More MRT delays likely as trial of new signalling system continues

Commuters are advised to prepare for more MRT delays as testing of a new signalling system for the North-south MRT line continues, said the LTA and SMRT.
Commuters are advised to prepare for more MRT delays as testing of a new signalling system for the North-south MRT line continues, said the LTA and SMRT.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As testing of a new signalling system for the North-South MRT line enters its fourth month, commuters should be prepared for teething problems to persist.

In a joint statement on Tuesday (June 27), the Land Transport Authority and SMRT Corp said: "In the coming weeks, we will continue to conduct intensive performance checks and deploy new software to improve the system.

"During this period, commuters may continue to experience some delay when travelling on North-South Line, if new issues emerge."

Both parties said they sought the "continued understanding and patience" of commuters, who have been encountering glitchy service in recent weeks, although not all owing to signalling tests.

"Our team works round the clock to resolve these issues as quickly as possible," the statement said, adding that efforts were also in place to shorten recovery time when problems arise.

Trials of the new signalling system - which allows trains to run closer to each other and therefore increase the line's service frequency and raise passenger capacity - started on March 28.


Initially, the new system operated during the last hour of passenger service, progressing to full-Sunday service on April 16, and full-day weekday service on May 29.

SMRT, LTA and signalling system supplier Thales have also been running system checks on the Tuas West Extension on the East-west line. The extension, which operates on the new signalling system, opened for service on June 18.

There is no indication when the testing will conclude.

But experts said even if the new signalling system – which will also allow the trains to be operated without drivers – were to stabilise in the coming weeks, commuters will not see an improvement in service yet.

For that to happen, National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng noted that additional trains will have to be fed into the system. 

A total of 57 new trains have been ordered for the North-South and East-West lines. The new fleet will only arrive and be put into service by 2019.

Dr Lee also said the lines’ power supply will also have to be upgraded to handle the higher load imposed by the additional trains.

“After re-sleepering, third- rail replacement, resignalling, power supply will be the next major focus,” he said.

Tuesday's joint statement came hours after a major glitch affected train service on the North-South, East-West lines during the morning peak.

The Straits Times understands that there was a train fault at Tuas Link station along the East-West line, as well as a train with a stuck brake along the North-South line.

Journeys were delayed by more than half an hour however there were no alerts from the operator.