Parliament: $344m overhaul of Bukit Panjang LRT; smoother rides expected from 2022

Since it opened in 1999, the 14-station BPLRT has been dogged by reliability issues, owing to its design comprising sharp turns over undulating terrain.
Since it opened in 1999, the 14-station BPLRT has been dogged by reliability issues, owing to its design comprising sharp turns over undulating terrain.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Commuters using the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) can expect more reliable rides from 2022, when the majority of works to overhaul the problematic line is completed.

The Government on Wednesday (March 7) gave details of the $344 million renewal project for the 19-year-old system that it has awarded to the original supplier of the system, Bombardier.

"The BPLRT... is reaching the end of its useful life," said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Since it opened in 1999, the 14-station BPLRT has been dogged by reliability issues, owing to how its design comprises sharp turns over undulating terrain.

In the first three quarters of last year, there were six delays on the BPLRT that were longer than 30 minutes.

The renewal project, which will start in the first half of this year, will cover the upgrade of the line's existing signalling system with a more precise communications-based train control (CBTC) system which has better control of train speeds. The new system also has more redundancy - meaning that in the event of faults, the system will have back-ups to keep trains running.

The power rail along the entire 7.8km-long BPLRT will also be replaced and more robust power rail brackets will be installed.

 
 
 
 

The 19 trains which have been in service since the BPLRT was launched will also be replaced with new ones that will have better propulsion motors, eco-friendly LED lights and better air-conditioning systems. Thirteen trains, which have been in service since 2015, will also be upgraded.

LTA said the new CBTC, trains and power rail system will also be equipped with condition monitoring features, to oversee the life-cycle of the systems, so predictive maintenance can be scheduled.

The new signalling system and new trains will be fully rolled out by 2022, while other works such as the replacement of the power rail, and decommissioning of the old signalling system's track circuits should be completed by 2024.

The LTA said that while most of the works will be completed during off-service hours, where required, the BPLRT's operating hours will be shortened to provide engineers with more time.

To create additional space for the upgrading works, the Ten Mile Junction station will be closed from the  fourth quarter of this year. One of the three routes of the BPLRT, Service C, which connects to that stop, will also cease.

The remaining 13 stations will continue to be accessible via Services A and B.

LTA's deputy chief executive for infrastructure and development, Mr Chua Chong Kheng, said that Bombardier's proposal met the authority's specifications, as it does not require any modification to existing rail infrastructure and minimal disruption to services and commuters.

Bombardier is also "familiar with the current system", said LTA, and has also been involved in ongoing reliability work carried out since 2016.

The manufacturer will also provide a new service support arrangement where Bukit Panjang LRT operator SMRT will engage Bombardier through a long-term maintenance contract for spares, training and technical expertise.