Bukit Panjang LRT's older trains could get makeover

A new train car for the Bukit Panjang LRT line. Two of these new trains were added to the line last month and another 11 are due to be introduced next year. Plans to refurbish the line's older 19 train cars are under consideration.
A new train car for the Bukit Panjang LRT line. Two of these new trains were added to the line last month and another 11 are due to be introduced next year. Plans to refurbish the line's older 19 train cars are under consideration.ST FILE PHOTO

Commuters travelling on the Bukit Panjang LRT line may be able to enjoy a more comfortable ride soon.

Operator SMRT is considering a mid-life refurbishment of its existing fleet of 19 train cars which have been in use since the line started operation in 1999.

If these plans go through, it will be the first major overhaul for these train cars.

The refurbished train cars will boast upgraded air-conditioning and air compressors and a better braking system, among other things.

The Straits Times understands that trials for the refurbishment can begin only after 13 new train cars have been introduced into the system.

Two new train cars were added to the line last month, while another 11 are due to be introduced next year.

The trains will cost $42 million in total.

The additional trains will allow peak-hour capacity to increase by some 50 per cent.

It should also ease congestion on the line, which has seen passenger numbers rise to about 51,000 a day.

SMRT added that it is also reviewing the signalling system for the LRT line which determines the intervals at which trains can pass safely.

Similar upgrades are in the works for both the North-South and East-West MRT lines and these are due to be completed by 2019.

SMRT also said it is working on simulations for travel patterns to prepare for the opening of the second stage of the Downtown Line, which includes Bukit Panjang MRT station.

The line is expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.

SMRT's vice-president for Circle Line and Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit, Mr Chia Chun Wah, said: "When the Downtown Line (Stage 2) opens, ridership may change, so travel patterns on the Bukit Panjang LRT may change.

"The ongoing traffic simulations allow us to be ready ahead of time by giving us options to cater for changes in ridership."

Meanwhile, the Sengkang and Punggol LRT systems, which are run by the other public transport operator, SBS Transit, are also on track for upgrading.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said last month that 16 new carriages for the two lines will arrive from 2016.

An upgrade to a two-car system should also be ready by the end of that year.

lesterh@sph.com.sg