SINGAPORE - When it becomes fully operational in end-2024, the new Integrated Train Testing Centre (ITTC) in Tuas will be among the first in the world that can test different trains and rail systems at the same time, without disrupting regular passenger services.
The centre's construction, which began on Wednesday (March 17), is a further step in strengthening the MRT system here, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said at the ground-breaking ceremony.
The centre - the first in South-east Asia - is on a 50ha site at the former Raffles Country Club, which was acquired for the terminated Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project.
First announced in 2019, a $639.5 million tender to design and build the ITTC was awarded last year to South Korean firm GS Engineering.
Singapore's train testing capacity will be expanded multiple times with a dedicated centre that replicates actual conditions on operational lines, said Mr Ong.
Tests can be performed round the clock, freeing up limited engineering hours for other maintenance and renewal works. This means less inconvenience for commuters as it reduces the need for early closure and late opening of stations.
Testing is now done at depots and on the main line when trains are not in service, which adds up to "very few hours in the wee hours of the night", Mr Ong said.
Meanwhile, the testing of new trains takes a few years as they need to be tested with the respective signalling and communication systems. These tests can be conducted only overseas.
With the ITTC, testing can be done while an MRT line is still being developed and the depots are not yet ready. "By doing the tests here, we are better able to troubleshoot, identify and resolve any teething issues early to ensure reliability," Mr Ong said.
The ITTC is set to be completed in two phases. The first phase is expected to be ready by late next year, in time to receive two new Circle Line Stage 6 trains that will be delivered in early 2023.
The centre will also help build up local rail engineering capabilities, Mr Ong said, by enabling engineers from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), rail operators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to work closely on a common testing and maintenance platform.
The hope is that the ITTC will encourage more OEMs to set up shop here, resulting in more timely and cost-effective support.
The LTA said the ITTC will support the testing and commissioning of trains and railway systems for both new and existing rail lines.
A one-stop workshop will enable mid-life upgrades of trains here.
The centre will house three test tracks: a looped endurance track with an uphill gradient section, a looped performance and integration track with a branched S-shaped track, and a straight high-speed track to test speeds of up to 100kmh.
The tracks are designed to be inter-operable and can accommodate all types of signalling and communication systems used across the MRT network.
In addition, the centre has been designed with energy efficiency in mind. Half of its energy needs will be met by solar panels. It will also use LED lights and a centralised chiller system.
Said Mr Ong: "In time to come, it will be a physical infrastructure and institution that upholds our maintenance regime."