SINGAPORE - A signal fault disrupted commutes along the entire Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) in both directions for about 3½ hours on Wednesday morning (July 6), and left some commuters stuck on six stalled trains.
SMRT said in a statement on Facebook that the fault started at 8.05am, affecting 19 trains in total between the nine-station stretch from Woodlands North to Caldecott.
The operator had first reported the signal fault on Twitter at around 8.25am, and said trains on the line were moving more slowly. At 8.40am, it said there was no service along the entire TEL – Singapore’s newest rail line – in both directions.
Train service progressively resumed from 11.20am, said SMRT, and free bus services and bus bridging services ended at 11.45am.
Commuters on 13 trains disembarked at the station platform within 10 minutes, SMRT said.
The remaining commuters on the six trains that stalled between stations disembarked by 8.50am at the nearest stations, SMRT said, without specifying how many commuters were affected.
There was full lighting and ventilation in the stalled trains while the commuters were on board, the transport operator said, adding that no one needed medical aid.
Engineers from SMRT, the Land Transport Authority and Alstom, which supplied the TEL signalling system, were activated within five minutes, the operator said.
Staff were also deployed to help affected passengers at all stations, and announcements were made in trains and at stations to advise commuters to take alternative modes of transport, it added.
“We are sorry for affecting your morning commute,” SMRT said.
A long line of commuters were seen waiting for the bridging bus service outside Caldecott MRT station when The Straits Times arrived at about 9am.
Those interviewed said they had been waiting for about 20 minutes for the bus, and that it took an hour in total before the first double-decker bridging bus arrived at the MRT station at 9.45am.
Logistics operations manager Ryan Lee was an hour late to work because of the disruption. He said he reached Caldecott station at about 8.20am after transferring from the Circle Line, and was told to queue for the bridging bus service.
“The SMRT staff were unsure of the bus arrival timing. At 9am, one said it was arriving in five minutes or so, but it never happened,” Mr Lee added.
The 35-year-old ended up taking a private-hire car to his workplace in Upper Thomson. “If they had told me it would take so long, I could have found alternative transport earlier. There are not a lot of bus options at Caldecott,” he said.
A commuter who wanted to be known only as Philip said the crowd at Mayflower station was about two to three times the usual size.
"There was a broadcast message at the station. It first said there was a delay, before announcing that there was no service," the 49-year-old civil servant added.
He had arrived at Mayflower station at around 8am and waited for 20 minutes before taking a taxi to his office in Ghim Moh.
Another commuter, who wanted to be known only as Ms Shen, 40, said she and her older sister were trapped for 40 minutes on a train between Mayflower and Springleaf stations after boarding it at about 8am.
The property agent said the disruption cost her a meeting in Woodlands with a new tenant she was supposed to sign a contract with, while her older sister, who had just started a new job this week, was given a black mark by her boss as she ended up being 1½ hours late to work.
“There was no driver on the train and no one we could turn to. Someone had even suggested pressing the emergency button to get attention,” she said.
The train eventually started moving again, and Ms Shen was able to alight at Springleaf. But the promised bridging bus did not arrive and the only regular bus to Woodlands would have cost her another hour.
“There was a lot of panic that went on as every minute passed, especially in an enclosed environment without any updates at all,” she added.
This is the third fault on the TEL in recent months.
On April 27, 50 commuters were stuck in a stalled train between Woodlands and Woodlands South stations for more than 1½ hours due to a train fault that morning.
On May 19, SMRT said a signal fault caused trains to move more slowly in both directions across the entire TEL, resulting in an additional 10 minutes of waiting time for commuters.
The TEL was opened in stages, with the first stage between Woodlands North and Woodlands South stations opening in January 2020, and the second stage - comprising six stations between Springleaf and Caldecott - opening for passenger service in August last year.
TEL Stage 3, which will comprise 11 stations between Stevens and Gardens by the Bay, is set to open later this year.
In preparation for this, SMRT and the Land Transport Authority have been testing the integrated systems and trains for TEL Stages 1 to 3 since early this year.
Between Feb 26 and May 29, train services on the TEL started later on weekends to carve out additional engineering hours for testing.