs, two tamping machines and numerous mechanical handling equipment, the project team members must be cognisant of the various activities in the five work fronts. We had centralised planning to optimise the resources, while allowing decentralised execution for localised care and safety measures at the respective workfronts. Steely perseverance and steady pace helped us to work productively yet safely on the viaducts every night.”

Thank You for Your Understanding

In the last three years, measures such as speed restrictions and shorter operating hours were imposed. With the use of heavy machinery, moving of extremely heavy equipment and materials, and works such as welding and tamping, it was inevitable that noise would be generated. Our teams took all necessary steps to minimise noise and light pollution in the early hours of the morning- including using monitoring devices and barriers to keep noise levels to a minimum, and keeping night lights pointed away from residential homes.

20 December 2016

There was an unmistakeable sense of excitement and pride at Clementi MRT Station at 1AM. Representatives from SMRT, LTA and our contractors were in high spirits as the RRV appeared in sight for the final time. They watched the last wooden sleeper on the westbound track was removed. The final concrete sleeper was laid on 20 December 2016 – a full three years ahead of its original target of 2019.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan officiated the completion of the sleeper replacement programme on 20 January 2017. Accompanied by President and Group CEO Desmond Kuek, the minister signed a commemorative plaque to be installed at Clementi MRT Station, where the last batch of wooden sleepers were replaced.

Better Journeys

The sleeper replacement programme is the first of many milestones to come. As speed restrictions are lifted, our commuters can enjoy safer, smoother and faster rides on our network. We also look forward to the completion of our re-signalling and third rail replacement projects which will improve the journey experience for all commuters.

Re-signalling Project will significantly improve reliability

There were two disruptions on the East-West Line due to faulty track circuits in recent weeks. Commuters have asked if this is in any way related to the sleeper replacement project and what was the cause of it and what are we doing to rectify it?

The track circuit faults are unrelated to the sleeper replacement project completed recently for the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). The track circuit system is part of the signalling system, and is not part of the sleeper infrastructure that supports the running rails which trains travel on.

Such track circuits are used to send signals to the operations control centre to monitor the speed, location and identity of trains passing the respective track signals. Track circuits are integral to the signalling system that is also ageing.

Rectifying track circuit faults

When a track circuit fails, trains have to travel at a lower speed over the affected stretch for safety reasons. During peak hours, the need to slow down trains causes congestion along the train line because trains must slow down as they cross the faulty track circuit and cannot bypass the stretch of track. MRT trains must also maintain a safety distance between one another. This can result in trains stopping momentarily for several hundred metres behind the fault track circuit.

There’s a knock-on effect on MRT stations too. As a result, platforms at MRT stations ahead of the faulty track circuit will get more congested during peak hours.

While train services are still available, this is deemed a degraded mode of service.

Ageing track circuits fail for two reasons. Firstly, a hardware failure of equipment at a Signal Equipment Room (SER) within a MRT station (that is, not on the actual track). Secondly, failures could occur at track side.

For faults within a SER, there is a good chance that we can rectify the failure within a reasonable period of time. This is because the equipment is more easily accessible than trackside infrastructure, where access would involve clearance for track access and possibly the shutting of power or the use of trains as standing protection for the work teams.

For trackside faults, engineering staff will have to access the track to investigate the root cause. This can be very challenging when the track is on a NSEWL viaduct, especially in the event of inclement weather and lightning risks.

As a process, when rectifying track circuit faults, our engineering staff rule out a SER equipment malfunction first before proceeding to investigate trackside faults. That is why the failure of trackside equipment tends to take a longer time to recover.

In the new signalling system that is currently being installed, the ageing track circuits will be replaced with a more advanced system that is more reliable as it is built with multiple redundancy for greater reliability. After we renew the signalling system, faulty track circuits will no longer cause prolonged delays for commuters. This is something we are looking forward to.

We will start operating the new signalling system progressively on North-South Line. In time to come, after we have addressed the initial teething problems of the new signaling system, we will be able to improve the journey for commuters. Please bear with us in the meantime.

