Singapore

Khaw: More engineering hours needed to upgrade rail assets

More engineering hours are needed to allow for ageing rail assets to be quickly upgraded, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan. This means that train operating hours will likely be reduced.

So far, upgrading work has been done on sleepers and the third rail, said Mr Khaw. Sleepers are used to hold rail tracks in place, while the third rail supplies power to trains.

Work still needs to be done on the signalling system, the power supply, trains and track circuits, he added.

"That is why we need more engineering hours. This can only come if we reduce train operating hours. It is a zero-sum game," said Mr Khaw at the Future Railway Technology for Depot and Trains event, held at SMRT's Tuas West Depot yesterday.

WHEN?

He did not say when the shorter hours are likely to be introduced, or how long the reduction may be.

Mr Khaw was reiterating the call he made in Parliament last Tuesday, when he described the limited engineering hours as a "significant obstacle" to the renewal of ageing rail assets.

Engineering hours are currently limited to about three hours a night - when trains are not in service - though these have been extended on occasion to facilitate upgrading works.

The Bukit Panjang LRT line is currently starting service at 7am instead of 5.30am on Sundays for an eight-week period that started on Sunday to facilitate the replacement of rail mounting frames and rail expansion joints.

Mr Khaw also noted that while the Tuas depot, which opened in June, comes with a power substation that has increased the power capacity for the rail network by 50 per cent, existing equipment in the older substations has "aged significantly and is due for renewal".

The North-South and East-West lines were previously drawing power from four substations with the peak-hour power load at about 80 per cent of the network capacity.

This was anticipated to increase by an additional 25 per cent with the opening of the Tuas West Extension and completion of resignalling works, said Mr Khaw. This would force SMRT to tap backup reserves, he added.

"The need to reduce overcrowdedness in trains forced us to add new trains, further pushing the limits on our power capacity," he said.

He added that a "qualitative upgrade" to train depots is needed to build capabilities in predictive maintenance for its rail network. It includes adopting automatic vehicle inspection systems, which use cameras and sensors installed on tracks.

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES TODAY

mrtKhaw Boon WanTransport