Trains Vs Lightning

We spoke to our engineers to understand how our trains are protected from lightning strikes. Each train is protected by a “Faraday Cage”. This is an enclosure formed by conductive material that blocks electric fields and electric currents such as lightning strikes. The cage conducts current around the outside of the enclosed space with none passing through the interior.

SMRT Train cross section

In this case, the metallic exterior of our trains is the Faraday Cage that protects everyone inside from electric currents. Even if you’re holding onto the grab pole, you will still be safe as grab poles are attached securely to the train’s interior and are not connected to the external frame.  If lightning strikes, the electric current will travel through the outside shell of the train, not through the cabin, and pass through the wheels to the track. The train is grounded to the track.

This process of shielding is used in cars and planes as well.

Lightning Strike on 11 May

You may have read on the news that lightning struck a location between Yio Chu Kang and Khatib Stations along the North-South Line on 11 May 2016. This caused a train fault, affecting commuters travelling towards Yio Chu Kang Station. Commuters on board the affected train were safely disembarked at Yio Chu Kang Station. As a precaution, our engineers also tested the trackside equipment to ensure that it was safe for trains to move over the affected area.

Initial findings show no indication that our train was directly struck by lightning. We suspect that lightning could have hit a nearby area close to the train and indirectly affected the performance of electronics on the train which resulted in a train fault.

Lightning related incidents are a relatively rare occurrence. We have had an average of one or two such incidents in recent years. We would like to reassure all our commuters that our trains are designed to safely protect them in adverse weather conditions, such as lightning strikes.

SMRT Condition Monitoring Technologies

The North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) are two of Singapore’s oldest heavy rail lines. These lines carry almost 2.5 million passengers from as early as 6am to around midnight each day.

 

The Challenge

Maintenance teams have only a few hours each night to rectify any infrastructure faults that may cause interruption to train service the following day. Relying solely on the human eye to discover faults across the 200km length of track on the NSEWL would be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

SMRT_Train_Perspective

How do we overcome these challenges?

It was thus important for SMRT to develop a suite of condition monitoring systems to properly observe and gauge the status of the track and other components in the network, enabling maintenance teams to better plan maintenance schedules and priorities.

Multi-function Vehicle (MFV)

Multi-function Vehicle (MFV)

SMRT has been building its capabilities with condition monitoring technologies as early as 1995, with the introduction of the Multi-Function Vehicle (MFV). The MFV can scan long stretches of track, if not the entire line, to collect data that relates to track geometry, rail flaws and other measurements.

In this series of blog posts, we will introduce the rest of the condition monitoring technologies and how they help our maintenance teams.

 

To start off, here are ten quick facts about Condition Monitoring

# 1: Linear Variable Displacement Transducer (LVDT) was introduced in 2013

# 2: LVDT is also referred to as Third Rail Sag Detection System. It monitors the overall alignment of the power providing third rail.

#3: RailVision was introduced in 2009 and uses a combination of image capture and detection systems to identify faults on a track.

#4: RailVision is able to cover the entire NSEWL in a matter of hours. It would have taken days for patrol teams to cover the same distance.

#5: Multi-Function Vehicles (MFV) were first introduced in 1995 and has since been evolved under the Engineering Trains Branch team.

#6: MFV use other systems, such as one that utilises ultrasound technology, to detect rail condition.

#7: The Laser Trolley is one of the newer conditioning monitoring devices. It was introduced last year, in 2015

#8: In order to measure both rails at the same time, the Laser Trolley had to be customized according to SMRT’s specifications.

#9: The small rocks that the tracks rest on are known as the ballast and they have to be monitored as well.

#10: The conventional way for checking the ballast is to dig out and send samples to labs for testing.

Follow our series on Condition Monitoring as we go deeper into each condition monitoring device.

SMRT Mobility Features

Millions of commuters travel on our transportation network daily. Lot’s of us know the stations and interchanges so well that we breeze through them on auto-pilot, with eyes glued to our phones.  Admit it, you and I are guilty of that once in a while. We’ve walked the same route for years and it has become second nature to us.

However, for passengers with disabilities, the daily commute can be a constant challenge.

For someone on a wheelchair, something as small as the 75mm gap between the train platform and the train can be an obstacle to overcome.