SMRT Improvements to Rail Engineering Capabilities

A few days ago, a group of young engineers who were attending a one-week course as part of STEP-IN* programme came back to the main maintenance depot at Bishan to help their more senior colleagues investigate the root cause of a technical problem on the train fleet operating on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) and discuss the recovery plan. That day, we had a spate of train-related defects that caused three trains to be taken out of service, when these trains completed their regular service runs at terminal stations. This is what we call “stock change” or “planned withdrawal at terminal stations”.

Journey to raise, train and sustain a robust rail engineering capability

There is nothing unusual about a group of engineers coming back to the office to work until 3am. What is unusual is that, they came back on their own accord, without being told to so. In fact, I have given specific instructions to their bosses, not to disturb the participants of the STEP-IN programme unless it is an emergency, so that the participants can focus on the one-week course. In this case, there was no service disruption. Although there was a need to get to the bottom of the issue because it had the potential of becoming a fleet issue, we did have other engineers to deal with the immediate concern.

I know exactly what these engineers, who have been with us for not more than two years, went through, as they went about their discussions and investigations that night. It is no different from what I went through as an engineer in the air force for 23 years: root cause analysis, digging out historical records to understand previous maintenance work done on the affected trains and components, etc. The thought process and mantra have been drilled into them. These young engineers demonstrated a thirsty curiosity to find out why things happened. They listed down every possibility, without jumping to conclusions. They repeatedly asked why the fault occurred (in the same way one might peel an onion), not accepting a case of “No-Fault-Found” (NFF) even if the fault “Can Not be Duplicated” (CND) after the affected trains returned to the depot. There was, in the air that night, an all-consuming desire to get to the root cause, leaving no stone unturned. For them to act together in unity, I am sure there was also esprit de corps and a sense that we are in this together.

Building a Robust Rail Engineering Capability

When I first joined SMRT, I set a goal of building a robust rail engineering capability within SMRT Trains. To do so, we aim to strengthen three key areas: people, process and technology. Three and a half years on, this goal is still an on-going journey. The two areas of process and technology are straightforward enough, as part of SMRT’s rail improvement efforts.

To strengthen our processes, we adopt a life cycle approach to all our critical assets in trains, track, traction power, signalling and communication systems. Such an approach requires us to work closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to better manage the timeliness of asset renewal for such hardware. Each renewal presents us with opportunities to improve the inherent design reliability, availability and maintainability (RAM) of the assets leveraging on the operational experience that our staff have accumulated over the past three decades. As part of process enhancement, we also decided to review our maintenance regime regularly over the asset life cycle. Instead of blindly following manufacturers’ maintenance manuals, the revised preventive maintenance tasks must take into account field experience and local operating context, such as asset age, utilisation patterns, environmental conditions and operational requirements.

To enhance the use of technology, we adopt a predictive maintenance approach. This means that we collect data and information on asset conditions and use analytical tools to project how long more the assets can last before they need to be replaced, what additional maintenance efforts are needed to ensure that the assets will continue to perform reliably until they are replaced. Traditional railway maintenance relies heavily on engineering hours to run specialised engineering vehicles on the rail network to collect these data and information. However, given the limited engineering window, the same track location is only surveyed once every few months. Today’s technology allows us to equip passenger trains with on-board sensors and survey the same track location at a much higher frequency. All these translate into opportunities for better maintenance performance.

Hardware and heartware

Hardware issues are being addressed through better work processes. At the same time, more extensive fielding of technology, such as railway condition monitoring devices, complement work processes so that maintenance and renewal efforts are done more efficiently and effectively.

But no less important is our drive to strengthen our heartware – our people. Indeed, the toughest and most complex part of building a robust rail engineering capability within SMRT Trains lies in the area of people development.

When we first started this journey three-and-a-half years ago, SMRT had about 180 rail engineers, and morale was low. Today, we have boosted the number to more than 400. Other than a small number of mid-careerists who have joined us, the majority of the new recruits are either fresh graduates from local universities or in their late twenties.

Numbers alone are not enough. We need to organise our technical workforce into a value chain spanning from maintenance and engineering, to plans and projects. Take for example, the Rolling Stock (this means trains in railway lingo) Engineering Centre. It has been organised into four departments: Rolling Stock Depot (RSD) and Rolling Stock Workshop (RSW), where staff perform maintenance and inspection tasks on trains and components respectively. With the data and information captured by RSD and RSW, Rolling Stock Engineering (RSE) staff analyse reliability trends and initiate engineering studies to review and improve reliability. Finally, Rolling Stock Project (RSP) staff follow up with the proposed reliability enhancement recommended by RSE and translate these recommendations into concrete plans by justifying for resource funding. They also follow through the plans by working closely with LTA to translate these plans into modification or renewal projects. When modified or renewed, the assets go back into the hands of RSD and RSW with a higher inherent reliability, availability and maintainability.

