Moving forward, focus is on plans to renew rail infrastructure
and new technology to strengthen maintenance regime
The LTA-SMRT Joint Team, formed in June 2012 to look into reducing disruptions and increasing the reliability of the North-South-East-West Lines (NSEWL) has implemented various recommendations made by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that looked into the December 2011 train disruptions.
2 Measures to improve rail service reliability and resilience on the NSEWL are starting to show some results. The number of train withdrawals decreased to a monthly average of 37 withdrawals in the first four months of 2013, compared to about 59 withdrawals in the first four months of 2012. On the whole, the number of incidents causing disruptions of more than 10 minutes has also declined from 0.20 to 0.16 for every 100,000km of train run. However, incidents causing a delay of more than 30 minutes continue to be an area of concern that the joint team will continue to work on.
3 Mr Chew Hock Yong, Chief Executive, Land Transport Authority, said “In the short term, LTA worked with SMRT to take some immediate steps to improve rail reliability. These included more intensive profiling of train wheels to minimise vibration, live monitoring of third rail alignment during revenue service, changing the third rail claws at floating slab track areas to the latest model. At the same time, the joint team has also embarked on a major refurbishment and replacement exercise to upgrade and renew the rail network, which includes changing out the wooden sleepers and installing a state-of-the art signalling system. As these measures are progressively rolled out in the coming years, we hope to see further improvements, so that we can serve commuters better. We are committed to do our best, and we seek the public’s continued understand and patience while we carry out the various improvement works.”
4 SMRT’s President and CEO Desmond Kuek said: “To meet the demands of growing train ridership as well as the challenges faced by an ageing network, we have begun investing in an overall system upgrade to meet passenger needs. SMRT remains committed to providing a safe, reliable and responsive transport service, and will leave no stone unturned in our quest to getting the system on track.”
5 Over the last one year, the LTA–SMRT Joint Team has carried out a series of improvements to enhance the rail reliability. This included a change in maintenance strategy to focus even more on proactive, preventive maintenance. SMRT has also brought in new equipment and leveraged on technology for timely detection of faults and failures.
Improving Reliability Through Enhanced Maintenance
6 Following the COI’s recommendations to place greater emphasis on preventive maintenance and detection of possible problems, SMRT has enhanced its maintenance regime and introduced new technology and equipment to improve its surveillance and maintenance of third rail support assemblies. Besides a mobile track trolley to manually check the condition of the third rail more effectively and efficiently, SMRT will also install LVDT (linear variable differential transformer) sensors on its trains for on-line monitoring of the third rail. This will improve the quality of ongoing maintenance, as it allows for speedier re-adjustment of third rail gauging to within tolerances.
7 SMRT is also progressively refurbishing and replacing train components – changing the propulsion, electronic, and pneumatic systems related to major subsystems to address train and signalling system related faults. Efforts to maintain the condition of the train wheels have been stepped up, along with regular checks on the Current Collector Devices (CCD). SMRT has also installed an Automated CCD Detection System that allows detection of any anomalous CCDs on operational trains. In addition, SMRT has commissioned a Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) system to allow automatic detection and identification of wheel defects on all its trains, so that immediate actions can be taken to rectify any fault.
8 As rail regulator, LTA has enhanced the relevant Codes of Practices (COP) to put in place more comprehensive maintenance requirements on rail operators. These COPs are in line with industry best practices on repair and maintenance of rail infrastructure. In addition to existing requirements for rail infrastructure, maintenance requirements have also been prescribed for Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) systems, such as trains and signalling systems. LTA has also implemented a formal process requiring operators to track and report indicators related to performance of the trains and track, and the reporting of defects and faults. This will enable LTA to exercise careful oversight on the maintenance and operations of our rail system.
9 LTA has also worked with both operators to carry out the COI’s recommendations on incident management. This includes harmonising incident classification levels and better integration of incident management plans. This will facilitate quicker, better coordinated and more effective responses to any train service disruptions on our public transport network.
10 Aside from bus bridging services, free travel on SMRT’s and SBST’s regular bus services has been made available in the event of a train disruption. This is in recognition that back-up bus bridging services would take some time to arrive and would not be sufficient to cater to the large number of commuters carried by the MRT.
11 Signs have also been put up at MRT station entrances and exits to lead commuters to free shuttle bus points, inform commuters on bus services to other MRT stations, and locality maps showing bus stops where commuters can make a transfer. This will allow commuters to continue their journey in the event of a train service disruption. SMRT has also introduced prominent pull-down or pull-up screens as well as electronic LCD displays to inform commuters of train service disruptions in a timely manner. Leaflets on alternative bus services to other MRT stations have also been prepared and stockpiled at MRT stations for distribution to affected commuters.
12 To enhance incident readiness, a ground deployment exercise was carried out in November last year to simulate a train service disruption. The observations from the exercise were shared with both operators. Such exercises will be carried out on a regular basis. LTA has also been conducting random surprise audits at train stations to assess rail operators’ staff readiness.
Long-term Plans to Improve Resilience
13 The LTA-SMRT Joint Team has also started work on measures to improve the longer term resilience of the rail system. Specifically, the joint team will:
i. Replace 188,000 timber sleepers. About 6% of sleepers have been replaced with new ones. The replacement works for all the timber sleepers is expected to be completed by 2016.
ii. Upgrade the train signaling system to one that enables six, instead of five trains to run every 10 minutes. This re-signalling project will be completed in phases from 2016.
iii. To enable more maintenance activities to take place at the same time, LTA is expanding Bishan Depot with three more maintenance tracks. More maintenance facilities will also be available when the new Tuas depot is ready by 2016.
iv. Fleet renewal activities for second-generation trains will start in 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
14 LTA and SMRT are in the process of formulating a plan to replace the third rail system. To expedite replacement works, the third rail replacement programme will be coordinated with the sleeper replacement programme.
15 Besides the various measures above to address rail reliability, LTA and SMRT have also embarked on a project to install noise barriers on parts of the viaduct tracks where there are residential units nearby. Works to install the barriers will begin towards the end of 2013 and is expected to complete by 2020.
Boosting Capacity, Improving passenger comfort
16 LTA and SMRT have already taken action to increase the capacity of the NSEWL in the longer term. 35 new trains have been ordered, and they are scheduled to be injected into the system from 2014 to 2016. These trains can be injected to improve peak hour train frequency, and clear crowded platforms faster. In the coming years, commuters can expect newer trains, better frequencies, and a shorter wait for trains.
17 LTA will continue to work closely with the operators to improve the rail system. Many of these changes take time but we are ramping up resources, engaging the use of new technology and putting in added manpower and resources to renew the system. With these initiatives, we aim to bring about better train service reliability going forward.
About the LTA-SMRT Joint Team
The LTA-SMRT Joint Team comprises technical engineers from both organisations. It is headed by Mr Chua Chong Kheng, Deputy Chief Executive (LTA) and Mr Khoo Hean Siang, the Executive Vice President, Trains (SMRT) and reports to Chief Executives of LTA and SMRT.