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Working at SMRT: More than Just a Day Job

 Principal Engineer, Wayne Chen

– Wayne Chen, Principal Engineer, Permanent Way

After seven years at a statutory board, I made the move to SMRT Trains in 2015 with the hope of contributing more to the rail industry. What attracted me to the company, was the fact that SMRT has many brownfield projects to work on, whereas it was all about introducing new systems where I was at.

I need to be in the depot early every weekday morning to attend our daily Permanent Way morning meetings at 8am. These meetings start early as the night engineering teams from around the country would update the day teams on maintenance done on our tracks and issues encountered during the wee hours before. The rest of the day is spent working with the day teams investigating root causes behind various issues, finding long-term fixes, and working to optimise our maintenance processes. I usually leave the depot in the evening for dinner with the wife and children.

Sometimes, that is not the end of my work day.

Once I’ve tucked my children in at 10pm, I head back to the depot to spend the night with the engineers and technicians working the night shifts. This is not just about working on the maintenance of our tracks to keep it safe and fit for operations. It is also about being there with my team to show them we are in this together. We are #OneSMRT.

The team thinks that I am there to motivate them. In reality, I rely on them for motivation. The passion they possess and the pride they take in their work keep me focused on the goal. Many of my colleagues have clocked 30 years on the job. Their work ethic and the ownership they have over the job is simply quite mind-blowing.

We are determined to provide Singaporeans with better journeys every day. This is not your usual office job. It is definitely worth it when I know my team and I have contributed in ensuring our commuters get to their destinations safely and comfortably.

#LetsPressOn #SMRTogether


Wayne Chen is a principal engineer at SMRT Trains. He performs engineering analysis and trending assessments to improve the reliability of rail track components and equipment for the North-South and East-West Lines.

Keeping our cool

Air conditioning is a crucial component in keeping commuters cool on the train. Nothing irks us more than hoping to escape the humid Singapore weather by taking the train, only to find it stuffy and warm.

On all North-South and East-West Line trains, there are two air conditioning units per train car. With six cars making up a train, that’s 12 air conditioning units working keep the temperature within the train cool. There are 141 trains for the NSEWL, that’s 1,692 air con units! Excluding those undergoing maintenance on the workshop floor.

So how does SMRT maintain the air conditioning systems on the trains to help you keep cool and carry on?

keepcool

Here are some top reasons for aircon failure according to a recent analysis on data collected from December 2015 to February 2016.

Blown Fuses in the aircon motor

SMRT Technical Officer Hairul Bin Seradeen inpects the aircon unit for defects

SMRT Technical Officer Hairul Bin Seradeen inpects the aircon unit for defects

 

One of the most common reasons for failure was the aircon system fuse. A blown fuse indicates excessive current which could be a result of arcing caused by the carbon dust build up inside the motor.

The source of the carbon dust is the carbon brush, a component in the aircon unit that is in contact with the aircon motor. Through normal operations, the carbon brush is wears down and carbon dust settles on the motor.

A more effective cleaning method to remove excessive carbon dust build-up has been implemented and new carbon brushes are being trialed to reduce the carbon build-up in the long run.

Defective Microcards

Microcards are like the brains of the aircon unit. When there is a defective microcard, the aircon no longer functions the way it is supposed to. In some situations, the unit fails to activate when temperatures get too high.

While replacing the defective microcards with new ones from the manufacturer is one solution, SMRT has been working on a more sustainable solution. The Integrate Electronics Workshop team at SMRT have studied the microcard and have been refurbishing defective microcards.

Leaky tubing

Freon topping up machine

The trains’ aircon units use a gas known as Freon as a refrigerant which cools the air. The Freon gas cycles within the unit in a closed system of coils. If the Freon leaks from these coils, cooling efficiency is reduced. We are stepping up efforts to plug leaks in these tubes though a process known as “brazing”.

The Freon also needs to be topped up when leaks are discovered. The use of a recovery machine ensures that the precise composition of refrigerant is used to ensure cooling efficiency.

 

 

 

Keeping an eye on things

The later models of trains on the NSEWL (KNS and KSF) are all equipped with the Trains Information Management System, or TIMS. TIMS is an entire system of sensors that measure various properties of the train during operations. The internal temperature of each car is one such property.