Participation in this cycle of value chain and staff rotation throughout the various parts of this value chain will not only allow our engineers to grow their competencies, knowledge, skills and experience, it will prevent silo thinking. Rotating in and out of all four departments means that all engineers will develop an empathy for the challenges facing their colleagues in other engineering centres. This not only allows us to deepen and broaden our rail engineering capability, it fosters the development of an esprit de corps.

I think this is value creation, and it is replicated in the other engineering centres in SMRT Trains: Signalling and Communication, Permanent Way, Power, Systems and Technology Integration, Integrated Facilities.

The right stuff

We have developed roadmaps for all three areas of people, process and technology. These are not just words and paper concepts. They are actions in different phases of execution. Following these roadmaps, we may well achieve a more robust rail engineering capability in SMRT Trains within the next few years. But, will it last? The life cycles of rail assets are measured in decades, not years. For it to last, I think we need to engender the right ethos and culture among our staff. Our newly recruited engineers must be groomed into good leaders, imbued with the right values and attitude so that they can set a good example for the rest of the technical workforce as they progress in their careers.

From this perspective, what happened a few days ago when the group of young engineers came back voluntarily to support a recovery effort is encouraging. I am heartened to see that these engineers have thoughts that lead them to curious and determined action to find root causes. In time to come, I hope that these actions will become habits across SMRT Trains. Working together with esprit de corps and over time, we can and will rewrite the destiny of SMRT Trains and the nation’s experience of the rail network.

“Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become… habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.” – Margaret Thatcher

*SMRT Trains Engineering Professionalisation INduction or STEP-IN is an in-house five-year, on-the-job training programme in collaboration with local and overseas academic institutions. STEP-IN is conducted with short, regular doses of structured training to equip newly recruited engineers as they take their first steps into the rail industry with the necessary rail-related knowledge and experience. The programme is designed so that they can be accredited as chartered rail engineers at the end of their first 5 years with SMRT Trains. A related programme, STEP-UP, is intended for mid-career railway engineering staff to uplift their professional competencies after several years in the industry. Together, STEP-IN and STEP-UP develop railway engineering staff to their fullest potential.

SMRT Rail Performance Data

SMRT’s engineering team tracks closely the performance of all rail lines because the data collated allows the team to know which areas of the rail network need more attention.

Such data is shared with the public too. SMRT has been reporting quarterly statistics on the performance of the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) on SMRT’s corporate website. Doing so allows commuters to keep track of key performance indicators for our rail system, such as delays of more than five minutes, disruptions of more than 30 minutes and the train withdrawal rate.

Data on MRT station assets

We have recently included data on the reliability of MRT station assets used by commuters, such as escalators, lifts and fare gates. We will continue to publish key service performance indicators on a regular basis so that you can follow our journey in improving reliability on our network.

The re-sleepering, re-signalling, third-rail replacement and power network improvement project will contribute to better reliability on the NSEWL – Singapore’s longest, oldest and most heavily-used rail lines.

The mean kilometre between failure (MBKF) rate will improve, thanks to stepped up our maintenance efforts. Furthermore, our multi-year, multi-project renewal efforts for the NSEWL are on track.

While we acknowledge that the improvement in NSEWL service reliability may not seem to be significant in the first 10 months of 2016, we are quietly confident it will demonstrate clear improvements in the coming years. The better MKBF numbers will translate to better journeys for commuters with trains that run more reliably, and shorter waiting times as more trains are deployed on the NSEWL.

How MKBF will be improved

We have been tracking the sources of our service delays over the past three years and classifying them into categories such as third-rail, signalling, traction power and various types of train-related faults. For each category, we have a series of initiatives in place to address these faults in the immediate, medium and long term.

