New fleet to replace 66 oldest MRT trains from 2021

New fleet to replace 66 oldest MRT trains from 2021

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has bought 66 new trains to replace its oldest fleet on the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL). Elizabeth Neo reports.

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has bought 66 new trains to replace its oldest fleet on the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL).

The LTA announced on Wednesday (Jul 25) that the trains, made by Canadian transportation company Bombardier, are set to arrive in batches from 2021. 

The first-generation NSEWL trains will be retired when the new trains enter service.

The "pioneer" set of 66 trains have been serving commuters since the NSEWL - operated by SMRT - started in 1987. 

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

Speaking at the contract-signing ceremony, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan remarked that "30 years of wear and tear is significant". 

"There is a limit to how much upgrading and refurbishment we can do to keep these trains running smoothly," he said. "Hence, after decades of service, it will soon be time to retire them.”

The LTA is considering preserving one or two of these "pioneer" trains for display to the public.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, LTA said it would call a tender for a contractor to scrap the first-generation trains. 

It is exploring the option of donating or selling a few of the trains for a good cause, and are in the process of engaging relevant agencies to discuss the viability of this option.

LTA said the conceptual design of the trains will be done in Germany, while the design coordination will be led by Bombardier’s team based in Singapore. 

They will be manufactured and assembled in Bombardier’s facility in Changchun, China. Once delivered to Singapore, the trains will undergo testing and commissioning before being put to service. 

Mr Khaw said Bombardier was chosen as it is a familiar partner, having supplied all 92 trains for the Downtown line. 

“There are many shared systems between the Downtown Line, and the 66 new trains on the North-South and East-West lines. This means that there will be synergies in technical expertise across all three lines in future.”

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

"PREDICTIVE" MAINTENANCE

As part of the contract for the new trains, Bombardier also has the option to provide long-term technical and logistics support to SMRT for 30 years. 

If SMRT takes up this option, then the cost of the whole package is S$1.2 billion. Excluding the maintenance, the cost of the 66 new trains is approximately $827 million.

Deputy Chief Executive for Infrastructure and Development at LTA Chua Chong Kheng said: “A successful and durable rail system relies much on an efficient and assured long-term logistics and technical support network, which we are confident Bombardier will be able to provide based on their track record and close working relationship with LTA and our rail operators. 

"The award of the contract to Bombardier will revitalise our oldest rail lines and improve rail reliability, as well as Singapore’s rail capabilities.” 

The new-generation trains boast a better design and new "predictive maintenance" features to improve reliability on the NSEWL.

The trains will have a suite of "condition monitoring" sensors and back-end analytic systems so that engineers can diagnose and rectify anomalies early, thus reducing the likelihood of the anomalies becoming train faults and affecting commuters.

Four of the trains will also be fitted with an Automatic Track Inspection (ATI) system of cameras, lasers and sensors, to also help detect rail defects and avoid train disruptions.

"CATER TO ALL  COMMUTERS"

“The new trains will be designed to cater to all commuters, including those with different needs,” said Mr Khaw.

“Without reducing the number of seats in the trains, our engineers have catered for wider spaces near the doors to allow passengers to enter and exit the trains more easily. 

“Parents with strollers, wheelchair users, and commuters with personal mobility devices or foldable bicycles will all be able to benefit from the new design.”

Mr Khaw also called for strong support from the public as the major assets on the North-South and East-West lines undergo renewal. He said: “strong public support is critical to the success of our renewal works”. 

“I am grateful for commuters’ patience over the past year and a half of Early Closures and Late Openings, or ECLO for short. The extra hours granted by ECLO have enabled us to accelerate the re-signalling of the East-West Line,” he said.

“We are halfway through the asset renewal programme for the North-South and East-West lines. Later this year, we will commence the critical task of renewing the power supply. Work on replacing the track circuits will also begin later this year. All these works will again require more periods of ECLO.”

Sleeper replacement, which started in August 2013, was completed in December 2016. Meanwhile, replacement of the power-supplying third rail was completed in August last year.

Rail operator SMRT has also completed the switch over to the new signalling system on the North-South Line, and the new signalling system has also been used on the East-West Line for daily passenger service since May 28. 

Source: CNA/ad (ra)

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