There are many accessibility features on both trains and bus networks to help narrow the metaphorical gap that passengers with disabilities experience daily.

 

MRT Train Stations

SMRT Barrier Free Entrance

Barrier-free entrances and exits

In SMRT’s early days, passengers on wheelchairs would have trouble entering our stations as there were only staircases and escalators to reach the concourse levels. Today, all stations will have at least one entrance that passengers on wheelchairs can use.

SMRT Tactile Paving

Tactile paving

The bars and bumps on the ground are known as tactile paving. They are there for the visually impaired, forming a path leading from platform to important places in the station, such as the fare gates. Have you also noticed that the tactile paving always leads to the wider fare gate?

SMRT Larger fare gates

Wider fare gates

Wider fare gates were introduced to allow wheelchairs to pass, as well as bulky items. These gates are bidirectional, making it more convenient for the passenger as they do not need to approach a Station Staff to help them turn the gate to a certain direction.

SMRT Wheelchair entrance notice

Wheelchair indicators and wheelchair-accessible train carriages

At the platform, passengers in wheelchairs should look out for the wheelchair indicators on the platform screen door or platform floor. These indicators reflect where the wheelchair spaces are on a wheelchair-accessible train carriage. There are two such spaces per train. Some trains also have the grab bar closest to the train doors removed, allowing passengers with wheelchairs or strollers to enter the train easily.

SMRT Visual Indicator

Visual indicators

There are also visual indicators for the hearing impaired. The prominent flashing red lights above the platform screen doors indicate when the train doors are closing.

 

Bus Interchanges

SMRT wheelchair accessible bus boarding berth

Special boarding and alighting berths

Special boarding berths at some interchanges were modified for passengers in wheelchairs. Wheelchair bound passengers who wish to board a certain service number can state so via a console at these berths. The next bus will swing by the berth to pick them up.

SMRT Wheelchair accessible bus

Wheelchair-accessible buses

Passengers in wheelchairs indicate their intention to board a wheelchair accessible bus by pressing the blue button next to the exit doors, triggering a special alert to the Bus Captain. The Bus Captain will then deploy the ramp and help the passenger on board the bus.

SMRT Woodlands Interchange Braille Handrails

Braille guidance on handrails

At the new Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange, there are “signs” in Braille on the handrails to help the visually impaired locate waiting areas.

 

 

SMRT Disruptions 2015- And What We Are Doing

Singapore’s MRT network consists of five different lines and has a total of 118 stations in operation. SMRT operates the North-South Line (NSL), East-West Line (EWL) and Circle Line (CCL). The other lines that complete the network are the North-East Line (NEL) and the latest addition, the Downtown Line (DTL).

Disruptions of more than 30 minutes per km in 2015*
Line Length of line (km) Disruptions of > 30 min in 2015 Disruptions per km
NSEWL 94 7 0.0745
   NSL 45 4 0.0888
   EWL 49 3 0.0612
CCL 35.4 2 0.0565
NEL 20 4 0.2000
*The Downtown Line statistics have been omitted as it has only been in service since 2013 and 2015 (Phases 1 & 2)

In 2015, SMRT had a total of nine service disruptions that lasted more than 30 minutes across its MRT network distance of 129.4km, an average of 0.0696 disruptions per km.

Instead of the absolute number of disruptions of more than 30 minutes, the “Disruptions of more than 30 minutes per km” metric could be a more useful measure of reliability, as certainly the length of the line (plus its age, number of stations, number of trains, number of passengers etc) should factor into calculations of reliability.

Our observations of the disruption statistics of the MRT network notwithstanding, we continue with our efforts to improve overall rail reliability and we are committed to reducing the total number of disruptions.

What SMRT is doing about longer disruptions and power-related issues?

Of the seven NSL and EWL disruptions that lasted more than 30 minutes in 2015, more than half (53%) were traced to power-related issues. The rest were caused by train faults and signal faults. Our efforts to address these faults include the progressive upgrade of older trains and upgrading the signalling system.

In view of the higher passenger carrying capacity that will soon be made possible by the upgrading of the signalling system and the introduction of more new trains in the next two years, the upgrade and renewal of the Power Sub Stations on the NSL and EWL network has been made even more urgent. We have started upgrading and renewing our power network since early 2015. These sub station upgrades will help address the cause of power delays lasting more than 30 minutes when the work is completed by the end of 2018.