Improvements in MKBF rate will be achieved as we complete each of these initiatives. For example, we had a number of third-rail-related incidents in the first 10 months of the year that resulted in planned service delays. These are delays of not more than 10 minutes caused by engineering work that the engineers needed to carry out during traffic hours whenever sensors installed on selected passengers trains pick up defects that have the potential of causing more than 30 minutes delays. As part of our short term improvement initiatives, the use of these sensors allow us to identify an emerging issue and nip it in the bud before it caused a longer delay and inconvenienced commuters even more. With the completion of third-rail replacement by March 2017, as part of our long term improvement initiatives, we expect that such incidents will be significantly reduced.

As of November 2016, 33% of delays lasting more than five minutes were signal-related. We expect these to reduce significantly after we successfully migrate our ageing signalling system to the new Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) system. The CBTC system has a higher level of redundancies. The new signalling system will be activated on the NSL in 2017 and we are working hard to complete the EWL by end-2018.

We have intensified our efforts to renew the equipment that provides traction power to the network. There are also similar fleet-wide renewal of components to address propulsion, door and brake systems that constitute 90% of train-related delays.

All-out effort to improve NSEWL

These efforts take several years to complete because of the length of the NSEWL, and the size of the fleet. As we serve commuters nearly 20 hours a day, and 365 days a year, we have limited time to carry out renewal and maintenance works. For example, there are 188,000 30-year-old timber sleepers on NSEWL to be replaced. With 141 six-car trains and 24 doors on each train, there are 3,384 train doors for us to work on. Nonetheless, with a laser-sharp focus and a never-give-up determination to catch up with our counterparts in Hong Kong and Taipei, we believe that there is only one direction for NSEWL rail service reliability to go in the coming years: Up.

Commuters may wish to refer to Your Journey Matters – most recently updated in August 2016 and also available on our website– for a comprehensive primer on SMRT’s efforts to renew and improve the NSEWL.

SMRT Chairman Address at Rail Engineering Seminar

Keynote Address by Mr Koh Yong Guan, Chairman SMRT Corporation Ltd, at the Launch of the Postgraduate Certificate in Urban Railway Engineering (Singapore) and Rail Engineering Seminar, Capitol Theatre, on 21 Oct 2016

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Good morning everyone, and a warm welcome to Professor Clive Roberts, Director, Birmingham Centre for Railway Research & Education, University of Birmingham; and to all our partners.

This venue brings back many fond memories. Firstly, I studied at Raffles Institution which was located across the road in the 1960s, and the Capitol was a favourite haunt where we “hanged out” after school in unproductive pursuits. Secondly, it is almost 50 years to the day that i entered the University of Toronto as a first year student in Mechanical Engineering. So, it is particularly gratifying for me to be talking to a group of our engineers today.

Land transport issues in Singapore, and in particular those pertaining to the MRT have attracted a disproportionate share of public interest and political attention in Singapore in recent years. The major disruptive events of December 2011 and more recently last year, have focused continued public interest and attention on the challenges we face. The plus, if you can consider it as such, is they have given the impetus for the Ministry of Transport, the Regulator and Public Transport Operators to re-examine how we finance and manage the whole public transport system. Recent milestones for SMRT in transiting to the New Rail Financing Framework and privatisation under Temasek Holdings should be viewed as steps in this direction, allowing SMRT to focus more sharply on delivering a safe, reliable and commuter-centric public transport service.

In addition, the imperative to rebuild trust and instil confidence in the commuting public on the reliability of the MRT as an option to private cars for daily commute has resulted in the recognition that more investments in engineering are needed in order to maintain and sustain the reliability of the ageing and new systems through their life cycles.

Numerous engineering infrastructure projects are underway to renew the North-South and East-West Lines, our oldest in the network, in what is regarded as the most massive renewal effort on a “live” system anywhere in the world. This includes:

Changing out all 188,000 old wooden sleepers to concrete ones;

Replacing and upgrading our Third Rail and Power systems;

Changing our legacy fixed block signalling system to a Communication-based train signalling system that can reduce the headway interval between trains to as short as 100 seconds; and

Refurbishing our older generations of trains and expanding our Rolling Stock with new trains.

