The Sengkang-Punggol LRT has started operating two-car trains, five years after plans to raise the capacity of the increasingly packed light-rail system were revealed.
The Straits Times understands that a contributing factor to the lengthy process has been that the original trains did not have coupling devices that would allow additional carriages to be added.
Trains supplied by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were eventually fitted with couplers - a modification that took several months to complete.
Each train car can accommodate 105 passengers.
Although the Land Transport Authority said initially that the trains would go into service in the first quarter of next year, two two-car trains have been put into service on the Sengkang stretch this week.
Eventually, 16 of the entire LRT system's 41 trains will have two cars.
EASING THE CROWD
This is useful, especially during the peak hours.
I take the LRT every day, and it gets very crowded from 8am to 9am and 6pm to 8pm.
MR FIROZ MALIK, Sengkang resident, on the new two-car trains
The Sengkang LRT is used by more than 60,000 commuters a day - nearly 10 per cent more than last year and more than eight times the volume when the line opened in 2003.
The signalling system has also been upgraded to handle the two-car trains.
The system for the Punggol stretch is expected to be finished by the third quarter of next year.
Commuters there can also expect to have a two-car system by early 2017 at the latest.
Residents have been complaining about crowded LRT trains during peak hours for years, so the extra carriages will come as a relief.
Software engineer and Sengkang resident Firoz Malik, 30, said: "This is useful, especially during the peak hours.
"I take the LRT every day, and it gets very crowded from 8am to 9am and 6pm to 8pm."
Housewife Serene Tan, 50, another Sengkang resident and regular LRT commuter, said having two-car trains "is a good thing", adding: "The line is really jam-packed with people during the peak, especially between Rumbia and Compassvale stations."
LRT staff deployed by operator SBS Transit were seen monitoring the two-car trains yesterday morning. Sources said SBS Transit had chosen to start running the new trains during off-peak hours in case there were teething problems.
Indeed, there was a 15-minute disruption on the system at around 4pm yesterday. Free bus services were activated before the power fault was fixed.