Singapore

Train disruption on two major MRT lines — more delays expected as checks continue

Signalling system woes hit NSL, Tuas West Extension

Train disruptions yesterday that affected tens of thousands of commuters on the way home during the evening peak hours were blamed on a fault in the new signalling system being put through its paces.

Train operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the system is expected to "take a few more months to fully stabilise".

The North-South MRT line (NSL) went down after 5pm. While SMRT engineers were able to get the line up again within 10 minutes or so, trains were moving slower - by as much as 30 minutes and causing crowding at several stations.

It was about 7.20pm when SMRT said that service had fully resumed.

A signalling fault on the Tuas West Extension - which opened just over a week ago - also affected service between Joo Koon and Tuas Link stations at the same time, although things went back to normal just after 6pm.

The LTA and SMRT said initial investigations pointed to a "failure in the radio communication network" of the new signalling system.

The day before, they had warned that in the coming weeks, intensive checks on the new system could lead to delays if fresh issues emerged.

They added yesterday: "Unlike new lines where the signalling system can be fully tested before being put into... service, we have to continue full-day checks on the existing NSL even as service is ongoing."

There should have been enough measures taken. A fault shouldn’t cause an entire line to shut down. Sales manager Richard Tan, 46

Commuters affected by yesterday's shutdown of the North-South Line (NSL) had feared the worst when they were greeted by the sight of packed free bus services and long taxis lines during rush-hour traffic.

So it was a relief to many when trains serviced resumed about 10 minutes later, albeit at reduced speeds.

But with the shutdown coming on the back of Tuesday's delays on the North-South, East-West lines during the morning peak, commuters who find themselves needing a longer time for their daily commute are feeling increasingly frustrated.

Yesterday's situation was not helped when surge pricing by private-hire operators kicked in during the disruption.

At around 6pm, Grab's fare from Orchard to Jurong East was about $40, while Uber's quoted rate was $41 - both about double the usual fare. Both cited higher demand for the pricing.

Sales manager Richard Tan, 46, who was at the Orchard MRT station, tried to take a shuttle bus but ended up taking the train home despite the delay.

"This shouldn't be happening during the peak hours. There should have been enough measures taken. A fault shouldn't cause an entire line to shut down," he said.

Many other commuters who spoke to The Straits Times said they had endured several similar disruptions of late. Trials of the new signalling system - which allows trains to run closer to each other and therefore increase the line's service frequency and raise passenger capacity - started on March 28.

Added SMRT and LTA yesterday: "Although service recovery measures including free bus boarding were taken immediately, some commuters may have experienced longer waiting time as a result of train bunching. We apologise for the inconvenience caused." - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NG WEI KAI

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