Commuters riding on 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 yesterday gave details of the $344 million renewal project for the 19-year-old system that it has awarded to the original supplier, Bombardier.
"The BPLRT... is reaching the end of its useful life," Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said 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.
Last year, BPLRT trains travelled an average of 53,000km before encountering a delay of more than five minutes, which pales in comparison to the Sengkang and Punggol LRT's reliability of 115,000km before a delay.
The renewal project, which will start in the first half of this year, will cover the upgrade of the line's existing signalling system to a more precise communications-based train control (CBTC) system that has better control of train speeds. The new system will also have 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 be replaced and more robust power rail brackets will be installed.
The 19 trains that have been in service since the BPLRT was launched in 1999 will be replaced with new ones, which will have better propulsion motors, eco-friendly LED lights and better air-conditioning systems. Thirteen trains, which have been in service since 2015, will be upgraded.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the new CBTC system, 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. 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.
LTA said that while most of the works will be completed during off-service hours, where required, operating hours will be shortened to provide engineers with more time.
To create additional space for the upgrading works, Ten Mile Junction station will be permanently closed from the fourth quarter of this year.
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 involves minimal disruption to services and commuters.
Bombardier is also "familiar with the current system", said LTA, and has been involved in ongoing reliability work carried out since 2016.
The manufacturer will provide a new service support arrangement in which BPLRT operator SMRT will engage Bombardier via a long-term maintenance contract for spares, training and technical expertise.
Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who is also the grassroots adviser to the Zhenghua ward, said: "We should also build up home-bred BPLRT maintenance expertise as we renew the system so that we can be more self-sufficient going forward."
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