The Downtown Line (DTL) was hit by a signalling fault yesterday morning, the latest in a spate of major delays on the rail network in a month.
The fault lies with Tampines West, but commuters along the entire line were affected. According to Facebook commuter support group MRT Disruption Feed, reports of the fault surfaced as early as 7.38am. It was not resolved until nearly 9am, but even then, trains were moving slower.
Operator SBS Transit did not send out any alert about the glitch, even though complaints by commuters spread on Facebook and Twitter.
At about 12.40pm, some five hours later, SBS Transit said in a statement that trains had to be driven manually because of the signalling fault. "This resulted in a slowdown in train speeds," it added. "This resulted in more crowded trains and a build up of passengers at station platforms." SBS Transit said "normal service progressively resumed" after 8.15am.
Commuter Petrina Goh told The Straits Times she was in a train at Rochor which did not move for 10 minutes before she decided to leave the station to find alternative transport.
The 37-year-old accounts executive said when she asked a station staff for directions to Bugis station, all she was told was that "there's a bus stop outside". Ms Goh was 30 minutes late for work.
Another commuter, Ms Yvelyn Tan, said she was 20 minutes late. The marketing manager, 31, said she was on a train travelling from Tampines East to MacPherson when it stopped suddenly.
"I ended up stepping on a woman's feet and almost fell," she said. "Within five minutes, the train jam-braked a second time. I kept checking SBS Transit's FB page to find out the extent of the train fault. But there was no announcement at all. Would I need to obtain a document from SBS to validate this train fault so I can let my boss know there was indeed a train fault that resulted in my being late?"
SBS Transit said: "We apologise that no alerts were issued, and we are sorry for the inconvenience that was caused. We are investigating the cause of the fault."
The DTL - the newest line here - was hit by a 12-hour signalling fault in March, following another last December. The 42km line, which opened in stages from December 2013 to October last year, sees an average of 470,000 trips a day. Typically, up to a quarter of MRT rides occur during the morning peak.
Last month, the MRT network was hit by at least two major delays. On April 11, a train fault added at least 30 minutes to travelling time on the North-east Line during the morning peak. On April 9, a track fault led to a delay of at least two hours on the East-west line during the morning peak.
Last Saturday, about 90 passengers on the Bukit Panjang LRT were stranded between stations for up to half an hour before having to disembark and walk on the tracks to the nearest station.
Up till then, the network had been performing relatively smoothly for three months.
According to Land Transport Authority's mean-kilometres before failure (MKBF, or the average distance clocked by a line before a delay occurs) statistics, the DTL was the third most reliable line here with one delay for every 722,000km in the first quarter.
The Circle Line (1.8 million km) and North-east Line (1 million km) performed better.
In terms of major faults (resulting in delays of 30 minutes or longer), the Downtown Line had one in the first quarter - the same as the East-west and North-east lines.
Commenting on the first-quarter statistics, an LTA spokesman said: "MKBF is volatile over shorter periods, so quarterly MKBF is not directly comparable with the full-year MKBF data."