Getting these done on time with the limited hours available each night and without unduly affecting commuter service is a tremendous engineering feat that our colleagues are embarked on. We are on track with all these projects, and most will be completed by 2018. Investing in hardware is not enough. We must also invest in our people, and the software and systems and processes to enable our people to do their work better. In this regard, we have intensified efforts to: (1) Build a Pipeline of Rail Professionals, (2) Operationalise the Maintenance Operations Centre, and (3) Adopt Predictive Maintenance through Condition Monitoring.

The effort to build a pipeline of Rail Professionals has become not just an SMRT, but an urgent industry effort. There is increasing recognition that the massive investments of some $60 billion that Singapore is making to double its rail network by 2030, must be supported by the building up of an indigenous rail engineering capability. SMRT alone will more than double our number of engineers to 400 by 2017, from the 191 we had in 2012. More than simply increasing the intake and number of Rail Engineers, we are committed to raising the competency levels of our professional workforce, which includes Senior Technicians, Line Managers, Senior Engineers, Principal Fellows and at the epitome of the profession, the Chartered Engineers.

It is in this context that I am pleased to launch the Postgraduate Certification in Urban Railway Engineering (Singapore) through SMRT’s collaboration with the University of Birmingham. The University of Birmingham is a leading university in the UK that offers degree courses in railway engineering. Our engineers can step up in their career and professional development by attaining this Postgraduate Certificate with the University.

Such a programme is most timely. We know that the challenges we face today are complex and multi-disciplinary. It is no longer tenable to solely depend and rely on OEM manuals for technical solutions to overcome and solve problems, as was possible in the early years of our network development. Our local operating conditions and challenges are becoming adaptive in nature. Often, there will be no ready answers. Relying on old mental models to solving problems is no longer sufficient as a formula. It is no longer just for Chief Engineers to be giving top-down engineering prescriptions to solve technical issues. Instead, it is more likely that Rail Engineering professionals at all levels must have the adaptive skills to identify and overcome current and future problems. We want to be able to do this proactively and predictively to avert faults even before they occur.

Besides effective teams, we also need effective corroboration across functional areas, and in the Singapore context across organisations, because the design and build responsibilities are with the LTA, and there is more than one operator. With better and constant data inflow and fusion from predictive and monitoring tools from multiple systems, rail engineers have the opportunity to provide the leadership to sense-make, corroborate findings, and devise innovative solutions collaboratively across functional departments.

Our partnership with the University of Birmingham is an important pillar for us to strengthen the calibre of our engineering professionals. A sound education and technical know-how among our Rail Engineers will be the basis for us to grow adaptive leaders who are ready and able to lead our workforce in solving tomorrow’s problems with confidence and innovation. Then, we will be better able to fulfil our mission of providing better journeys for commuters across our growing MRT network.

Thank you.

– Koh Yong Guan, Chairman SMRT Corporation Ltd

The Lost Boy


Station Managers Rashid, Khairi, Nasir

A Facebook post by a worried mother went viral on the evening of 17 October as her autistic son went missing in the Somerset/ Killiney area around 4pm. A message was sent from Somerset MRT Station to alert the network.

A Train Captain (TC) at Joo Koon MRT station saw the boy and approached him. Colleagues at Joo Koon confirmed his identity shortly after. Station managers Rashid, Khairi and Nasir sprang into action. Apart from informing the authorities and the rest of the network, they comforted the boy who had presumably went without food and drink for hours.

Khairi purchased food for the boy and tried to calm him down by providing drawing materials. The case was closed when the boy’s father arrived at Joo Koon with police officers.

Khairi said, “We felt relieved and happy because his parents must have been so worried about his whereabouts and safety.  The boy looked hungry and exhausted, and we wanted to make him as comfortable as we could, before his parents arrived.

Great teamwork between SMRT colleagues helped to safely reunite the lost boy with his mother. It’s yet another example of how we can all make a difference to people who use our transport services.

Eye on the future: Options for replacing or renewing the BPLRT system

The 8-hour disruption on the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) on Wednesday 28 Sep 2016 shows that the ageing system continues to test the mettle of our engineering staff and the patience of users of Singapore’s first light rail system.

In March this year, we indicated that it is time to relook the BPLRT as the system is nearing the end of its design life. A joint team with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is currently reviewing the future of the BPLRT system with a view to completely transform the light rail system. It will be more than just a makeover.

