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?


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.


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.



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 and Nova











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














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

Woodlands Bus Interchange – New Features!

The Woodlands Bus Interchange has been serving the residents of the area since 1996. The interchange will be given a fresh breath of life as an Integrated Transport Hub, due to be ready in 2019. In the meantime, the all new Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange will be serving the residents in this area.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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