40 ageing trains on North-South, East-West MRT lines to be replaced

40 ageing trains on North-South, East-West MRT lines to be replaced

Singapore’s two oldest MRT lines will have 40 of their trains, which have been in service for at least two decades, replaced with new trains from Canadian rail manufacturer Bombardier. Deborah Wong with more. 

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s two oldest MRT lines will have 40 of their trains, which have been in service for at least two decades, replaced with new trains from Canadian rail manufacturer Bombardier.

The new trains, which were purchased for S$337.8 million, will be rolled out on the North-South and East-West Lines progressively from 2024, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Monday (Sep 28). 

They will replace 19 second-generation trains supplied by German engineering firm Siemens, first introduced in 1995, and 21 third-generation trains from Kawasaki-Nippon Sharyo, which began running in 2000. 

The new trains will be assembled at Bombardier's facility in Changchun, China, with parts sourced from Sweden, Germany and other countries.

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An artist's impression of the new train by Bombardier to replace the oldest fleet on the North-South and East-West lines. (Photo: LTA)

The trains will have a suite of condition-monitoring features, which will allow potential faults to be addressed before they affect commuter service, said the LTA. They will also have more open spaces for baby strollers and wheelchair users, as well as new LCD screens with train travel information. 

READ: New fleet to replace 66 oldest MRT trains from 2021

Monday’s announcement comes two years after Bombardier won a S$1.2 billion contract to replace 66 first-generation Kawasaki trains on the North-South and East-West Lines, which had been in service since Singapore’s MRT system began operating in 1987. 

All 106 trains for the two lines to be supplied by Bombardier will use the same design, the LTA said.

Speaking at the signing ceremony for the contract at rail operator SMRT’s Bishan Depot, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said combining the purchase of the replacement trains would result in economies of scale, lowering the purchase and operating costs of the trains. 

“Once the replacement exercise is completed, we will have fewer train types, which also helps our engineers to develop deeper expertise on each train type,” he said. 

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An artist's impression of the interior of the new train by Bombardier, which features tip-up seats. (Photo: LTA)

The two lines are currently served by 198 trains of six different types, supplied by different companies. 

On Monday, Bombardier also signed a long-term service support contract with SMRT, which runs the North-South and East-West Lines.

The 10-year contract will begin in 2022, and includes an option to extend for another 20 years, said SMRT in a statement. 

“This arrangement will help keep train maintenance costs low and allow us to tap on experts from around the world to keep our trains safe and reliable,” said Mr Ong.  

“The 106 new MRT trains will enter passenger service from 2022 to 2026. When fully introduced, 53 per cent of the NSEWL (North-South and East-West Lines) trains will be brand new,” he added.

READ: Plan to expand MRT network to 360km by early 2030s remains, despite delays due to COVID-19: Khaw Boon Wan

The S$639.5 million integrated train testing centre at Tuas, which will begin operations from 2022, will help ensure new trains are “acclimatised to the local environment” before entering service, said Mr Ong. 

Describing the first three generations of MRT trains as “workhorses” and “important markers of the Singapore story”, Mr Ong called on companies and organisations to contact LTA with “creative yet meaningful” uses of decommissioned trains to give them new leases of life. 

Replacing ageing trains is just one part of a multi-year effort to renew six core systems on the North-South and East-West lines, he said.

Three of the six systems – namely the replacement of track sleepers, third rail and the upgrading of the signalling system – have already been upgraded.

Power supply replacement works are currently ongoing, and on track to be completed by 2023, said Mr Ong. 

“It will enable better real-time monitoring, to predict and detect faults. If there is a power outage, the system can also automatically switch to an alternative source of power supply, improving overall resilience of the MRT network,” he added. 

The replacement of the track circuit system with one that can provide early warning and quick recovery for signalling system failure will be completed by 2024, he said.

These works will together come at a cost of more than S$2.5 billion, former Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in January this year. 

READ: Renewal of North-South, East-West MRT lines to cost more than S$2.5 billion: Khaw Boon Wan

Renewal efforts on the two 33-year-old lines have shown results.

Last year the East-West Line clocked 1.48 million km between delays of more than five minutes, up from just 408,000km between such delays in 2018.

The North-South Line managed to hit 1.43 million km between such delays in 2019, up from 894,000km the year before. 

“We now have a very reliable and affordable MRT system. We will remain steadfast in our goal of delivering a reliable, safe and affordable rail service,” said Mr Ong. 

“We have achieved this for today’s commuters, and must now focus our efforts on sustaining this for generations to come.”

Source: CNA/az(cy)

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