Commuters feeling frustrated after recent train delays

Service disruption yesterday follows Tuesday's delays on North-South, East-West lines during morning peak hours

A train had pulled in to the platform at Khatib MRT station yesterday evening, but commuters could not board as the train service was down.
A train had pulled in to the platform at Khatib MRT station yesterday evening, but commuters could not board as the train service was down. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Commuters affected by yesterday's shutdown of the North-South Line (NSL) had feared the worst when they were greeted by the sight of packed free bus services and long taxi lines during rush-hour traffic.

So it was a relief to many when train services resumed about 10 minutes later, albeit at reduced speeds. Normal service resumed only at about 7.20pm, more than two hours after the line came to a standstill.

But with the shutdown coming on the back of Tuesday's delays on the North-South and East-West lines during the morning peak hours, commuters are feeling increasingly frustrated.

Yesterday's situation was not helped when surge pricing by private-hire car operators kicked in during the disruption.

At around 6pm, Grab's fare from Orchard to Jurong East was about $40, while Uber's quoted rate was $41 - both about double the usual fare. Both cited higher demand as the reason for the pricing.

Sales manager Richard Tan, 46, who was at Orchard MRT station, tried to take a free bus service but ended up taking the train home despite the delays. He said: "This shouldn't be happening during the peak hours... A fault shouldn't cause an entire line to shut down."


Many other commuters who spoke to The Straits Times said they had endured several similar disruptions of late.

IT manager James Tay, 35, who was at Orchard MRT station when the line was shut down, had also been affected by recent glitches.

"I haven't been able to reach my destinations on time for the past few days," he said. "The trains are always packed and they move too slowly. It is getting unbearable."

Commuters leaving the platform of Khatib MRT station after an announcement at about 5.25pm that there were no updates on the signalling fault. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Yesterday morning, social media was also abuzz with commuters reporting a delay on the East-West Line from Pioneer to Tuas Link.

Train operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said a signalling fault on the NSL's new Communication-Based Train Control system was the cause of yesterday's disruption.

In a joint statement, they said that, unlike new lines where the signalling system can be fully tested before being put into service, SMRT will have to continue full-day checks on the NSL even as service is ongoing. They added that the system "is expected to take a few more months to fully stabilise" and sought the understanding of commuters.

  • Previous major train disruptions

  • DEC 15 AND 17, 2011

    A sagging power-supply rail brings the North-South Line to a standstill on the evening of Dec 15, and then again on the morning of Dec 17, as SMRT fails to detect and rectify the damage completely.

    JULY 7, 2015

    A power-supply trip causes both the North-South and East-West lines to fail, affecting about half a million commuters.

    The Land Transport Authority later blames a salt-caked insulator near Tanjong Pagar station, but is unable to replicate the fault.

    APRIL 25, 2016

    A power trip at one of the network's substations causes the western sector of the North-South and East-West lines, parts of the Circle Line, as well as the Bukit Panjang LRT system to fail. The trip is suspected to have been triggered by cable works on the East-West Line's Tuas West Extension.

    Christopher Tan

Trials of the new signalling system - which allows trains to run closer to one another, and therefore increases the line's service frequency and raises passenger capacity - started on March 28.

Initially, the new system operated during the last hour of passenger service, progressing to full service on Sundays on April 16, and full-day weekday service on May 29.

SMRT, LTA and signalling system supplier Thales have also been running system checks on the Tuas West Extension on the East-West Line. A signalling fault on the Tuas West Extension, which opened for service on June 18, also affected service between Joo Koon and Tuas Link stations yesterday evening.

Added SMRT and LTA yesterday: "Although service recovery measures, including free bus boarding, were taken immediately, some commuters may have experienced longer waiting time as a result of train bunching. We apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Despite the recent glitches, housewife Julie Wong, 39, who was at Braddell MRT station during the evening peak-hour disruption, is looking forward to improvements made to the system.

"There has to be a point where enough is enough," she said. "Hopefully, these problems will be resolved as soon as possible."

•Additional reporting by Ng Wei Kai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Commuters feeling frustrated after recent train delays'. Subscribe