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SMRT reaffirms pledge to serve commuters even better

1.         SMRT Corporation today (6 March 2015) outlined ongoing and new initiatives to strengthen rail reliability, and shared its multi-year plans to serve commuters even better.

2.         While there has been steady progress made in enhancing rail reliability over the past few years, as measured through train withdrawals for every 100,000 kilometres (which has dropped from 3.3 in 2012 and 2.2 in 2013 to a low of 1.05 in 2014), the recent incidents underscore the need to keep up our operational vigilance and maintenance efforts as new systems are brought in and ageing systems renewed.  These efforts are being carried out under key focus areas that encompass People, Process and Technology:


3.         Over the past three years, SMRT has increased the number of its engineers by 64 per cent and its technicians by 21 per cent. By 2018, the numbers of our engineers and technicians are expected to grow by another 39 per cent and 24 per cent respectively to meet with an expanded network and higher operating standards.

4.         At the same time, a comprehensive competency roadmap has been developed to build up our technical workforce. Collaborative training arrangements have been forged with educational institutions such as the Singapore Institute of Technology, local polytechnics and ITE Colleges to accredit our workforce with the necessary professional skills and qualifications.

5.         To meet with the higher work intensity of operations and maintenance that is needed to support the network, SMRT is also working closely with the Union to review the work schedule of our staff with a view to enhancing the maintenance regime, operational performance and workforce productivity.


6.         In terms of systems and processes, SMRT has improved its Staff Deployment System to be ready and responsive to incidents.  In the coming year, staff at our stations will be cross-trained so that they can act swiftly and effectively to resolve minor delays and disruptions where possible, before the technical teams arrive at the scene.

7.         To complement this, in the coming year, SMRT will be setting up a Maintenance Operations Centre to support and coordinate the response by maintenance teams to rail incidents. The Centre allows key subject matter experts to communicate with and direct front-line maintenance teams who are deployed on the ground, with in-depth diagnostic advice to expedite service recovery.

8.         We have also begun equipping all our maintenance teams with Mobile Operations Maintenance Systems (MOMS), a network of computer tablets configured to support SMRT’s maintenance needs. These tablets allow outfield maintenance teams on train viaducts and tunnels to have immediate and real-time access to our technical database and instruction manuals.


9.         We are continuing our efforts to exploit technology for better predictive maintenance and condition monitoring measures. Sensors are being installed on our passenger trains.  Since 2013, we have deployed the Linear Variable Displacement Transducers (LVDT) to detect potential faults on the third rail which supplies power to trains.  The instrumented trains are deployed on a daily basis on the North-South and East-West Lines to complement the track inspections at night, so that proactive remedial action can be taken.

10.       This year, SMRT intends to introduce more advanced sensors, such as lasers fitted on the underside of passenger trains, to provide real-time updates on the condition of our tracks.

11.       Since 2014, SMRT has benefitted from the expertise of a Technical Advisory Panel comprising local and international engineering and transport professionals in validating the technology development roadmap and system improvements.  We also regularly engage our counterparts from leading metros around the world to share operational and technical knowledge and to learn from their best practices.

Multi-year effort to improve reliability

12.       Track Renewal.  Working closely with the regulator, SMRT’s efforts to enhance rail reliability by renewing the ageing track system on the North-South and East-West lines are on track. The re-sleepering works on the North-South line are nearly complete, and from next month, commuters travelling along the North-South Line can expect a smoother ride as the speed restrictions are progressively lifted.  Once lifted, commuters can expect their journey time between stations to be as it was when service commenced, in some parts, nearly 30 years ago.  SMRT has also recently awarded the contract for the East-West Line re-sleepering works which is scheduled to start around April this year. The tender for the third rail replacement will close next week and we expect work to commence soon after.  As engineering time for such work is confined to a few night hours, it will take another 1-2 years before the track renewal can be accomplished.  Full completion of track renewal for the North-South, East-West Lines is an important milestone in reducing the track faults that have unfortunately from time to time afflicted the system and inconvenienced commuters.

13.       Re-signalling.  In tandem with the renewal of tracks, SMRT engineers are working on projects to replace the existing 30-year-old signalling system to a more advanced system. The new signalling system, when complemented with the fielding of more new trains, will allow us to increase train frequency.  We will then be able to deploy trains as close as 100 seconds from one another, a significant improvement from the 120 seconds headway that is currently allowable. This will lead to reduced waiting time and congestion on station platforms and trains especially during peak hours. The new signalling system is expected to be fully operational on the North-South Line by 2016 and on the East-West Line by 2018. This new signalling system comes with added redundancy features that will reduce the number of service delays due to signaling faults that is currently being faced.

14.       Trains Upgrade.  SMRT has also embarked on progressive upgrades of its ageing first and second generation train fleet. Design studies will be completed this year, followed by the testing of a prototype in 2016 and the systematic upgrading of the train fleet thereafter.  To ensure that we have sufficient trains available for service, the refurbishment work is being scheduled with the delivery of new trains.  When completed in 2018, these upgrades will address train components such as doors and brakes that have been the primary cause of delays owing to train faults.

15.       New Trains.   New trains are being added to increase the overall passenger capacity of the train fleets serving on the North-South, East-West Lines, Circle Line and the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. The progressive addition of 45 new trains for the North-South, East-West Lines over the next two years, 24 new trains on the Circle Line and 13 new trains on the BP LRT system will be a much welcomed development that will improve overall reliability and availability of the network, and lead to a better travel experience.

16.       Managing Director of SMRT Trains, Mr Lee Ling Wee, said: “The full lifting of North-South Line speed restrictions soon will mark a major milestone achieved under SMRT’s comprehensive effort to serve commuters better. Notwithstanding the challenges and constraints posed in upgrading a rail network that is fully operational every day, we will spare no effort to coordinate all engineering activities and ensure that service is delivered smoothly even with the concurrent upgrading works.”

17.       He added: “We do not take any incident for granted. Every incident is thoroughly investigated to determine the root causes of each incident to prevent future recurrence. Despite our best efforts and intentions however, commuters may still experience train delays from time to time. However, we are confident that when the North-South and East-West Lines are successfully renewed and the range of enhanced maintenance measures are fully implemented, commuters can look forward to a rail network with far better reliability. The task ahead is for SMRT to continue building trust by delivering continual improvements as part of this multi-year reliability enhancement programme.” 

18.       SMRT President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Desmond Kuek, further reiterated that: “Safety, reliability and service excellence are key in our ongoing efforts to improve the system and overall travel experience for our commuters.  We have made good progress and are encouraged by the support and understanding of our commuters.  We recognize too that clearly there is more to be done, and as quickly as possible.  SMRT affirms its continued commitment to serve the needs of our commuters.  We are focusing relentlessly on building our engineering and technical capability, strengthening our maintenance and service recovery, as well as upholding the morale and competency of our people.  We are confident that our efforts will progressively bring about better service in the coming months. ”