Options for renewal

Aware of the design limitations of a light rail system which uses trains designed to function as airport shuttles on flat, short distance commutes between airport terminals, SMRT would like to share the options available for renewing the system. There are three options for the future of the BPLRT. The system has been operational since 1999 and is fast approaching its 20-year lifespan in 2019.

Option 1: A people-mover like autonomous guided vehicles that travel on the existing viaducts but do not draw on external power.

Option 2: A new conventional LRT system but with significant design enhancements in key infrastructure like power supply, signalling system, rolling stock as well as track and station assets.

Option 3: Renewing the existing Bombardier system, keeping the AC power design but with a more advanced communications-based train control (CBTC) signalling system. The CBTC system will allow trains to be more accurately controlled by the operations control centre, allowing more trains to be operated on the network, while moving at faster speeds and closer headways if necessary. This means more people can take the trains and enjoy faster journeys.

The rejuvenated BPLRT will be based on proven technology which is cost-effective to operate over its design life.

The LTA-SMRT study team is also keeping track of the development and public transport services of Bukit Panjang town. This includes monitoring how the BPLRT system can be better integrated with heavy rail systems at the North-South Line and the Downtown Line.

Another idea involves doing away with the 10.5km long, 14-station LRT network. The idea is for people in the Bukit Panjang area to be served by enhanced bus services. This is not far-fetched as a fully loaded high capacity bus like a double-decker bus can take 130 passengers, which is more than the 105-person capacity of a single Bombardier CX100 train car used on the BPLRT. These train cars are paired during peak hours, doubling capacity to 210 passengers. However, replacing the light rail with an all-bus option may lead to more congestion on the roads.

The disruption last week has driven home the urgency of planning for the future. It is the latest incident that has put the BPLRT system in the media’s glare. The Straits Times said the Bukit Panjang Line “isn’t a paragon of reliability and its design makes it prone to glitches”.

Stop-gap measures to improve reliability

As we look to the future, SMRT engineers have also proposed short-term measures to boost the reliability of the legacy system.

Key areas identified for renewal include the signalling system, the trains and track infrastructure. The last item includes the rail brackets that have given rise to problems on the line. These renewals will address recurring reliability issues involving track faults, traction power faults and signalling issues.

Owing to reliability issues, the driverless LRT system is not living up to its name as Rovers have to be deployed at the stations, which were designed for unmanned operations.

Meanwhile, near-term repair and maintenance measures of the system are being stepped up. This includes increased day-to-day system manning, and speedier recovery plans in event of disruption.

Near-term measures

Among the measures the BPLRT team has done:
– Replacement of rail brackets with fortified design at critical portions of the track
– Load testing of trains to be conducted to confirm tractive capability to reduce power faults
– Adjusted motor controller settings for better power reliability
– Installed camera systems on the underframe of four train cars to monitor the interface between trains and rails

Deploying staff across the network expedited assistance to passengers on Wednesday 28 Sep 2016 when passengers had to detrain to track at BP1 Choa Chu Kang station in the morning and at BP6 Bukit Panjang station around 5pm that day. A total of 26 additional staff have been added to the BPLRT team to enhance response time and assistance to commuters.

The range of near-term measures should be complemented by an in-depth review of the BPLRT to future-proof the transport system. This will enable the future system to serve Bukit Panjang residents years from now by providing transport options for safe, reliable, comfortable journeys that are cost-effective to operate and maintain.

Powering SMRT Trains on the NSEWL

In October 2015, SMRT released the inaugural edition of Your Journey Matters, outlining SMRT’s rail transformation efforts. Almost a year later, we have published Your Journey Matters – Edition 2, which continues the story of SMRT’s ongoing efforts to improve and renew the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) – Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily used MRT lines.

The multi-year, multi-project efforts described in Your Journey Matters underline SMRT’s commitment to serve you better. In this new edition, we also bring you updates on the ongoing station upgrades to escalators and platform screen doors, as well as a look into how the air-conditioning is maintained on our trains.

A tremendous amount of work is being put into renewing and upgrading the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily utilised MRT lines. The work takes place every day even as the rail network continues to serve passengers for around 20 hours a day and as the system copes with increased ridership.

The transformation of the NSEWL is a complex set of engineering projects. It represents the first major upgrade for the lines since they started operations in 1987. Indeed, the renewal of the NSEWL is said to be the biggest modernisation project on a “live” MRT system anywhere in the world.

