'Mid-life overhaul' for Bukit Panjang LRT

THE troubled Bukit Panjang LRT system will undergo a "mid-life overhaul" by 2019 to improve its performance, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told Bukit Panjang residents yesterday.

Its frequent breakdowns have emerged as a top concern in the area. At a dialogue with the minister during his visit to the Zhenghua area, the issue was raised by Bukit Panjang residents, with one resident even pleading for it to be scrapped completely.

"If it is going to break down so often... do away with the LRT completely or change the track completely," urged Mr Peter Koh, managing director of a local real estate firm.

But Mr Lui said that statistically, the LRT system's performance had actually improved.

The Bukit Panjang LRT's train withdrawal rate fell to 4.5 per 100,000 car-km last year, from a high of nine in 2011. This is a similar rate as the years 2007 to 2009.

The Transport Ministry will spend the next 12 months studying the changes needed to keep the system reliable, before spending the next few years improving it, he said.

At the same time, new train cars have been progressively added since last year, while older cars will be retrofitted with a new remote reset system so they can be reactivated more quickly.

Operator SMRT will also deploy more personnel across the LRT stations to rectify faults at a faster pace, he added.

Mr Lui noted that the LRT system was installed after the town had already been built, constraining its design somewhat, and that the undulating terrain of Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang were obstacles.

"I'm not so sure that, even if we were to rebuild the system completely, we can solve some of these topographical constraints," he said.

"But we will certainly not believe that what we have today is the best that we can do. Because I certainly don't think so and you can have my assurance that, over the next few years, we will continue to make improvements to the system."

yanliang@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline ''Mid-life overhaul' for Bukit Panjang LRT'. Print Edition | Subscribe