SINGAPORE: Peak-hour travel may become more pleasant for commuters in Punggol, with the start of two-car train services on the Punggol Light Rail Transit (LRT) East Loop during morning peak hours between 6.45am and 8.45am and evening peak hours between 6.15pm and 8.15pm.
The trains, which will travel at a frequency of every three to four minutes during the peak hours, effectively double the capacity of existing models from about 102 to 204 passengers each, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and public transport operator SBS Transit (SBST) said in a joint press release on Thursday (Dec 29).
"I've never really had a situation in which I've not been able to enter the cabin, even during peak hour,” Riviera resident Justin Hui told Channel NewsAsia. “But it has been quite a squeeze, so I do think that it's a good time for this to come about now.".
Two-car train services have kicked in on the Punggol LRT East Loop during morning and evening peak hours. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
Plans to increase train capacity were first mooted in 2012. There are now 57 train cars in the Sengkang-Punggol LRT fleet, following the purchase of 16 new cars in 2013, and about 119,000 commuters ride on the system daily, LTA said.
In the joint press release, LTA and SBST said the two-car system had been tested during off-peak hours since Dec 5.
Over next few weeks, SBST staff will be on the two-car trains to "attend to any technical problems promptly," the rail operator said.
In January, eight two-car trains were also launched on the Sengkang Loop of the service. A total of 32 cars of the 57 used on the system can now be modified to be coupled or form two-car trains, LTA said. Channel NewsAsia understands more may be modified depending on commuter demand.
Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng and other Pasir-Ris Punggol grassroots advisors visited Punggol LRT station on Thursday to witness the launch. They also visited the Punggol Point LRT Station on the West Loop, which opened to commuters on Thursday.
Said Mr Ng: "In the coming months ahead, when school reopens, I think the capacity that is now afforded to residents will be very, very welcome. So we are working together as a community to see how, with a growing town, we can ease traffic even better for residents - whether you are a car user, train user or bus user."
Two stations on the West Loop are yet be opened, with authorities saying that Samudera Station will open in March 2017 and Teck Lee at another date to be confirmed.
Two-car trains will also be launched on the Punggol LRT West Loop at a later date, authorities said.