Commuters who use the Bukit Panjang LRT system can expect a more frequent and comfortable service, with two new train cars put into service yesterday and another 11 to be introduced over the next year.
Besides adding to the existing fleet of 19, the latest US-made carriages will also feature more handrails and strap-hangers, and an airconditioning system that provides better air flow through the cabin.
Priority seats are painted red for easy identification and solar windshields have been installed at the front and rear windows to keep commuters cool.
The 13 train cars will cost about $42 million, with the Government paying part of the costs and operator SMRT funding the remainder, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said.
When all of them are put into service by the end of next year, peak-hour capacity on the light-rail system will be boosted by about 50 per cent.
Train frequency between Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang LRT stations will improve, from the current 2.5 minutes to 2.2 minutes, the LTA added. Frequency for the loop between Petir and Senja stations will also shorten from five minutes now to 4.4 minutes.
Passenger numbers on the Bukit Panjang LRT have risen to about 51,000 a day and the extra carriages should ease congestion.
Mr Chua Way Ne, 26, a data acquisition analyst who takes the LRT every day from his home in Jelapang to Choa Chu Kang, said the trains are packed between 7am and 8am. "Some days, I'm unable to board and I just have to wait for the next train," he said.
Meanwhile, work is under way on two new platforms at Choa Chu Kang LRT station.
Mr Chua said the service has been improving. "When the LRT first started out, it kept breaking down, but now it's much better."
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim tried out the new carriages yesterday and said a joint SMRT-government team meets regularly to oversee the long-term maintenance of the 14-year-old network. "We monitor not only the delays but also the operational issues that may have an effect on the daily operation of the LRT system."
Giving an update on improvements to the Sengkang and Punggol LRT systems, Associate Professor Faishal said 16 new carriages are on track to arrive from 2016. The upgrade to a two-car system should also be in operation by the end of that year.