20-year-old SMRT trains get upgrades

Top: The 19 six-car trains will have new cabin lighting and doors. Below: There will also be a new, graphical route map information system on board.
The 19 six-car trains will have new cabin lighting and doors. PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Top: The 19 six-car trains will have new cabin lighting and doors. Below: There will also be a new, graphical route map information system on board.
There will also be a new, graphical route map information system on board.PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A fleet of 20-year-old trains used for the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) are being upgraded.

Rail operator SMRT's overhaul of the 19 six-car trains will see key components being replaced, including traction motors, air-conditioning systems, cabin lighting and doors.

When the upgraded trains are put into service progressively from the second quarter of next year, they will also feature a new, graphical route map information system on board. The system will inform commuters of the train routes they are on, and provide information on upcoming stations such as exit points.

The train upgrading project was revealed by SMRT during a site visit to the Bishan depot yesterday. The visit was part of an annual meeting of rail operators which hail from a worldwide industry association called CoMET (Community of Metros). The four-day conference is hosted by SMRT this year.

The German-made C651 trains that are undergoing refurbishment are manufactured by Siemens and have been in service since 1996. With the upgrades, their lifespan will be extended by another 15 to 20 years.

"The improvements will reduce the incidence of train faults common to the Siemens C651 fleet, such as its propulsion system and door system faults," SMRT said.

The project is led by Singapore Rail Engineering (SRE), a subsidiary of SMRT Corp, and is expected to be completed in 2018.

SRE managing director Mario Favaits said it takes about four weeks for a train to be upgraded - one week for it to be stripped down, and another three weeks for it to be rebuilt.

But as it is the first time SMRT and SRE are undertaking such a project, two years of feasibility studies had to be done first.

Mr Favaits said this was preferable to outsourcing the work. "By in-sourcing this job, we have much more impact on improving the reliability through design and later through maintenance," he added.

He declined to say how much the upgrading would cost, explaining that it was competitive information.

The 19 C651 Siemens trains account for about 13 per cent of the total fleet of 141 trains currently serving the NSEWL. They are the second oldest batch, with the first generation of 66 Kawasaki Heavy Industries trains running for 29 years.

The Land Transport Authority said last month that it will be calling a tender to replace these with new ones. In the interim, it will work with SMRT to improve the reliability of these older trains.

VIDEO: A look at the interior of the upgraded trains. http://str.sg/4MiE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline '20-year-old SMRT trains get upgrades'. Print Edition | Subscribe