New MRT trains may have tip-up seats, onboard Wi-Fi

LTA tender for 12 trains for service by 2019 goes for flexible seat configuration

There could be fewer fixed seats in future trains, but commuters may get Wi-Fi on board, which would be useful for times when the telco signal is poor.
There could be fewer fixed seats in future trains, but commuters may get Wi-Fi on board, which would be useful for times when the telco signal is poor.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

New trains with tip-up seats and Wi-Fi on board, similar to what is available in European cities, may soon make their way to Singapore.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has called for a tender for 12 new trains on the North-South and East-West lines, with manufacturers asked to include tip-up seats in their cabin design.

These seats can be remotely locked up in a folded position via a push button, and passengers should not be able to fold them down when locked, according to tender document specifications.

While details were not given, this could mean the rail operators control the seats remotely.

There will be two rows of seven tip-up seats in each of the six train cars - accounting for about 30 per cent of all seating.

"For tip-up seats, the intent is to provide flexibility in seat configuration but we will have to study this initiative further," an LTA spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

While tip-up seats offer flexibility in seating configurations, they incur maintenance costs as the mechanical parts have to be serviced, said Mr Piers Connor, managing director of British firm PRC Rail Consulting.

Commuters will also have to play their part for the seats to be used effectively.

"When the train is crowded, you have to persuade people to give up their seats so more people can stand," Mr Connor said.

The tender, which closes in March, also requires bidders to supply trains with mounted brackets and provisions for power supply among other things, to cater for Wi-Fi on trains.

The LTA said this infrastructure will cater for Wi-Fi on board trains, should it be found "feasible in the future".

In Britain and Germany, onboard Wi-Fi is available on selected train routes. Commuters sometimes have to pay for the service.

Currently, free Wi-Fi is offered only at City Hall, Orchard and Raffles Place MRT stations and on the platforms of Bishan, Dhoby Ghaut and Outram Park. This service will be extended to another 32 stations by the end of this year.

Commuter Dan Chua, 25, a market researcher, said: "Onboard Wi-Fi will be good for times when the telco signal is poor, such as in tunnels."

The first batch of four trains under this tender will be commissioned for use in the middle of 2018.

All 12 trains are targeted to be put into service by early 2019.

In total, 57 new trains will be added to the North-South and East-West lines from next year to 2019, which will boost capacity on the lines by about 40 per cent.