MRT signalling system

Peak-hour testing revealed new issues

We are sorry that commuters have been inconvenienced by the recent train service disruptions on the North-South Line.

We have recently intensified testing of the new signalling system and, together with Thales, the signalling system manufacturer, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT are working round the clock to resolve the issues that have surfaced during the testing.

Re-signalling is a complex exercise. As we saw in other cities that had undertaken similar projects, the new system will take many months to stabilise.

We have implemented a phased approach to the testing.

Beginning in late March with off-peak and Sunday trials, the LTA and SMRT moved to full-day testing on weekdays only after we were satisfied with the results from the earlier tests.

However, those earlier tests were limited to hours when there were fewer commuters and the demand on the system, therefore, less onerous.

As it turned out, with more demanding operational conditions, in particular weekday peak hours, new issues surfaced, causing the recent service disruptions.

To minimise the impact on commuters, the SMRT and LTA activated free bus services at all affected stations and deployed additional staff to assist commuters.

For example, on the evening of the June 28 disruption, 500 additional staff were deployed to affected MRT stations. Frequent in-station announcements were made and signages deployed to guide commuters. Updates were given on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, throughout the evening.

However, even with all these mitigating measures, we know that commuters will still face delays to their journeys when train disruptions happen.

Hence, we are sparing no expense to improve the reliability of our rail system, including completing the replacement of the ageing signalling system, which turns 30 years old this year.

We seek commuters' understanding as we continue with the tests. We also thank readers for their suggestions (Plan MRT signalling system tests on weekends, by Mr Seah Leong Khai; July 3), and will study them.

Jeremy Yap

Deputy Chief Executive, Public Transport, Policy & Planning

Land Transport Authority

Lee Ling Wee

Chief Executive Officer

SMRT Trains

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'Peak-hour testing revealed new issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe