LTA, SMRT conduct first test of new signalling system on NSL during passenger service hours

SMRT service staff assisting commuters during the 10-minute stoppage.
SMRT service staff assisting commuters during the 10-minute stoppage.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
SMRT staff gave out complimentary train ride tickets at all NSL stations from 10.30pm as a gesture of goodwill.
SMRT staff gave out complimentary train ride tickets at all NSL stations from 10.30pm as a gesture of goodwill.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Most commuters on the North-South Line (NSL) were unfazed when their train journey came to a stop on Tuesday night (March 28) for about 10 minutes.

At about 11.10pm, the 30 trains in service stopped running to allow for the network to be switched over to an upgraded signalling system. The switchover was completed at about 11.20pm.

This was the first test of the new communications-based train control system by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and train operator SMRT during passenger service hours.

The new system is due to replace the current fixed-block signalling system used on the 30-year-old NSL, and will allow trains to run at faster intervals of 100 seconds instead of 120 seconds.

When The Straits Times visited Toa Payoh MRT Station at about 10.45pm, SMRT staff were giving out complimentary train ride tickets.

These tickets, valid for a single trip on all SMRT lines till Dec 2018, were given out from 10.30pm as a gesture of goodwill for commuters affected by the stoppage.

During the switchover, announcements explaining the situation could be heard at all 26 NSL stations and in the trains. SMRT service staff were also on hand to assist affected commuters.

Some commuters, such as student Clarence Chu, 21, were disgruntled by the interruption to their journey. He said: "I understand this is necessary but I'm currently quite unhappy. I'm trying to get home so I can get work done."

But others were more blase about the brief delay. Ms Xing, a 30-year-old hotel cleaner, said in Chinese: "I'll just wait it out because it's quite normal for trains to stop sometimes."

Student Lee Yong Zhi, 20, had expected the stoppage because he read about it on ST's twitter: "I think this is okay because it's late and not many people are affected. Besides, it's only for 10 minutes."

While most trains were able to stop at or near the platforms of the MRT stations, a few remained on the tracks in between stations.

Trains continued to run on the new system as part of the trial until the end of passenger service at about midnight.

Mr Siu Yow Wee, SMRT's director for station operations for the North-South and East-West lines,said that a second test is likely to be carried out on Thursday at the same time.

The old signalling system will be back in use from Wednesday morning.

LTA said that Tuesday's test will help it to decide when to extend trials to longer service hours and eventually make the full switchover to a new signalling system, which had been slated for end of last year (2016).

The launch was pushed back to allow the authorities to do more testing.

The test took place after a fault affected the same line earlier in the evening. At about 9pm, SMRT tweeted that there was a signalling fault at Sembawang station. Commuters were told to cater an additional 15 minutes in travelling time from Bishan towards Sembawang.