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.