Stage 2 of Thomson-East Coast Line to be delayed by another six months to Q3 2021

The Thomson-East Coast MRT Line will span 43km and serve about 500,000 commuters daily in its initial years. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A signalling fault that disrupted train services on the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line (TEL) on December 4 has contributed to a delay in the opening of Stage 2 of the line.

It has been pushed back by another six months till the third quarter of 2021 for a more thorough review of the rail system software, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Monday (Dec 14).

In addition, other major rail and road infrastructure projects are also facing delays of up to a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, it added in a statement.

Those affected include stages three and four of the TEL, the Cross Island Line, Jurong Region Line, Circle Line stage 6, and the North South Corridor expressway network which links the northern parts of the island to the city centre.

A major cause of the delay is the suspension of work during the eight-week circuit breaker period, which ended on June 1.

Other factors cited by the LTA include disruptions to the global supply chain for construction materials and a general manpower crunch owing to border closures.

It said the revised completion and opening timelines for these projects are still being finalised, and it will issue updates in due course.

Explaining the delay in Phase 2 of the TEL, the LTA said: "The recent disruption of TEL prompted LTA to review the software of the system, which contributed to the delay, more thoroughly with our contractor.

"As rail systems are complex, it is better that we try to iron out as many teething issues as possible before opening the next phase. This is a key reason why TEL is being opened in phases."

The signalling problem disrupted train services between Woodlands North and Woodlands South stations for more than five hours in the morning, including the peak hours.

Together with Woodlands station, the two stations fall under stage one of the TEL, which has been open since Jan 31.

TEL operator SMRT later said the fault was caused by a software glitch in the signalling system's network component. As a result, the component had to be reconfigured before the system could be reset.

This latest delay is the second setback for TEL's Phase 2, which involves six stations from Springleaf to Caldecott.

The first was a three month-delay, with the completion date pushed from the end of this year to the first quarter of 2021.

On Monday, the LTA said construction has progressively resumed at all its work sites since June 2.

"Our contractors have been adhering to strict safe management measures at work sites, including mandatory daily temperature monitoring, using SafeEntry or TraceTogether to check in and out, as well as ensuring work is carried out in groups of no more than five workers with no inter-mingling between groups."

The chairman of the Transport Government Parliamentary Committee, Mr Saktiandi Supaat, told The Straits Times on Monday the delay is "understandable".

It is important to have a thorough review of the system and software to ensure things are done properly before the next phase of the TEL is rolled out, he said.

"On balance, due to the environment we are in now, it is understandable that there may be a slight delay."

He added: "I am sure many Singaporeans and commuters look forward to it - but with a smooth and safe opening, too."

The Government will expand the MRT network significantly from around 230km today to 360km by the early 2030s.

This includes opening the remaining stages of the TEL, Circle Line Stage 6, the North East Line extension, Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line.

Originally slated to be completed by 2024, the TEL will span 43km and serve about 500,000 commuters daily in its initial years.

It is Singapore's sixth MRT line, with a total of 32 new stations, including eight interchange stations.

The Circle Line 6 (CCL6) extension, originally slated to be operational in 2025, will add three stations between HarbourFront and Marina Bay MRT stations.

Phase 1 of the Cross Island Line (CRL), which will serve residential and industrial areas such as Loyang, Tampines, Pasir Ris, Defu, Hougang, Serangoon North and Ang Mo Kio, was to be completed by 2029.

As for the North-South Corridor, it was slated to be ready by end-2026 before Covid-19 forced the delay.

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