The Third Rail System which supplies power to the trains is currently being upgraded to an improved design, which will increase its robustness and maintainability. We began these upgrading works in 2015. We are working on replacing the entire Third Rail system on the approximately 200-km track length (in both directions) of the NSL and EWL by March 2017. As of 12 April 2016, about 27% on the EWL and 6% on the NSL have been upgraded.

SMRT-Infographic-Maintenance Ops Centre-thumbnailAs part of joint efforts to address power-related faults, SMRT and LTA have also consulted experts to improve the resilience of the electricity lines that provide power to MRT trains and stations. (Please click to view the “Independent Advisory Panel completes review of rail power supply system” press release from LTA). SMRT will work closely with LTA to implement these design improvements as part of the renewal programme for the NSL and EWL power system.

Against this backdrop of upgrades, renewal and enhancements to the third rail system and power sub stations, it’s important that we also focus on condition monitoring and predictive maintenance technologies. When fully implemented, our engineers at the Maintenance Operation Centre will be able to leverage on this capability to monitor, predict and pre-empt faults, and attend to them quickly when they do happen.

Trains services at 13 North-South East-West Line stations to start an hour later on Sundays

From 5 June 2016 to 18 December 2016, train services at 13 stations along the NSEWL – Joo Koon to Queenstown on the East-West Line (EWL) and Bukit Gombak to Jurong East on the North-South Line (NSL) – will commence service up to one hour later than usual on Sundays, except on public holidays. Train services at these stations will start by 7am.

Currently, our project teams, track patrol teams and maintenance teams have about three to four hours of engineering hours each night to carry out works to renew and upgrade the system, in addition to carrying out regular maintenance needed for daily train operations. The later opening will enable these teams to gain the equivalent of 29 additional maintenance nights over the 6-month period. This translates into 2,320 more sleepers and an additional 3,230 metres of third rail that can be replaced. The EWL sleeper replacement project is on track for completion in early 2017.

Alternative travel arrangements
Commuters are encouraged to plan their travel to start after 7am on Sunday mornings where possible. For commuters who must travel before 7am, they can use the existing bus services to get to other train stations; or use the Circle Line and Downtown Line to get to the city. SMRT has also arranged for a new parallel bus service to ply the route from Joo Koon to Bukit Gombak in both directions. More information of the new parallel bus service and fares will be made available within the next few weeks.

EWL sleeper replacement work has reached 50% mark
To date, SMRT has replaced half of the 92,000 timber sleepers on the EWL with more durable concrete ones. This steady progress is made possible by the additional 30 minutes every night that our engineers have gained from early closure of some EWL MRT stations since November 2015.

Apart from sleeper replacement, SMRT is also carrying out other rail renewal projects such as third rail replacement and re-signalling along the NSEWL. While the various parts of the track are being renewed, track patrols and maintenance work will continue. The various project teams, track patrol teams and maintenance teams compete for the limited engineering hours available every night between the end of service and the start of service the following day. To accommodate the track access necessary for the engineering teams to carry out these works, SMRT will commence train services at the western sector of the NSEWL up to an hour later every Sunday.

Progress of multi-year, multi-project rail renewal programmes

This is the progress of the multi-year, multi-project rail renewal programmes on the NSEWL as at 12 April 2016:

SMRT - Progress on Rail renewal programmes

Rail renewal works to be carried out safely and in the shortest time possible

Managing Director of SMRT Trains, Mr Lee Ling Wee, said: “Our priority is to ensure rail renewal works are carried out safely and in the shortest time possible to improve rail reliability. Extending our limited engineering hours by an additional hour once a week allows our engineers to gain additional track access to work on their respective projects and carry out maintenance work. All this is done while trains continue to run and serve commuters every day. We seek the understanding and patience of commuters and the general public as we do our very best to complete the various renewal programmes with minimal impact to our train services.”

Commuters are advised to check for travel updates before starting their trip. Information will be available on the SMRT website, SMRT Connect, LTA and SMRT Facebook and Twitter accounts, LTA Traffic News and MyTransport.SG.

 

Train Reliability Data

Is the MRT system more reliable or not?

