SINGAPORE - Commuters can expect train speeds on the North-South Line to go up from the fourth quarter of this year, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew on Tuesday.
The replacement of sleepers along the line that hold the tracks in place should be finished by the middle of next year, he added.
Mr Lui gave the update after observing sleeper replacement works along the tracks between Bishan and Ang Mo Kio station early Tuesday morning.
Operator SMRT temporarily reduces train speeds along stretches of track where sleepers have been replaced as a safety precaution.
Mr Lui said commuters will gradually see an improvement in speeds from the fourth quarter this year. "Commuters will find that their journeys to their respective destinations being shorter that what it is today."
And train speeds will be fully restored to previous levels after all sleepers along the North-South Line are replaced in the middle of next year, he said.
Train speeds are capped at 39-40km immediately after sleepers are replaced. This is raised to 61-62kmh after a tamping machine is deployed to compact the ballast that supports the sleepers and tracks.
Trains are only allowed to hit their top speed of 80kmh after the tracks are assessed to be fully fit for normal speeds.
Currently, SMRT only has one tamping machine in place, which limits the speed at which staff can compact ballast. But it will bring in a second machine this month, and a third in August or September to expedite works.
SMRT and the Land Transport Authority began replacing sleepers along the North-South and East-West lines from November 2012.
The 188,000 timber sleepers are being replaced with concrete ones, which last twice as long. As of last month, about a third of the sleepers on the North-South Line have been replaced.
Since April, SMRT has closed six stations from Ang Mo Kio to Admiralty 30 minutes earlier to give workers more time to replace the sleepers.
Mr Lui said he has asked SMRT to explore the possibility of organizing visits for residents to observe sleeper replacement works in future.