Older MRT trains to get new motors from Japan

The high-efficiency motors used by trains on the Tokyo Metro, the world's busiest subway, will soon be driving Singapore's MRT trains.

Local operator SMRT has ordered these motors by Toshiba for all 66 of its oldest trains.

This is the first time the trains will have their drive systems upgraded since they started operating in 1987.

Almost all of the recent disruptions, however, did not involve motor issues.

According to Toshiba, its permanent magnet synchronous motors consume 30 per cent less power than older motors, are quieter and run more efficiently.

Yesterday, the Japanese firm announced that it had received a "major order" from SMRT to refurbish the drive systems of 66 C151 series trains - the oldest rail cars in use in Singapore.

This is the first time its motors will be used outside Japan.

SMRT, which runs a fleet of 128 trains on the North-South and East-West Lines including the 66 C151s, confirmed the purchase to The Straits Times, but said it could not reveal the cost of the order.

Spokesman Kalai Natarajan said the upgrading of its first- generation trains "is part of an extensive train renewal programme SMRT is currently undergoing to improve service reliability and to ensure our current fleet of trains continue to operate effectively and optimally".

The purchase of the motors comes amid repeated train disruptions and breakdowns.

Two of the biggest disruptions, which occurred in December 2011 and affected some 220,000 commuters, led to a Committee of Inquiry hearing which found that maintenance lapses by SMRT were part of the problem.

In April last year, a train breakdown was attributed to a fuse being blown by the drive motor's high current.

But almost all of the more recent train disruptions had nothing to do with motor issues. Instead, they were the result of cracks in the rails which the trains travel on.

SMRT has since stepped up its checks of the rail network, and will replace worn-out sections.

In May, it also said that it would be upgrading certain crucial components on its trains.

Yesterday, its spokesman said that the operator will inspect "all critical systems that have reached its end of life and are due for replacement".

The propulsion systems, as well as air compressors - which control the doors and brakes - will be replaced on all 19 second-generation trains by 2016, and all first-generation trains by 2019.

The motors of first-generation trains, which run on direct current, are no longer being used in newer trains, said SMRT.

The new Toshiba drive systems, which include the motor and peripheral equipment, will first be installed on two trains in early 2015.

After one to two years of testing, the remaining 64 trains will get the new motors, which run on alternating current.