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 have stopped running. Progress is made every day to modernise the NSEWL to serve you better.

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 and resources properly across different projects. Since 5 June 2016, the implementation of later train service start times on Sundays for 13 stations along the East West Line have given the engineering team much needed additional time to work each night. These extra hours are maximised for urgent maintenance and repair tasks as well as upgrade and renewal projects.

Powering the North-South and East-West Lines

With more trains due to be added to the NSL and EWL, existing power cables have to be replaced with larger capacity cables to accommodate the increase in power demand. SMRT is working with LTA to address the rail network’s future power needs.

A number of measures are being implemented to minimise inconvenience to MRT passengers due to power-related faults. These measures tie in with recommendations made by the Independent Advisory Panel, approved by LTA, on rectification measures to improve the rail power supply system.

These measures include renewing power components that are nearing the end-of-life stage on the 30-year old network with completely new components, increasing the power capacity of the network and thirdly, improving the design of the power network.

In order to improve the design of the power network, Voltage Limiting Devices will replace the existing 64P Earth Fault Relay. Works will be done on the 750V DC Switchgear & DC Cables, Direct Current Group (Rectifiers and Inverter) and High Voltage Group (AC Switchgear & HV cables) in order to renew, upgrade and increase the power capacity.

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This is part of a series on SMRT’s rail improvement efforts. Read more:
SMRT- Track Improvements
SMRT- Airconditioning Improvements
SMRT- Platform Screen Door Maintenance
SMRT- Escalator Maintenance

SMRT Third Rail Maintenance to Prevent Disruptions

The third rail supplies electrical power to the trains operating on the rail line. It is elevated and runs parallel to the rest of the track. A part of the train known as the Current Collection Device (CCD) is in constant contact with the third rail through a component called the CCD shoe. If you imagine the third rail to be similar to the wall socket at home, the CCD is the plug. However, in the context of a train, the “plug” is sliding along a very long “socket”. As such, the alignment of the elevated third rail has to be very precise in order to power the trains at all times.

SMRT Conditioning Monitoring Device_LVDT

The Linear Variable Displacement Transducer (LVDT) helps monitor the alignment of the third rail. The LVDT measures the movement of the CCD shoe and through this data, the system can chart the precise height of every inch of the third rail.

Engineers compare the latest graphs with earlier ones to identify locations where the height of the third rail was recorded as too low, or where the height has changed too much from the last measurement. With this info, the Permanent Way maintenance team can quickly zoom in, inspect and rectify any potential Third Rail faults relating to misalignment.

SMRT Conditioning Monitoring Device_LVDT Graph

With the LVDT technology, the frequency of third rail inspection is increased and real time detection is possible, even during service hours. The degradation trend of the third rail can also be tracked.

The LVDT is the first of a few other condition monitoring devices we will be sharing on this blog. Check back again soon to find out more about the technologies we use to make maintenance of the track as efficient as possible.

Paving the Way for Better Journeys (Jun 2016)

“Paving the Way for Better Journeys” is part of continuing efforts by SMRT to inform, update and educate commuters of the several rail renewal projects.

SMRT Better Journeys Transforming the NSEWLSuch work on SMRT’s North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) involve multi-year, multi-programme efforts that include changing old wooden sleepers with concrete ones, replacing signalling systems and renewing the Third Rail, as well as introducing new trains to enhance the service and reliability of the NSEWL to bring Better Journeys to all our commuters.

The key benefits from each of these efforts to commuters include Smoother Rides, Shorter Waiting Times, a More Reliable Network and More Trains (which mean higher frequency).

SMRT Trains’ Managing Director, Mr Lee Ling Wee said, “In total, there are about 200km of track on NSEWL to be renewed and upgraded. Over the past two years, we have been able to carry out these renewal and upgrade work ahead of schedule, even as we continue to keep the network operational every day. We know that the work has caused inconvenience to both commuters and residents who live near MRT track. As such, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you for your kind understanding, patience and support.”

SMRT Better Journeys Smoother RidesSMRT Better Journeys More Reliable Network

 

SMRT Better Journeys Shorter Waiting TimesSMRT Better Journeys More Trains