Faster trains on North-South Line soon

Maintenance staff replacing wooden sleepers. For safety reasons, trains have to travel at slower speeds over newly laid sleepers.
Maintenance staff replacing wooden sleepers. For safety reasons, trains have to travel at slower speeds over newly laid sleepers.ST FILE PHOTO

Close to half of the work to replace sleepers on the North-South Line has been completed and commuters can look forward to faster travelling speeds from October or November this year.

SMRT in a Facebook post yesterday said it was gradually lifting the associated speed restrictions but trains will be back to normal speeds only in the middle of next year.

The public transport operator has been replacing sleepers since 2012, as part of its efforts to upgrade its systems and infrastructure.

When new sleepers, which hold the tracks in place, are fitted, they require time to settle on the ballast or stones on which the tracks are laid.

For safety reasons, trains are restricted to travelling at slower speeds, of about 40kmh instead of the normal 78kmh, over newly laid sleepers.

The temporary slowdown has been a bugbear for many commuters. One of them is sales consultant Winnie Woo, 23. With the slower trains on the North-South Line, it takes her 75 minutes to get from her home in Woodlands to work in Chinatown, instead of the usual 65 minutes.

She has switched to the East-West Line to reduce her travelling time slightly to about 70 minutes.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to switch back to the North-South Line soon," she said.

The managing director of SMRT Trains, Mr Lee Ling Wee, wrote in the post that Singapore, unlike cities such as London and Paris, cannot close off segments of its rail systems for track renewal works.

"We strive to work within the tight engineering window of four hours between 1.30am and 5.30am," he said.

While passengers travelling on the North-South Line have something to cheer about, commuters who use the East-West Line should be prepared for slower speeds soon: Similar work to replace sleepers will start on that line next year.

jianxuan@sph.com.sg