New rail facility in Tuas aims to reduce MRT line testing closures

To be located on a 50ha site at the former Raffles Country Club in Tuas, the centre is expected to be the first of its kind in South-east Asia when it is ready around 2022.
To be located on a 50ha site at the former Raffles Country Club in Tuas, the centre is expected to be the first of its kind in South-east Asia when it is ready around 2022.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore will build an integrated train testing centre (ITTC) to put new trains and rail systems through their paces without the risk of disrupting service on operational lines.

To be located on a 50ha site at the former Raffles Country Club in Tuas - which had been acquired for the suspended Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project - the centre is expected to be the first of its kind in South-east Asia when it is ready around 2022.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced the centre on a visit to rail operator SMRT's new North-South, East-West line operations control centre (OCC) in Kim Chuan depot on Wednesday morning (April 24).

He said the test centre will be modelled on similar facilities in Germany, South Korea and Japan.

"It will cost us a few hundred million to build," he said. "It is a worthwhile investment."

He explained that the centre will be able to carry out testing "robustly, round the clock", and away from operational lines.

"This will free up limited engineering hours, and reduce the need to close our MRT lines," he noted, referring to the early closures and late openings in place on Wednesday. "This will enhance the service levels provided to commuters."

 
 
 

He added that the centre can also handle integrated systems testing across all existing and future MRT lines.

"By providing the local rail industry with a testbed for understanding the intricacies of new rail systems, the ITTC will deepen our railway operations and maintenance expertise," he said, adding that this would enhance rail reliability.

The minister said that when the centre is ready by 2022 or so, it will be in time to receive new trains and systems for Circle Line 6 for testing.

"By that time, the North-South and East-West lines will be completely renewed too," he said, referring to the upgrading of power systems, trains and track circuits on the two oldest lines.

In earlier estimates, these three renewal projects were slated to be completed by 2024.

Three earlier major asset renewal projects have been completed, namely resignalling, and sleeper and power rail replacements.

As a result, the two lines have become less prone to breakdowns, although train speeds have not yet returned to pre-2011 levels.

Transport economist Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said: “Testing is a business. I think it would be good to develop our capacity to do this so that we might be able to provide the service (to other operatrors) to the region.”

SMRT's North-South, East-West line operations control centre was previously in Victoria Street, where it had operated for 32 years. With its move, Kim Chuan depot is now the nerve centre for the two oldest lines as well as the Circle Line. The new operations control centre is 50 per cent bigger than the one in Victoria Street.

The operator has also moved its headquarters from North Bridge Road to Paya Lebar Quarter.