Sunday 17 June 2012

LTA, SMRT to reduce number of trains pulled out of service

By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Jun 2012

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and train operator SMRT aim to reduce the number of trains pulled out of service on the North-South and East-West lines by 30 per cent next year. This would help to improve the reliability of train service on these two lines.

A team of engineers from both organisations tasked to look into reducing train disruptions said it has observed an upward trend of train delays lasting less than 10 minutes. This is primarily due to trains being withdrawn from service on the North-South and East-West Lines as a result of ageing assets and increased train frequencies.

In 2009, 243 trains were pulled out service. The figure more than doubled to about 529 last year. This means that for every 100,000 kilometre, 3.19 trains were withdrawn last year, compared to 1.65 in 2009.

And, the number seems to be creeping up again this year. In the first four months of this year, there were 234 train withdrawals. This translates to 3.91 trains withdrawn for every 100,000 kilometre.

The withdrawal of train services, especially during peak travel hours, has inconvenienced commuters.

The team found that the majority of train withdrawals were caused by train and signalling system-related faults. The remaining withdrawals were due to passenger-related incidents, such as when foreign objects were caught between train doors.

To address the train and signalling system-related faults, SMRT will refurbish and replace train components related to major sub-systems, such as the propulsion and pneumatic systems. The propulsion system is responsible for moving the train while the pneumatic system controls parts of the trains such as doors and brake systems.

SMRT will also be replacing older electronic cards and related equipment of the signalling system. A fault in an electronic card can disrupt signals sent between the trains and track equipment, leading to a delay or withdrawal of the train from service.

Over the medium and long term, SMRT will step up its maintenance regime. It is placing more emphasis on replacing and renewing its assets, over and above repairing and maintaining them.

This approach will see SMRT stepping up its maintenance capabilities and resources and taking more pro-active actions to preempt failures before they occur.

In the longer term, SMRT said it will carry out more comprehensive mid-life upgrades of the different generations of trains, as well as track-related replacement work in addition to the ongoing review of its maintenance regime.

These measures are expected to improve reliability further.

SMRT's Executive Vice President, Mr Khoo Hean Siang, said: "With the ageing of our system, SMRT is focussing on 'replacing and renewing'. We are committing the resources to ensure that our MRT system functions safely and reliably to cater to commuters.

"We are looking to use technology and tools to improve our analytical capabilities and spot problems before they strike. We are determined to press ahead with the changes we need to make to ensure that our system is one of the world's best metro systems."

LTA Group Director of Vehicle and Transit Licensing, Mr Colin Lim, added: "Together with SMRT, LTA has taken a deeper and systematic look at the recent train delays. The improvement measures will result in a significant reduction in train faults over the coming months. Going forward, we expect to see greater improvements in train service reliability in the medium and long term."

The team of engineers will continue to meet regularly and identify additional measures and other possible sources of improvements to enhance the reliability of the rail network.

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