SMRT on board monitoring

During service, train captains can check TIMS for any aircon faults. When faults are detected, a “field team” is activated. The team will then verify the fault and where possible, rectify the issue immediately. Further inspections to the reported aircon system will also be carried out when the train returns to the depot.

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.

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.

 

SMRT: Progress on Track

“Since 2012, a billion-dollar, multi-year programme has been in place to rip out and replace key assets – while keeping trains running for 20 hours a day and coping with increased ridership.

‘It’s like trying to renovate your house while you’re still living in it,’ Mr Lee Ling Wee, Managing Director of SMRT Trains, explains of what has been deemed one of the biggest modernisation projects on a ‘live’ MRT system anywhere in the world. “

This excerpt is from “SMRT: Progress on Track”, SMRT’s rail renewal story that was in The Straits Times on 3 Wednesday, 2016. From re-sleepering to re-signalling, the article covers the many different projects in the overall rail transformation journey and gives commuters a sense of when they will start to feel the benefits of the ongoing work. The article also includes an easy to read sidebar that summarises all four renewal projects.

Click on the image below to view it.

SMRT Progress on Track_full

SMRT Engineering Workforce Expansion

To strengthen our repair and maintenance capability, we have substantially reinforced our engineering workforce. Over the last 3 years, SMRT grew the number of Rail Maintenance staff by nearly a quarter (23%). For executive rail engineers alone, the numbers grew by 70%. By 2018, SMRT aims to have more than 400 engineers (a 127% increase from 2011) and more than 2,600 technicians (a 50% jump from 2011). This will complement the enlarged train fleet and will keep the renewed NSEWL network in good working order.

Gatefold HR-19

The SMRT Trains Engineering Programme (STEP) and  enhanced Career Roadmap was introduced in May 2015 to help us 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 to better serve passengers and to cater to growth in the rail industry.

Strengthening Maintenance Systems, Process and Culture

We want to sustain higher levels of reliability, safety, convenience and comfort for our passengers and we will do this by strengthening the way we maintain our rail network and train fleet.

To keep the rail network running safely for 20 hours a day, every day, even as the NSEWL serves increasing ridership, calls for a high standard of engineering excellence. We have a comprehensive, structured maintenance programme to look after the rail network. Our engineering staff step up maintenance checks as railway components reach their end of life. Safety is paramount and we will update maintenance schedules regularly to factor in ageing components that may need to be checked more often and more intensively.

SMRT Train at Changi Depot

We have introduced more devices to monitor the condition of rail assets and infrastructure. These include fitting trains with cameras for early detection of track faults, placing devices on tracks to check the condition of train wheels as well as installing devices across the network to measure the health of the power supply system. More specialised condition monitoring devices, such as lasers that check track alignment, will be introduced to supervise critical components in the NSEWL.

SMRT-attains-ISO55001

Our efforts to institute a lifecycle asset management system have been recognised. SMRT is the second metro in Asia to achieve the ISO 55001 standard. It demonstrates to both regulators and other stakeholders that assets are being appropriately maintained whilst short, medium and long term issues and risks are being properly identified and addressed. In addition, independent certification provides evidence of compliance to safety critical systems and procedures. It shows, most importantly, that SMRT is on the right track to achieving better rail reliability.

SMRT Maintenance Ops Centre

Another significant step forward is in setting up a new Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC), the first of its kind in the region. Opened in August 2015, it allows SMRT to better coordinate and provide stronger support to maintenance teams as they respond to rail incidents. The MOC allows rail engineering experts to guide staff attending to faults on our network with more precise technical advice, leading to faster recovery. When fully operational, the MOC will provide a 24/7 health status of each train and of all critical components across the rail network.

5 things you need to know about our MOC

New trains to increase passenger capacity on the North-South East-West Lines

Improving the North-South and East-West Lines SMRT is making good progress in its multi-year, multi-project efforts to renew the NSEWL. This marks the biggest transformation of the Lines since they were built in the 1980s.

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Going beyond the poster – What is he working on?

Nor Khairul is a Technical Officer at the Rolling Stock Workshop. He has been with SMRT for about three years and he handles corrective and preventive maintenance of the North-South East-West trains in the SMRT network. He is also one of the faces in the “We’re Working On It” series of posters. You may recognise him as the Jurong resident working on the underside of the train. We caught up with Nor Khairul to find out more about what he does at SMRT.

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