Joint Release: SMRT and NTU to trial new monitoring systems on the train network to improve rail reliability

Singapore, 29 August 2018

SMRT and NTU to trial new monitoring systems on the train network to improve rail reliability

A unique sensor system that can accurately detect MRT train door faults and alert engineering teams in advance, is one of the fruits of a dedicated research collaboration between SMRT and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).

The new door sensors monitor air pressure, movement speed and power systems for the pneumatic train doors. Aimed at enhancing train reliability, the sensor system is now undergoing trials on a train serving Singapore’s North-South and East-West Lines, and will progressively be implemented in phases across the network. 

This is one of 13 ongoing projects under development at the SMRT-NTU Smart Urban Rail Corporate Laboratory, which was officially opened today by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF).

The $60 million joint lab was established through a partnership between NTU and SMRT, supported by NRF that began two years ago.

The lab is one of 12 corporate labs supported by the NRF, which facilitates the setting up of corporate labs via public-private partnerships.

NRF CEO Professor Low Teck Seng said, “NRF has facilitated the setting up of several corporate laboratories so that universities can work with companies to carry out industry-relevant research.  We are encouraged that the partnership between SMRT and NTU has derived solutions that can now be deployed to improve rail operation and benefit commuters. We will carry on our work to strengthen the link between researchers and companies so that R&D continues to improve the competitiveness of our companies and the lives of Singaporeans.”

The joint lab is also the sixth NRF-supported corporate lab located on NTU’s Smart Campus.

NTU President Professor Subra Suresh said, “The NTU Smart Campus is already a hotbed of cutting-edge technologies, which aims to demonstrate how tech-enabled solutions can benefit and improve society. The innovative research undertaken by the SMRT-NTU Smart Urban Rail Corporate lab attests to NTU’s drive in ensuring that research remains relevant, impactful, and beneficial to society. The joint lab also provides an interdisciplinary training platform for our students and researchers, allowing them to be at the forefront of new technologies as we nurture highly skilled technology leaders.”

SMRT Corporation Group CEO, Mr Neo Kian Hong, said, “We have been putting in a lot of effort to improve rail reliability and sustain the progress made. At the same time, we will tap on top-notch engineering resources in Singapore to solve problems that affect our train services, such as train door, track or power supply issues. We will work closely with the Land Transport Authority to test these new technologies on our network, and eventually implement them island-wide to improve the MRT services we provide to the public.”

More trials on track to enhance rail reliability 

Starting next year, three other innovations developed at the joint lab will begin network trials.

The first is a train mounted, real-time condition monitoring system that can pick up defects on the power rails and running rails along the network in advance. It achieves this by using radio frequency technology to monitor the electrical contact between the trains and the track.

Expected to start trials in the first quarter of 2019, this will allow speedier intervention by engineering teams, minimising the risk of service delays due to track faults.

Another innovation automates the inspection of train axles using a portable robot that comes equipped with a track-mounted sensor. 

The automated inspection system saves time and manpower costs, as checks can be done without disassembling the train wheels and axles from the train bogie. Train safety will improve as inspections can be carried out more frequently, and the system is targeted for trials by the second quarter of 2019.

A high precision mobile laser-cladding repair system that uses laser technology to repair defective rails is also being developed. Worn-out rails could be repaired overnight (within regular servicing hours) rather than over three nights, as it currently takes. 

This would enhance maintenance productivity and reduce inconvenience to commuters as they would be less affected by changes to train service hours. The repair system will be ready for trials by 2020.

Please see Annex A for more details on the four projects.