That’s the question many people had on their minds when they saw the Straits Times story on 5th April titled “Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable”. The story was based on a Land Transport Authority news release.

Our Trains Planning team, which keeps track of the state of health of MRT lines run by SMRT (these are the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), the Circle Line and Bukit Panjang LRT), indicate that delays of more than five minutes have fallen noticeably.

This is especially so on the NSEWL, Singapore’s oldest and longest MRT line, which is currently being renewed under a multi-year multi-project plan.

You will find that longer disruptions lasting 30 minutes or more have indeed gone up.

 

What SMRT is doing about long disruptions?

The Trains Planning team reports that of the 7 NSEWL disruptions that lasted more than 30 minutes in 2015, more than half (53%) were traced to power related issues. The rest were caused by train faults (older trains are being upgraded progressively) and signal faults (which are being upgraded).

Against this backdrop, we seek to explore the common root cause for these disruptions – power related issues and explain how our Maintenance Operation Centre (MOC) seeks to provide prompt and responsive recovery efforts.

 

Powering our Trains

The Third Rail system which supplies power to the trains is currently being upgraded with an improved design, which will improve its robustness and maintainability.

We began these upgrading works in 2015. Currently, we are still working on replacing the entire Third Rail system on the 200-km track length of the NSEWL. About 10% has been upgraded so far and we aim to complete the replacement works by March 2017.

As part of efforts to address power-related faults, SMRT and LTA are working jointly to seek guidance from experts on the resilience of the electricity lines that provide power to MRT trains and stations. Power sub stations that are part of this network will also be upgraded. Our engineering staff report that these upgrades will eventually address the cause of the power delays lasting more than 30 minutes.

In view of the new signalling system and increased loading due to more trains in revenue service, we started upgrading our network of power substations since early 2015.

 

Maintenance Operation Centre

SMRT-Infographic-Maintenance Ops Centre-thumbnailAnother key initiative to improve rail reliability is our new MOC.

Strategically located at Bishan Depot, the MOC plays an integral role in monitoring the touch voltage system, and keeps watch over the NSEWL 24 hours a day.

This brings together key maintenance teams from different engineering disciplines under one roof.

The MOC is building up capabilities for timely interventions that predict and pre-empt potential faults and recover swiftly from rail disruptions.

 

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Dear Commuters,

We are pleased to announce that SMRT is participating in the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) for CoMET and Nova[1] and International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG)[2].

We want to thank you in advance for taking part in the global trains and buses benchmarking surveys which will start from 4th April to 1st May 2016. The two surveys will help measure your satisfaction levels towards our train and bus services.

Your information and your responses will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.

Thank you for completing our surveys.Note :
1) CoMET and Nova is the World’s Metro Benchmarking Group. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.
2) IBBG is the comprehensive programme of international benchmarking for urban bus operations. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.

CoMet

CoMET and Nova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to take part in the CoMet and Nova survey.

 

IBBG

IBBG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to take part in the International Bus Benchmarking Group survey.

A sad passing of two colleagues

It is with deep sadness that two SMRT staff, Nasrulhudin Bin Najumudin and Muhammad Asyraf Bin Ahmad Buhari, passed away today.

At around 11am on 22 March, a signalling condition monitoring device near Pasir Ris Station was triggered, and maintenance teams from the Permanent Way and Signal departments were sent to investigate. The teams moved in a single file along the walkway beside the track to the investigation location. Unfortunately, during the process, the accident occurred.

The safety of our people has always been the utmost priority and we are assisting the Police in their investigations into how the accident happened.

SMRT conveys our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased. We are in touch with the families and will be supporting them through this difficult time.
Desmond Kuek

SMRT President and Group CEO

Testing time for new Circle Line (CCL) trains

If old assets need to be fixed, then new assets are all good? Not quite, going by reports of disruptions on brand new MRT lines with “glitches” and new trains that have teething problems. We spoke to the Circle Line team to learn about the work involved in testing new CCL trains.

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It is time to renew the Bukit Panjang LRT

Singapore’s oldest LRT network at Bukit Panjang has been in service since November 1999. Even as brand new train-cars start serving the community in Bukit Panjang, the system, which is nearing the end of its design life, continues to age with components that have been declared obsolete by their manufacturer, testing the mettle of SMRT’s engineering team. These factoids give you more insights into this Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.

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