Experts call for sweeping reform of MRT power system

SMRT trains moving along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
SMRT trains moving along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A panel of power experts brought in to review the electrical system of Singapore's MRT network has wrapped up its findings with a long list of "to-dos".

The Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday (April 19) the panel has made several recommendations, including inspecting assets more frequently, replacing components more frequently, and adopting new monitoring technologies.

For instance, the panel said the third rail system should be inspected every six months until it is replaced.

It said components which are critical to operation should be replaced within five years of reaching the end of their lifespans.

The panel also recommended certain components like switches and power tripping devices be replaced with more reliable models.

It suggested exercises be conducted "to prove the adequacy of operational response measures and recovery plans in the event of a potential recurrence of previous power-related incidents" - in particular the July 7, 2015, incident that paralysed the entire North-South and East-West lines.

The panel, comprising international experts, said for future MRT lines, measures must be in place "to ensure tighter specification and quality control on the contractors and manufacturers".

It cited the Circle Line cables, which failed within the first several months of operation.

The panel also recommended new technologies, such as an intelligent fault identification system (iFIS) to pinpoint exact fault location.

It said condition monitoring for early fault detection and prevention should be in place in new lines. Old lines should also be retrofitted with condition monitoring systems.

The LTA said some measures recommended by the panel are already in place, but did not say if it would adopt the others.

One recommendation was to install an Intelligent Fault Identification System that will allow operators to pinpoint exact fault locations quickly.

This system is being put in place on the Downtown Line, Thomson-East Coast Line and future lines, the LTA said.

It added that it will also expand this technology to all existing lines.