Easier ride for Sengkang commuters

The Sengkang loop of the Sengkang- Punggol LRT system carries more than 61,000 passengers a day.
The Sengkang loop of the Sengkang- Punggol LRT system carries more than 61,000 passengers a day.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Sengkang loop of LRT system gets extra carriages during morning, evening peaks

Commuters in Sengkang saw their waiting times cut as extra carriages were added to the local LRT system during peak hours yesterday.

Eight trains on the Sengkang loop of the Sengkang-Punggol LRT system now have two cars instead of one and will run during the morning and evening peak hours, doubling capacity to 204 passengers each.

They will operate at the usual intervals of three to four minutes.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng took a ride on the new trains yesterday morning, accompanied by MPs Lam Pin Min (Sengkang West), Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), and Teo Ser Luck (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

Mr Ng said most commuters he spoke to welcomed the upgrade: "Their waiting times will drop significantly as they are now able to board the first train that arrives."

Security guard Lee Wei Rong, 50, who caught one of the extended trains to work, said: "Instead of waiting for a few trains to pass when the train car is fully packed, I can just get on straight away."

The Sengkang loop, which carries more than 61,000 passengers a day, was upgraded first because it is more heavily used than the Punggol loop.

The Punggol loop, will get two-car trains by the first quarter of next year.

Eventually, 16 train-cars will be added to the LRT system's current fleet of 41 trains, boosting overall capacity by 40 per cent.

Plans to raise the capacity of the increasingly-used light-rail system were revealed in 2012.

But rolling out the two-car trains proved to be a lengthy process, as the original trains did not have coupling devices that would allow additional carriages to be added, The Straits Times understands.

Trains supplied by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were eventually fitted with couplers. The modification took several months.

"There were technical challenges that needed to be overcome, but the team has done a very good job," said Mr Ng yesterday.

Two two-car trains were put into service on the Sengkang stretch just before Christmas during off- peak hours.

Sources said this was to test the quality of the service in case there were teething problems.

The overall reliability of the Sengkang-Punggol LRT system has dipped in recent years.

The average distance travelled between delays of more than five minutes dropped from 69,000km in 2014 to 55,000km in the first three quarters of last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline 'Easier ride for Sengkang commuters'. Print Edition | Subscribe