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.
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.