SINGAPORE: Rail operator SMRT trialled the Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) system across the entire North-South and East-West Lines for the first time on Saturday (Mar 3) night – the largest-scale test of the new signalling system so far.
The exercise involved 95 trains and more than 100 train captains. Thirty signalling engineers and technicians were also on standby around the network to support the tests.
As it would have been unsafe for train captains handling regular passenger service to run trials all night and then go to work the next morning, SMRT also reached out to a group of former train captains – who are now in non-driving roles in the company – and Circle Line operators to help in last night’s trials.
Some of those who volunteered, coming back on their day off to take part in the trials, saw it as an opportunity to learn about the new system and stay current.
Mohamad Rezza bin Abdul Malek, 31, a train captain on the North-South Line – which has already been running full-time on the CBTC system – said taking part in the trials will help him better understand the system.
“Sometimes new faults do occur,” he said. “Every day is a learning process for all of us, so we try to be better at things we do."
The train captains were instructed to drive the trains as if it were a regular passenger service, and to report any abnormalities to the Operation Control Centre.
To give more time for testing, all 35 East-West Line stations closed at 11pm on Saturday and opened at 8am on Sunday.
This gave five full hours of testing time, compared to two hours on regular nights.
The rest of the time was spent preparing for the trials, and then getting ready for passenger service on Sunday after the trials ended.
For 55-year-old Ramli Rahmat, his role last night was to schedule the deployment of all the trains and drivers, getting them in place in time for the trials that began at 1am. Fifty trains ran on the East-West Line, with 45 more on the North-South Line.
The train schedule manager joined SMRT in 1986 in preparation for when operations started the year after. He was a train captain for 10 years before moving on to station operations and management.
“We have to make sure that each night we do the tests, it’s going to be fully successful," he said. “(The public) are somehow inconvenienced if we cut short the service of the trains, so we make sure that we make full use each and every time we do this night testing."
All 35 stations on the East-West Line will continue to close early every weekend in March as well as on Mar 12 and 14.
The extra time for testing and maintenance will allow SMRT to implement the new signalling system by June, instead of the end-2018 deadline which was set earlier.