Bukit Panjang LRT down for close to 5 hours after train damages trackside equipment

SMRT staff inspect the train tracks at Bukit Panjang LRT Station, on Jan 12, 2018.
SMRT staff inspect the train tracks at Bukit Panjang LRT Station, on Jan 12, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Bukit Panjang LRT Station was closed due to the service disruption.
Bukit Panjang LRT Station was closed due to the service disruption.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Staff members inspecting the lines from Bukit Panjang Station to Petir Station.
Staff members inspecting the lines from Bukit Panjang Station to Petir Station.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Staff inspect the LRT track near Keat Hong station on Jan 12, 2018.
Staff inspect the LRT track near Keat Hong station on Jan 12, 2018.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
A frustrated commuter speaks with a SMRT staff while waiting for the shuttle service on Jan 12, 2018.
A frustrated commuter speaks with a SMRT staff while waiting for the shuttle service on Jan 12, 2018.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Service along the Bukit Panjang LRT resumed at about 6:30pm.
Service along the Bukit Panjang LRT resumed at about 6:30pm.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - The Bukit Panjang LRT broke down for almost five hours on Friday afternoon (Jan 12) after a train damaged a signal stop tape near Keat Hong station at 1.45pm.

A signal stop tape is a trackside equipment which determines precisely where and when a train stops at a station.

It is not immediately known how the train was able to hit the equipment, which is always sited well away from the path of travel.

The incident disrupted service on the entire line as workers withdrew the damaged train for inspection, replaced the damaged equipment and checked the network for other damage. 

Service resumed at 6.30pm. Free regular and bridging bus services have ended.

In its first tweet at around 2.30pm, operator SMRT said that there was no service on the line because of a track fault. It added that free regular and bridging bus services were available at the 14 affected stations.

At around 3.50pm, it put out an update, saying that a train had damaged a signal stop tape near Keat Hong station at 1.45pm.

SMRT said the damaged train has been withdrawn from service for further checks; and that its engineering team was conducting a systemwide safety check. This is to determine if other parts of the system had been damaged as well.

“Our engineering staff are now working to resume service,” the operator added then. “Free bus and shuttle bus services are available.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused to BPLRT commuters.”

In another update at 6.05pm, SMRT tweeted that service had resumed partially between Bukit Panjang and Senja. It added that free regular and bridging bus services were still available.
 
The Straits Times understands that the buses took eight to 10 minutes to arrive at 4pm, though the interval of the bridging bus service would depend on traffic conditions.
 
 

Mr Mason Teo, 38, a Bukit Panjang resident, was on his way home around 3.50pm when he was stopped by customer service staff at Bukit Panjang LRT station. 

 

“I’m figuring out how to go home now, I’ve no choice but to take a bus,” the interior designer said. He added that he frequently gets caught in MRT and LRT breakdowns. “But I’ve never been in one that has affected the whole line before,” he said. 

“My house is just five stations from here. So near yet so far,” he added.

Zhenghua Secondary students Fion Chua and Trixie Ng, both 14, had planned to take the LRT to school, from Bukit Panjang to Jelapang station, to attend a camp.

But the Secondary 2 students did not know which bridging bus service would take them to their school. “We might as well walk to school at this rate,” said Fion.

Their schoolmate Glenys Wong, 15, managed to find the bus service that would take her home, but said: “It’s quite a tedious process.” Added the Secondary 4 student: “I’m not in a rush, but I think those who are would be very inconvenienced. Compared with the LRT, this is really not the fastest way to go home.” 

But full-time national serviceman Jo Tham, 21, who also had to shelve plans to take the LRT home, said there was “no point complaining about the breakdowns”. “They’re upgrading the system, so it’s better for us in the long run,” he said.

The 18-year-old Bukit Panjang LRT has been saddled with reliability issues, partly as it has to contend with undulating terrain and sharp turns. It is Singapore’s third-oldest line after the North-South and East-West MRT lines.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said last year that the system was built as an “after-thought” and due to “political pressure”. Mr Khaw also said the 7.8km line was designed in a “masochistic manner”, and likened the ride to a “roller coaster”.

The Land Transport Authority said in December that it would be awarding a contract in early 2018 for the replacement and renewal of other major components and systems of the Bukit Panjang LRT.

On Sept 9 last year, broken rail support brackets on the Bukit Panjang LRT resulted in train services on the entire line being unavailable for about five hours.