Hairline cracks have been found on 11 first-generation Sengkang-Punggol LRT (SPLRT) trains, SBS Transit and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a joint statement on Friday (Sept 9).
The trains were withdrawn from service as a precautionary measure after the discovery of the defects during SBS Transit’s fleet-wide inspection in July. Six of the trains have been repaired and returned to service.
The remaining five are expected to be reinstated by the middle of next month.
The cracks were found on the bogie frames of the trains and do not compromise its weight bearing property, said the statement. One of the core functions of the bogie frame is to support the guidance system of the trains.
Location of crack on bogie frame:
An independent assessor, TUV Rheinland, and the manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) had separately assessed that the defects are not safety-critical, the statement added.
Friday’s news came about two months after Hong Kong news agency FactWire broke the news that 26 China-made SMRT trains hairline cracks were found to have hairline cracks and would be sent back in batches to their manufacturer’s plant in China for repairs.
An LTA spokesperson said checks by SBS Transit were “intensified” after the discovery of cracks on the Kawasaki-Sifang MRT trains operated by SMRT. “The latest checks concluded that there are no new discovery of cracks on the other lines. The operators will continue to carry out regular inspections on all train components,” she said in response to TODAY’s queries.
The FactWire report on the SMRT train defects, which was published in early July, sparked a public outcry. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had described the cracks on the SMRT trains – the first of which was discovered in July 2013 – as a routine matter that had been “mis-spun into a controversy”. He added that had the hairline cracks found on the trains compromised safety or service availability, the authorities would have released the information “immediately”.
While SMRT did not withdraw the affected trains from service before they were sent for repairs, in order to minimise disruption to train operations, SBS Transit said it immediately pulled the affected trains from service as it had adequate capacity to keep operations going.
A sample of the affected bogie frame has been sent to MHI’s research and development centre in Japan to determine the cause. When contacted, an MHI spokesperson said it is unable to comment as a detailed analysis is being carried out.
The affected trains have been operating since the SPLRT was launched in 2003. There are a total of 57 trains in the SPLRT fleet and a maximum of 36 trains are deployed at any one time, SBS Transit and LTA said. The operator has been inspecting all its LRT trains on a weekly basis for any new defects.
SBS Transit and LTA said they are working with MHI to “redesign, strengthen and replace” the bogie frame structures on all 57 trains. They added: “The detailed improvement timeline is being worked out and MHI will bear the replacement costs.”
The LTA spokesperson said there was no need to ship the affected trains back to Japan as the rectification works were “less complex” as compared to the works to rectify the hairline cracks on the 26 SMRT trains.
Mountbatten Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for transport noted that the Government was more transparent in sharing information about the latest discovery of hairline cracks.
The defects of the 26 SMRT trains had “caused quite a bit of alarm” among the public as to whether there was a cover-up, he noted.
“Having learnt a precious lesson that if you don’t tell people, people (will) speculate and attribute all sorts of unsubstantiated comments about why (the) trains are being brought back,” said Mr Lim. “So to avoid any kind of speculation, then I think (LTA and SBS Transit) felt that in this case (it would be) better to tell… although they assessed (the hairline cracks) not to be a major issue.”