Trains on track to resume normal service: SMRT

Jeanette Tan

Beleaguered train operator Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) says that a train fault on its North-South Line on Thursday morning that caused service delays was an isolated one and will not impact its progress toward getting service back to normal frequencies and speeds.

An SMRT spokesperson told Yahoo! Singapore that a signalling fault occurred near Marina Bay station at 7:50am on Thursday, but this was unrelated to the two breakdowns last week that were caused by problems on its tracks.

“Signalling faults can happen at any time, and have happened on occasion before,” she explained, adding that the train’s signalling system is separate from the functionality of its third rail, which supplies electricity to its trains.

Turning to SMRT’s timeline for returning its trains on the North-South and East-West lines to pre-breakdown speeds, the SMRT spokesperson told Yahoo! Singapore that, as of now, the operator cannot put a date to achieving that goal.

“We’re still working with our consultants and are continuing our tests on the tracks, and it is only after we finish these tests and assess our findings from them that we can make further decisions about speed,” she said, adding that the time they have to run their tests is limited to the train service’s closing hours.

Addressing the issue of frequency, SMRT says it is now just two trains shy of its full strength of 106 trains on both its North-South and East-West lines during peak hours, up from its low of 93 in the immediate wake of last Thursday’s and Saturday’s breakdowns when 13 damaged trains had to be sent for repair.

Its spokesperson added, however, that with its current number of available trains, SMRT is maintaining its normal average peak-hour frequency of two to five minutes.

“We’re still waiting on the arrival of replacement parts for our two remaining trains, and we’re not sure when they will come in, so we can’t say when they’ll be back (in service) either,” said the spokesperson.

Delay on Thursday morning caused by signalling fault

Just as it looked like trains on the North-South Line were returning to original speeds and frequencies, southbound commuters were on Thursday morning let down again, this time by a signalling fault.

Commuters travelling into the city experienced jerky rides and extended pauses at stations on their way to their destinations, telling Yahoo! Singapore that their journeys were extended by up to more than 20 minutes.

Yahoo! Singapore reader Esther Chua said in a comment, “My regular train journey from Yio Chu Kang to Raffles Place takes 30 minutes, tops. Today it took 52 minutes.” Another commuter, MissJane Vain, wrote that the train she was on stopped four times in between Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio stations while on the way to Dhoby Ghaut station.

Even though the signalling problem was resolved within 13 minutes of it occurring at 7:50am, the problem seemed to cause a reverberating effect down the line.

As late as at 11am, commuter Stanley Tang told Yahoo! Singapore his train stalled for more than 10 minutes altogether at Novena and Newton stations.

Another passenger, Tan Zi Jie, added that the train she was on stalled in the tunnel for 10 minutes between Orchard and Somerset stations.

In a separate statement issued on Thursday morning, SMRT said one eastbound train headed for Raffles Place was rerouted to the North-South Line, and another nine southbound trains were turned around to head northward by Outram Park station, instead of going to Marina Bay, in order to mitigate heavy passenger traffic.

“We apologise to commuters if they experienced delays in their journeys this morning,” the statement said.