Parliament: NSL signalling system is stabilising, says Khaw Boon Wan

 The new signalling system on the North-South Line is stabilising, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament on Monday (Sept 11).
The new signalling system on the North-South Line is stabilising, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament on Monday (Sept 11). ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The new signalling system on the North-South Line is stabilising, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament on Monday (Sept 11).

He pointed to a dip in the number of delays caused by the resignalling project, noting that there were six such delays last month, down from 20 in May - the month when live testing of the new system started.

The project is progressing "much better" than expected, Mr Khaw told Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked for an update on resignalling and when the system is expected to stabilise.

Mr Khaw noted that original schedule for the project was pushed back to allow for more testing outside of service hours. This allowed for many glitches to be discovered and fixed before the trains were tested during service hours, he said.

He expects resignalling on the North-South Line to be completed by the end of the year, and possibly before December.

There remain some glitches that need to be fixed, he said, citing instances where trains exceed platform screen doors by a certain distance when stopping at the station, or doors failing to open.

Ms Lee also wanted to know if the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was aware of commuter complaints that updates were not provided in real-time during a major rail disruption on June 28 .

All train disruptions are monitored closely by the LTA, which also holds rail operators accountable for lapses in providing commuters with timely and accurate information, Mr Khaw replied.

On June 28, service on the North-South Line and the Tuas West Extension of the East-West Line was delayed for about two hours during the evening peak period.

The disruption was later found to be due to human error as engineers from signalling system supplier Thales had plugged an incompatible radio into the radio backbone network of the two lines. This led to trains "losing radio communication".

He noted that during the June incident, 500 SMRT staff were deployed to the affected North-South Line stations to "manage crowds, render assistance and disseminate information to commuters".

He added that more than 3,200 announcements were made in stations and trains to update commuters, and real-time updates were also broadcast via social media, websites and and LTA's MyTransport.sg mobile app.

"LTA will use the commuter feedback from the June 28 incident to enhance the management of service disruptions by the rail operators," said Mr Khaw.

On whether more city-bound bus services can be deployed so commuters heading to work during disruptions will not have their journeys affected, Mr Khaw told Ms Lee buses could not match trains for efficiency, due to the difference in capacity.

"One train is equivalent to so many bus loads of passengers. And every two minutes you have a new train coming in. So when there's a bunching of delays, you can imagine you need tens of thousands of buses to remove or to transfer all these trains and it's not easy," he said.

The minister also said he remains "optimistic" that the MRT network can hit the reliability target of trains travelling 1 million km between delays of more than five minutes by 2019.

He noted that the MRT network has already exceeded its original target for this year, with trains running 400,000km before a five-minute delay.

There are multiple ongoing projects to renew core systems on the ageing North-South and East-West lines, he said in response to Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC), who asked about rail reliability.

Of these projects, the sleepers and third rail system have been completed, he said.

"It is a multi-year effort, we are halfway there. It's a cup half full now. Next year I will top it further and I'm fairly confident we'll be able to deliver on this mission."