Bukit Panjang LRT upgrade delayed by 2 years to 2026: Iswaran

While part of the backend signalling system has already been upgraded, difficulties since 2020 stemming from the pandemic have now pushed the expected completion date to 2026. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – The upgrading of the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) system, which was awarded in 2018, has been delayed by two years to 2026.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran gave the update on Monday in a written parliamentary reply to Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang), who had asked about the progress of the renewal works, as well as when the system will resume full service.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had said in a Straits Times report in end-May that the overhaul was still on track to be completed by the original target of 2024.

Mr Iswaran said that while part of the backend signalling system has already been upgraded, difficulties since 2020 stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic have now pushed the expected completion date to 2026.

They include manpower shortage, slower progress due to the lockdowns in China, where the trains come from, as well as supply chain disruptions.

Since Dec 1, 2019, operations on the 23-year-old BPLRT have been reduced. While trains on one of two loops, via the Petir station, are running as usual, the second service, which runs in the loop via the Senja station, is suspended from 9am to 5pm, as well as all weekends and public holidays.

Mr Iswaran said this was to reduce the strain on the ageing systems on the BPLRT before the renewal project is complete.

He added that there are more than 10 bus services operating within Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang, five of which run parallel to stretches of BPLRT. This arrangement is aimed at minimising the impact of the reduced LRT service on residents in the affected areas and will remain in place until the project is complete in 2026.

The contract for the upgrading of the 13-station BPLRT, valued at $344 million, was awarded in 2018 to Bombardier Singapore. It is aimed at enhancing the system’s service reliability, which has consistently ranked last in the distance logged between delays.

The renewal of the signalling system, one of the areas being worked on, will allow trains to run more closely to each other, reducing the intervals and shortening waiting time.

Sensors and intelligent real-time condition monitoring will also be implemented to enable faults to be picked up early. New power rails, designed to improve network reliability, will also feature real-time monitoring of rail alignment, to allow for predictive maintenance work.

There will be 19 new trains added while 13 trains from the existing fleet that were introduced in 2015 will be upgraded with the needed systems to enable them to be monitored.

Mr Liang told The Straits Times that the delay was due to train manufacturing works in China being affected by the Covid-19 situation. “Nevertheless, I hope that as soon as the upgrading works enter into a stabilised phase, we can resume the dual loop services.”

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