Plan for centre to test trains without disrupting services

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced plans for the integrated train testing centre during a visit to SMRT's new operations control centre at Kim Chuan depot yesterday.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced plans for the integrated train testing centre during a visit to SMRT's new operations control centre at Kim Chuan depot yesterday.PHOTO: ST FILE

Ready around 2022, it will allow robust testing of new trains away from the operational lines

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

To be located on a 50ha site at the former Raffles Country Club in Tuas - which was acquired last year 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 lines operations control centre (OCC) in Kim Chuan depot yesterday.

He said the ITTC 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 the 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 currently in place.

"This will enhance the service levels provided to commuters."


He added that the ITTC will also be able to handle integrated systems testing across all existing and future MRT lines.

"By providing the local rail industry with a test bed 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 the 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, 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.

SMRT's North-South, East-West lines' OCC was previously in Victoria Street, where it 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 OCC is 50 per cent bigger than the previous one.

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

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 operators) in the region."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Plan for centre to test trains without disrupting services'. Print Edition | Subscribe