SINGAPORE: Trains on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) will run faster with speed restrictions being lifted after the completion of the sleeper replacement project on Friday (Jan 20).
Since August 2013, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and operator SMRT have been replacing ageing wooden sleepers on the lines with longer-lasting concrete ones.
The replacement project is part of multi-year rail renewal efforts to increase train reliability on the NSEWL - Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily utilised rail line.
Currently, parts of the lines with newly replaced sleepers are limited to a speed of between 40kmh and 60kmh for safety reasons.
With the completion of the project, these speed restrictions will be lifted in phases on the lines, with all train lines to return to normal speeds of up to 80kmh by March, said SMRT Trains managing director Lee Ling Wee.
The last of the 92,000 sleepers on the East-West Line was laid on Dec 20 last year, said train operator SMRT and LTA in a joint release.
The replacement of the 96,000 sleepers on the North-South Line (NSL) was completed in April 2015.
LTA's deputy chief executive of infrastructure and development Chua Chong Kheng said that the sleeper replacement project was just one of many efforts to boost the NSEWL's performance.
"In the coming months, we will also see the completion of re-signalling works on the NSL and the third rail replacement project ... coupled with more rigorous maintenance regimes by the operators," he said.
Almost 1,000 staff from LTA, SMRT and its contractors were involved in the project, said SMRT, with replacement works typically taking place after service hours in the wee hours of the morning.
FINAL TESTING STARTED FOR NEW NSL SIGNALLING SYSTEM: LTA
On Friday, LTA also provided updates on the upgraded signalling system on the NSL, saying that final testing had commenced.
The system was initially projected to be operational by last year, but its launch was delayed for more "rigorous testing".
LTA said that it intended to conduct more than 1,300 tests, including simulations to ensure that the new system responds quickly and effectively to unexpected conditions such as the loss of communication signals, before putting the upgraded signalling system into operation.
"Given that the re-signalling works are complex, and international rail operators had advised that there were significant teething problems during their own projects, LTA will transit to the new signalling system progressively," the authority said, adding that this will start from March.
It added that it will begin using the new signalling system during off-peak periods when there is lower ridership, such as the last hour of train service and on Sundays, before using it during busier periods.
On the EWL, 85 per cent of similar re-signalling works have been completed and the new signalling system is on track to be operational in 2018, LTA said.
The authority said that the upgraded re-signalling system on the NSEWL will allow trains to be run closer together. This means that during peak periods, trains can arrive within 100 seconds of each other, instead of the current 120 seconds.
According to LTA, this higher train frequency during peak periods will result in an increase in train capacity of up to 20 per cent, offering commuters more comfortable rides.
The new system is also equipped with features that provide greater redundancies in the event of signal faults, enhancing rail reliability, it added.