'No choice' but to test MRT signalling system throughout the day: SMRT

'No choice' but to test MRT signalling system throughout the day: SMRT

Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station Jun 28
Commuters during a disruption in train service at Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station on Jun 28. (Photo: Natasha Razak)

SINGAPORE: SMRT has "no choice" but to conduct checks for the new signalling system on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) throughout the day, SMRT Trains' CEO Lee Ling Wee said on Monday (Jul 10).

In a statement posted on the SMRT website, Mr Lee said that SMRT had to test the new system throughout the day because it was being added to an already operational MRT line and would take "years" if it were only tested at times of the day which were less busy.

"If we were to restrict the performance checks to only weekends, or engineering hours (i.e. 1.30AM - 4.30AM), it would take Singapore years to implement the new signalling system on the NSEWL," he said.

"This is why we have no choice but to conduct checks throughout the day, including weekday peak hours, when trains are running at high frequencies with heavy commuter loads."

Adding that the NSEWL saw about two million passenger trips every day, Mr Lee added that "it would not be prudent to shut down the lines for extended hours".

Responding to complaints about why the project was taking so long, Mr Lee said that no two railway systems were identical.

"The system hardware and software we have are customised for the unique local environment," he said. "While the system supplier had experience working with other operators in the world, they are unable to simply replicate the well-oiled systems of Taipei, Hong Kong and London, and import those here."

The NSEWL has experienced multiple disruptions over the signalling system test period, with commuters taking to social media to voice their frustration. At the end of June, train services on the North-South Line were halted for nearly two hours due to a signalling fault. Part of the East-West Line was also disrupted.

Mr Lee said that SMRT was "keenly aware" of commuter feedback and inconvenience.

"I would like to assure commuters that we are working hard to get over with this phase of system renewal on the NSEWL," he said.

He added that safety was of "paramount importance" and that the team were not taking any chances as far safety was concerned.

Unlike with the Circle Line incident last year - when SMRT had to conduct extensive tests to find out what was causing intermittent signalling issues in September and November - Mr Lee said that a "planned" approach was being used this time.

"This is unlike the Circle Line incident in 2016 when we dealt with unknown unknowns," he said. "We are adopting a planned, systematic approach to identify and rectify the issues in our signalling trials."

Source: CNA/nc