Downtown Line MRT services were delayed from the start of service up to lunchtime yesterday due to a platform door fault - the third known door glitch on the newest MRT line in the past seven months.
Operator SBS Transit sent an alert at 7.45am - two hours after the fault was discovered - telling commuters that journeys southbound on the entire line from Bukit Panjang to Chinatown would take 10 minutes longer because of a signalling fault, traced to faulty doors at Botanic Gardens station.
The train's signalling system - which determines how close to each other the trains can safely travel - is tied to station platform screen doors. The system communicates with the doors to ensure they do not open until a train has come to a full stop, and trains do not move off until the platform doors are fully closed.
Yesterday, the doors would not open automatically and had to be operated manually each time a train pulled in. This caused congestion and delays on the whole line, which commuters complained were closer to 30 minutes.
At around 9.40am, the operator announced that southbound trains would bypass Botanic Gardens - an interchange station that joins the Circle Line. This was to allow workers to trace and fix the problem.
Checks by The Straits Times found that when commuters arrived at the station platform, they were told by SBS Transit staff to take the northbound train to Tan Kah Kee station, and switch to a southbound train to continue their journey.
Meanwhile, a team of technicians was seen at the station screen doors trying to locate the flaw - believed to be an electrical short in the circuitry. It was only at around 1pm that the team managed to do so - some seven hours after the glitch was discovered.
On Oct 4 last year, a dislodged platform door at the line's Sixth Avenue station disrupted service for two hours. The fault was traced to a loose bolt. On Feb 2, a door at Bugis station was cordoned off because of cracks on the glass doors.
The platform doors on the Downtown Line were supplied by Faiveley Transport from France. The company would not comment when contacted yesterday.
SBS Transit said yesterday's malfunction was discovered at 5.45am. "The fault was rectified at 12.54pm," the operator said, but added that two doors "will remain closed for more in-depth repairs to be conducted during engineering hours". The seven-hour glitch would have affected at least 10,000 commuters, based on the line's average daily ridership of 250,000.
Bukit Panjang resident Ashley Wu, 37, said she took a cab to work at around 9.30am instead of the Downtown Line because she did not want to risk being late. "But the JustGrab prices were crazy," she said, adding her ride to one-north cost $28, instead of the usual $16. JustGrab is a new dynamic fare option by ride-hailing app Grab.
National University of Singapore undergraduate Yolanda Tan, 22, who was on her way to Orchard station at around 11.50am, had to go to Tan Kah Kee station to change trains. Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Andrew Lim, 24, said it took him 40 minutes to travel from Bukit Panjang to Newton at around 8.50am, twice as long as it usually takes.
Singapore Institute of Technology assistant professor Zhou Yi said that as the Downtown Line is a new system, it is common to have some "teething" issues.
Correction note: The caption has been edited to state that Downtown Line is run by SBS Transit, and not SMRT. We are sorry for the error.