SINGAPORE: A total of 26 of 35 trains delivered to SMRT in 2013 were found to have cracks, the public transport operator said on Tuesday (Jul 5). The cracks are in the structure of the trains connecting the car and the bogie (the framework carrying wheels), it added.
The defective trains, which are still under warranty, will be repaired by the manufacturer by 2023, managing director of SMRT Trains Lee Ling Wee said in response to media queries about a report by Hong Kong-based investigative news portal FactWire.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a separate statement that the defects "are not safety-critical and do not affect the train's systems or performance", adding that it has been working closely with the manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Sifang after defects were found on the trains purchased under C151A.
"The train manufacturer will be required to make good the defects as part of their warranty," LTA stated.
Mr Lee said its engineers discovered the cracks and since then, it has worked closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the manufacturer to rectify this issue.
"To ensure that the trains are safe for passenger service at all times, we have been monitoring the defects closely. A monthly safety assessment is also conducted by the LTA and manufacturer before the train is put into service," Mr Lee said.
"Trains on the rail network are extensively tested to ensure the safety and reliability of the train. Every train also undergoes a comprehensive regime of static and dynamic testing as well as interface testing to ensure its structural and operational integrity. After the testing is completed, the trains are delivered to Singapore for further testing before they are placed for passenger service," LTA said.
DETAILS OF RECALLS "KEPT SECRET": HK REPORT
FactWire had reported on Tuesday that China-made trains in Singapore showed "cracks in their car bodies and key structural components". As a result, 35 trains were shipped to their manufacturer for Qingdao for replacement.
FactWire claimed the details of the defects and recalls were "kept secret in both Singapore and China", and that the defective trains were stored at SMRT's Bishan Depot. According to the FactWire report, two train cars wrapped in green covers were moved out of the depot early on Jun 12, and arrived at CSR Sifang's factory in Qingdao, China on Jun 25. The report also alleged that "serious malfunctions on the SMRT's North South Line, which the SMRT suspected were caused by C151A trains" occurred in December 2011.
The news portal also uploaded a video on its Facebook page, purportedly showing the defective trains being transported to Jurong Port to be shipped overseas.
In 2009, LTA awarded a S$368 million contract to Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Sifang for 22 trains. The trains were to have been delivered between 2011 and 2012, and run on the North-South and East-West Lines.
The manufacturer has also built trains for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XLR) and Mass Transit Railway Corporation’s (MTR Corporation).
Last year, LTA signed a S$137 million deal for 12 more new trains from the consortium, to run on the North-South and East-West Lines as well.
7 YEARS "EXTREMELY LONG" FOR REPAIRS: ANALYST
Dr Park Byung Joon, a senior lecturer at SIM University, told Channel NewsAsia that the seven-year period needed to repair the train's defects "seems extremely long".
"Even if we need to replace the entire train, it could take probably a couple months ... (at) maximum. If something is going to take seven years to (be) repaired, it means that there are some critical, technical issues that they don't even have a solution to yet," Dr Park said.
The recall of 26 trains comes as Singapore works to rapidly expand its rail network. Authorities want to double the rail network to 360km in the next 15 years, with a new line or MRT extension opening almost every year until 2021.
Dr Park said having the defective trains out of service might not have a significant impact on the train system itself, but could still affect public confidence.
"We have had some massive disruptions before, and now (they) are slowly gaining back some confidence - and now this business pops up. This is going to have a very bad impact on customer confidence," said Dr Park.
SMRT declined to comment on how this latest development would affect current operations and its long-term plans to improve rail reliability.