SINGAPORE: Defects in 26 trains manufactured in China for transport operator SMRT were detected in late 2013, the Ministry of Transport said on Tuesday (Jul 5). It also stated in an FAQ-style article on the Factually section of the Singapore Government website that repairs for the trains will not take till 2023 as earlier suggested by an SMRT statement.
The full Q&A is reproduced below:
Why are MRT trains being shipped back to its manufacturer?
Defects were found during a check of new trains manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Sifang in late 2013. There were a few hairline cracks on the car-body. These are superficial cracks (like those that show up on the walls of a new house). They are not structural cracks and are not safety-critical.
Are these defects dangerous?
The defects are hairline cracks and are not safety-critical. They do not affect the train’s systems, performance or passengers’ safety.
Are the trains still under warranty?
Yes, they are still under the manufacturer’s warranty. As such, LTA are sending the trains in small batches back to the manufacturer for rectification. This is the appropriate thing to do to ensure we get the value for our money.
How can you be sure the trains are safe?
To ensure that trains are safe for passenger service, all defects are monitored closely. Monthly safety assessments are also conducted by LTA and the manufacturer before trains are put into service.
LTA also commissioned an external third party assessment in 2013 which had confirmed that the trains are safe to operate. As advised by the third party assessment, there has also been close monitoring of the crack propagation rate.
Why transport these trains in the dead of night?
Our trains are big and massive equipment. They are transported at night, with auxiliary police officers clearing the way ahead, to minimise obstruction and inconvenience to road users. Likewise, new trains that arrive in Singapore are transported on our roads at night.
Then why cover them up in green covers?
The green covers are to protect the trains, just as how we would bubble-wrap or enclose in boxes and styrofoam-pad electronic equipment, machinery etc, which we want to transport overseas.
Will the repairs really take 7 years?
No, LTA has negotiated with the manufacturer and it will be able to speed up the process. Trains are being sent in batches and the rectification work will be completed in 2019.
Hong Kong-based news agency FactWire first broke news of the defective trains being sent back to Qingdao, China, claiming that the recalls were being done "in secret". SMRT has said the trains on its rail lines are "extensively tested" to ensure safety and reliability.