Desmond Kuek: Spate Of Train Disruptions Underscores Need For Continued Vigilance And Maintenance

The recent spate of train disruptions underscores the need for SMRT to keep up its vigilance and maintenance efforts, said its President and Group CEO Desmond Kuek.

Mr Kuek was speaking at a media conference on Friday morning (Mar 6), following a series of train disruptions.

The most recent were on Tuesday, where two disruptions during the morning and evening rush hour along the Circle Line and East West Line, respectively, brought trains to a stop. SMRT issued an apology for the disruptions later that day.

Mr Kuek said that there has been steady progress made in enhancing rail reliability over the past few years. The number of train withdrawals for every 100,000 kilometres dropped from 3.3 in 2012 to 2.2 in 2013, and a low of 1.05 last year, he said.

With new systems are brought in and ageing systems are renewed, the train operator has also expanded its engineering and technical staff, and is looking to recruit more over the coming three years, he added.

By 2018, the number of SMRT engineers and technicians is expected to grow by 39 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively. This is to meet with an “expanded network and higher operating standards”, the rail operator said in a press release on Friday.


Over the next two years, a total of 45 new trains will progressively be added to the North-South and East-West Lines, while the Circle Line will have 24 more new trains. Thirteen new trains will also be added to the Bukit Panjang LRT system, SMRT said.

According to SMRT, a new fleet of trains will be introduced in 2018 to address components such as doors and brakes that have been the primary cause of delays owing to train faults. 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, the rail operator added.

To reduce track faults on the East-West Line, SMRT said it will commence re-sleepering works starting April this year and the track renewal is set to complete by 2017. The re-sleepering works on the North-South line are close to completion, and commuters can expect a smoother ride from next month as the speed restrictions are progressively lifted, SMRT said.

SMRT also said a new signalling system will be installed to increase train frequency, leading to reduced waiting time and congestion on station platforms and trains. It is expected to be fully operational on the North-South Line by 2016 and on the East-West Line by 2018.


Responding to the SMRT statement later on Friday, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said the agency “fully empathises with commuters’ frustrations over the recent spate of service disruptions on the SMRT rail network”. The LTA is working with SMRT on remedial actions to improve the situation, the spokesman added.

While pointing out that SMRT has made improvements to strengthen its maintenance regime, the LTA spokesman said that the incidents in the past weeks “are a reminder that there is more to be done”. LTA said that it will work with SMRT to review SMRT’s management of resources and processes relating to the maintenance of the rail system to “identify areas for improvement”.

The LTA said it will also work with SMRT to improve its recovery processes, and will require SMRT “to deploy additional staff and resources to facilitate faster service recovery, crowd management and information dissemination. For instance, more service ambassadors will be deployed to better assist commuters in the event of a service disruption”.

This report was edited at Mar 6, 4.45pm, after SMRT and LTA clarified that the number of train withdrawals for every 100,000km was 1.05 in 2014, not 1.0 as SMRT announced at their morning press conference.


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