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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.

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

CoMET and Nova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

IBBG

IBBG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Official Launch of JurongHealth Mobility Park, sponsored by SMRT​

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek Speech at Mobility Park Launch
When JurongHealth approached SMRT in 2013 with their idea to create a first of its kind mobility park that included public transportation features, we immediately said yes. It sits well with our vision of “Moving People, Enhancing Lives”. SMRT’s experience transporting millions daily by rail and road transport can greatly contribute to such a park that brings rehabilitative care for patients to a whole new level. We are proud of this partnership with JurongHealth over the past three years.
SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek at Mobility Park Launch
We contributed a life-sized train, bus and taxi to replicate real-life conditions so that people with mobility needs can regain their confidence in taking public transport. Many of us take this daily routine for granted. But for those who have suffered some disability or illness, this seemingly simple activity can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Training and sharing sessions will be organised so that staff can assist patients and commuters to make the necessary adjustments and feel more comfortable when using our trains, buses and taxis.

​SMRT Customer Experience Innovation Conference

JurongEastGreeter

1. Welcome to SMRT’s first Customer Experience Innovation Conference – CXI. We are pleased that you can all join us, and I would like to welcome our guests, strategic partners and distinguished panel of speakers, for taking time to be with us this afternoon.

2. Today’s CXI conference is one of many initiatives that we embarked on as part of a Service Excellence campaign that was started back in 2013. It is important for us to understand why we did so, and why we continue to place significant management emphasis on driving and sustaining the organization-wide effort to bring about a high quality in customer experience.

3. The period of 2010-2013 was a particularly rough patch in SMRT’s 29 year history. Although it may seem to some like just the other day, it has been 4-5 years since. If you recall, a series of troubling incidents during these recent times – from vandalism, to major train disruptions and nagging reliability issues, to an illegal bus strike – Singapore’s first strike in 26 years – had severely hurt our reputation, and shaken public confidence. Meanwhile, ridership continued to grow and operational demands intensified despite an aging network urgently in need of renewal and upgrade. Investor sentiments were undermined as profits plunged, and internally, staff morale was at a low with high staff turnover in many quarters.

4. Against such a formidable backdrop of challenges, where and how do we start to get people on board, our programmes on track, and the company on top again? We needed to regain the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders. And there are many: our staff who commit to achieving our company’s mission and goals; our commuters whom we carry on their journey safely each and every day (all 1 billion passenger journeys last year); the authorities who entrust us with the delivery of a high quality of public transport services; and our shareholders who invest with us in anticipation of steady annual dividends.

5. Not all these interests are aligned, as you can expect. But all, whether external or internal, are customers in one form or another whose experience with us is important. We decided therefore to place our leadership focus squarely on people – and set out on a Service Excellence campaign to deliver the kind of customer experience that we would all be proud of. We made Service Excellence one of 6 core values – the S in SMRTnI. We set Customer Experience as one of the 5 key strategic thrusts that would guide the prioritization of management effort across the company. It formed part of a set of key performance measures that would be factored in our collective management performance incentives. More than just a desired outcome, we turned this into a platform to shape work culture and engage the hearts and minds of all 9000 of our staff.

6. Changing culture takes time and consistency of leadership effort. It needs to involve every single individual in the organisation. Often results are seen only in the long run, and one can easily be distracted by immediate issues and expediencies. We knew it was a journey that might never finish but that did not deter us from making a bold start. With collective buy-in from rank and file, we embarked on Service Excellence with a passion – to unite everyone with a common mindset and purpose – to build trust and bring on smiles every day, and with everyone who journeys with us.

7. This was the critical catalyst for an organization-wide change effort to align all staff in operations, maintenance, administration, commercial business, quality assurance, and front-counter activities – toward excellence in their service wherever they were in the company. We wanted to foster a climate where people can feel empowered to initiate and innovate in their Service Excellence efforts towards positive customer experience. .

8. In these past 3 years, I’m proud to say that we have made significant progress. Our Organizational Climate survey conducted by Towers Watson last year showed that 9 in 10 employees are proud to be in SMRT, and 86% are sustainably engaged – a measure of how engaged, enabled and energised they feel about themselves in the company. On a global scale, that puts SMRT as Best in Class, especially for companies undergoing transformation and transition. In business output, the bus business turned around to make a small operating profit after many consecutive quarters of losses. And based on the international metric for train reliability based on delays lasting more than 5 minutes for every 100,000 km, we have that number down from 1.8 in 2011 to 0.71 in Dec 2015, the best performance in the past decade despite the ageing network. .

SMRT Organisational Climate Survey Results

9. But it’s the ground-up stories of people who have gone the extra mile that move and inspire us. One example is Chief Bus Captain, Sim Boon Hwa, who in December last year was approached by a school-girl who thought she had lost her wallet onboard the bus service 188. He was supposed to start his duty in a few minutes, but seeing how sad and anxious the girl was, he did a quick search on the service 188 buses that were parked at the interchange. Unable to find the wallet, he asked her to follow him on his bus service 855 to make a police report at Queenstown Police Station along the route. Before she alighted, he gave her $50 in case she needed money to pay for her trip home. The next day, the girl called to inform that she had found the wallet in her friend’s car, and to arrange to return the $50. But Mr Sim declined and told her that the $50 would be his Christmas present to her.

SMRT Bus Captain Sim Boon Hwa

10. Another example is our Assistant Station Manager, Nurulhuda. The passenger lift at City Hall MRT Station was undergoing maintenance until 8 am that morning. Knowing that her regular passenger who is wheelchair-bound would face difficulties when she exits the station, she took the initiative to call her and advised her to delay her journey to avoid the inconvenience. While the gesture may have been simple, having that attention to detail and personal touch with each and every commuter is truly Service Excellence at its best.

11. With many other deeds like these, SMRT has won numerous national-level Service Excellence awards over the past few years – including the prestigious Singapore Service Excellence Medallion, the Singapore Experience Awards for Customer Service under the Transport industry and Contact Centre Association of Singapore annual awards.

SMRT Contact Centre Awards

12. We are determined to continue to serve and excel, innovating in improving the experience of all our customers. This afternoon, we look forward to learning and sharing with experts and leaders in Customer Experience and Innovation. Innovation is as much an idea or act, as it is a state of mind. We can apply this in end-to-end service delivery in a commuter’s journey, from before he or she even steps into the network, with way-finding, passenger information services and physical signages, to consumer amenities in the retail shops and advertising spaces as he makes his way through the transit network, to every single commuter touch-point that make for a more enjoyable journey. I wish all of you a meaningful afternoon of reflection and inspiration as we find new ways to innovate the customer experience.

SMRT Buses on “Have fun with the Tans” on YouTube

YouTube Channel “Have fun with the Tans” is a series created by the Tans sharing their experiences with their son, Trevor. They go all around Singapore having all sorts of adventures. From visiting Universal Studios Singapore to checking out the Central Fire Station.

In their latest video, Trevor learns more about buses by taking a ride on SMRT Service 972 around Bukit Panjang.

In the video, Mrs Tan points out different features and rules on the ADL Enviro500 Double Decker bus such as the location of the fire extinguisher and emergency hammer.

Trevors Bus Experience Safety EquipmentShe also reminded Trevor that standing on the upper deck and stairs is not allowed, for his safety.

Trevors Bus Experience No Standing

They also brought Trevor on board Wheelchair Accessible Bus Service 922.

Trevors Bus Experience WAB

But the most important lesson is at the end of the video. Wonder what that is? Check out the full video below!