Track point fault disrupted rush hour service on East-West Line; causes delays of up to 40 minutes

Commuters at Clementi MRT station at 7.35am, on Sept 19, 2018. They were affected by the 40-minute delay on the East-West Line that took place due to a track point fault near the station.
Commuters at Clementi MRT station at 7.35am, on Sept 19, 2018. They were affected by the 40-minute delay on the East-West Line that took place due to a track point fault near the station.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
About an hour after SMRT first reported about the delay, it said that commuters should now add 40 minutes to their travel time from Boon Lay to Queenstown, up from 30 minutes.
About an hour after SMRT first reported about the delay, it said that commuters should now add 40 minutes to their travel time from Boon Lay to Queenstown, up from 30 minutes.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Buses at Clementi MRT station. SMRT said that free regular bus services and bridging bus services were available between Boon Lay and Queenstown.
Buses at Clementi MRT station. SMRT said that free regular bus services and bridging bus services were available between Boon Lay and Queenstown.ST PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN
Commuters waiting for bridging bus services from Dover MRT station to Queenstown MRT station at Jurong East bus interchange.
Commuters waiting for bridging bus services from Dover MRT station to Queenstown MRT station at Jurong East bus interchange.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - A fault in a track point disrupted rush hour service on the East-West line (EWL) on Wednesday morning (Sept 19), causing thousands of MRT commuters to face delays of up to 40 minutes.

It was the second disruption on the line in two days. On Tuesday morning, the EWL was hit by a faulty platform screen door.

The track point fault - a glitch affecting a switch that allows trains to change tracks - occurred between the Jurong East and Clementi MRT stations.

At 7.10am, operator SMRT first tweeted about train service being delayed for 30 minutes.

At 8.15am, SMRT tweeted: "Our staff is rectifying the fault, train service on the EWL is available. However, please add 40 mins travelling time between #BoonLay and #Queenstown. Free regular bus and bridging bus svc are available between #BoonLay and #Queenstown."

In a Facebook post at 8.39am, it said train services had to be stopped between Clementi and Jurong East stations to allow its technicians to go onto the track to check on the fault.

At 1.37pm, rail operator SMRT said on Twitter that the fault had been rectified.

SMRT said in a statement issued later: "After the fault was detected, train services between both stations were stopped for about 30 minutes to allow our staff to go onto the track to check a faulty point machine, which is used to control train movements at rail junctions when trains move from one track to another.

"Our staff inspected the point machine and assessed that train operations could continue but at a slower speed."

SMRT added that, as a precaution, when service resumed at about 7.40am, the trains travelled at a reduced speed when passing the track point.

"The plan was to keep train services moving during the morning peak with the aim of fixing the fault after the peak period. This would allow EWL commuters to travel from Jurong East towards the city, and commuters to travel from the city to the interchange station at Jurong East," said the statement.

To ease congestion, SMRT said it sent four trains to pick up commuters travelling towards the city from Jurong East and another two trains to Clementi to serve commuters travelling towards the city.

Free regular and bridging bus services were available to commuters between Queenstown and Boon Lay MRT stations.

Observers said that a track point fault is usually linked to maintenance.

However, not all trains were affected by the fault, even if commuters in the eastern part experienced slower service. 

Commuters at Jurong East station appeared to have had a trying time getting in and out of the trains. Even on the best of days, the station  is easily the most crowded interchange in the network.

A video clip shared on Facebook showed an SMRT station employee trying to get commuters stuck on the platform to back up so that those on the train could alight.

Many commuters took to social media to share their experience.

Facebook user Aminurashed Ami posted photos of the crowd at Jurong East MRT station at about 7.20am, where long queues had formed on the platform.

He later shared another photo of a packed MRT train.

When ST arrived at Clementi MRT station at about 9.15am, people were seen waiting in orderly queues at the platform. Most of the commuters were able to board the east-bound train when it arrived.

Ms June Lim, 29, who works part time at a retail store at City Square Mall, said: “I’ve been stuck in the train for quite long. It took me 45 minutes just to get to Clementi from Boon Lay, when usually it would take just 10 minutes.

"It was so humid that I felt faint and had to come out to sit down for awhile. I’m actually on the way to work at Farrer Park and I’m not late yet because I left home early. But I’ll most likely be late at this rate."

 

She added that she had boarded the train at Boon Lay at about 8.30am.

Optometrist Chu Khai Siu, 24, said that she was on the way to a conference in Dover from her Bukit Timah home at about 9.30am. She added that she had to miss a train at Clementi because it was too crowded to board.

Miss Chu said that she first took a bus from Bukit Timah to Clementi, before taking a train to Dover.

Mr Adam Haddis, 64, an administrative support staff in the oil and gas industry, said that it took him 1½ hours to get to work in Boon Lay. He left his Woodlands home at about 8am.

"Normally, it would take me an hour (to get to work)," he said. "If I had known about the fault, I would have taken the bus instead of the train. There’s nothing much we can do. It’s just a matter of getting used to it now," he said.

On Twitter, user Kendra Teng said that the Jurong East bus interchange was swamped with commuters scrambling to find a bus to their destination.

The last reported major delay on the EWL was in April, which lasted almost three hours along a west-bound stretch of the line.

SMRT attributed that delay to a track fault. Commuters between Jurong East and Joo Koon stations were advised to add 25 minutes to their journey.