SMRT Rail Improvements – Updates

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. Following the inaugural publication in October 2015, Your Journey Matters – Edition 2 continues the story of SMRT’s rail transformation efforts on the NSEWL.

SLEEPER REPLACEMENT

Working closely with LTA and rail contractors, the SMRT team achieved a major milestone when we finished replacing wooden sleepers on the North-South Line (NSL) with concrete sleepers in April 2015. The NSEWL were built with wooden sleepers. These sleepers support the rails on which our trains run. Some 188,000 sleepers are nearing the end of their 25-year lifespan. Exposure to the sun and rain over the years, vibration from moving trains and the weight each sleeper has to bear when a train passes over it add to the wear and tear.

By renewing wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers that have a 50-year lifespan, journeys on the NSEWL will be safer and smoother for decades to come. Positive results from the sleeper replacement are already felt on the NSL. Journey times on the NSL have been reduced by around 10 per cent after the speed restrictions were fully lifted in May 2015.

Wooden sleepers along the East-West Line (EWL) are now being replaced nightly. Steady progress is being made thanks to the experience gained by our engineers while carrying out the NSL sleeper replacement project. When the work is completed by the end of 2016, passengers travelling from Pasir Ris to Joo Koon on the EWL will also experience smoother train rides.

RE-SIGNALLING

The project is progressing well with 98% of the NSL completed and 76% of the EWL re-signalling work done. We have started trials to test the new signalling system on the NSL. Re-signalling is expected to be completed on the NSL in 2017 and on the EWL in 2018.

The new signalling system will substantially improve the capacity of the NSEWL to run trains at shorter intervals. This would mean a shorter wait for trains, which would ease congestion at station platforms during peak periods. The capability will be maximised as the train fleet is progressively enlarged by end 2016 to allow more trains to be deployed on the NSEWL. More than half of the 57 new C151B trains for the NSEWL have been delivered by the middle of 2016. This underlines the importance of coordinating the multi-year, multi-project effort in rail renewal so that the combined benefits of these projects will give you a better journey on the rejuvenated NSEWL.

Under the re-signalling project, the new signalling system supplied by Thales will see one of the most advanced train signalling systems in the world installed on the NSEWL. The current signalling system, which dates back to the 1980s, keeps trains a safe distance from one another by dividing the rail network into fixed segments of track length called blocks, with only one train allowed into each block at any time. These blocks measure between 800m to 1,000m in length. This Fixed Block system protects passengers in one train from other trains operating along the same line.

The new signalling system uses advanced communications technology installed on trains to constantly update the traffic management system on the identity, location and speed of every train. The new system, which is more precise than the system it replaces, will lead to better use of the rail network because the footprint for each train, which includes the length of the train and the safety distance in front and behind the train, will be much smaller.

This Moving Block system can be imagined as a safety bubble that moves with and protects the train, and will automatically slow down when it approaches a train ahead. This shorter distance will allow us to deploy more trains at shorter intervals on the rail network while maximising safety for passengers. When fully operational, the new system will allow trains to be spaced 100 seconds apart, which is a significant improvement from the 120 seconds between trains under the current system. The new signalling system is also designed with more redundancies, which makes it more reliable because major disruptive signal faults are less likely to occur.

THIRD RAIL REPLACEMENT

SMRT passenger trains are powered by electricity supplied by a powered steel rail. This rail is called the Third Rail because it is fixed next to and slightly above the two running rails on which the train wheels travel. The Third Rail replacement project currently being carried out on the NSEWL marks the first network-wide replacement for the 200km-long NSEWL Third Rail since SMRT operations began in 1987. The trains draw electricity from the powered rails through Current Collector Devices (CCD) that make contact with the rail and transfer electricity to the train’s electrical system. Each six-car MRT train has 24 CCD shoes that are in constant contact with the Third Rail when in motion and even when it makes a stop at MRT stations.

Over the years, this constant contact adds to wear and tear of the Third Rail and the brackets that are used to support the weight of this steel rail. If the Third Rail sags due to worn out supports, power faults could occur. The Third Rail replacement project is timely as it will increase the reliability of the electrical system. The work involves turning off the power, unbolting the old Third Rails, replacing them with new ones and re-connecting the rails to the electricity network. We are making steady progress and expect to complete the work in early 2017.

UPGRADING OLDER TRAINS

The C151 Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) train entered service in 1987 while the C651 Siemens was introduced in 1994. SMRT is upgrading the 19 C651 Siemens trains as they have logged a higher number of train faults compared to other train models. Singapore Rail Engineering has completed two prototype trains and will be proceeding with the upgrade works on the C651 trains.

When completed in 2018, the upgraded C651 Siemens trains will have new or refurbished train sub-systems such as new air conditioning, electric doors, brakes and propulsion systems. These have been the primary causes of delays due to train faults. Upgraded trains will also 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 upgrade will include a makeover that gives our passengers a new-look cabin.

NEW TRAINS INCREASE PASSENGER CAPACITY

Thirty new C151B trains, part of a fleet of 57 new trains for the NSEWL, have been 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 allow more trains to be run on the NSEWL.

Before a new train enters operational service, SMRT’s engineering staff will work closely with LTA and the train manufacturer to get the new train ready. It takes about a year to do this. The work involves testing the air-conditioning, automatic doors and sensors, propulsion and brakes, communication equipment as well as interior fittings like seats, poles and handles. 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 57 trains will be delivered by the end of 2016.

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This is part of a series on SMRT’s rail improvement efforts. Read more:

Powering SMRT Trains on the North-South and East-West Lines
SMRT- Airconditioning Improvements
SMRT- Platform Screen Door Maintenance
SMRT- Escalator Maintenance

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