SMRT to put 12 new trains into service by early 2019

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SMRT CEO, who has sold his car and takes the MRT to work, says another six will be added by early next year

SMRT Corp's new chief executive Neo Kian Hong said six new trains will be put into service next month, with another six to be added by early next year.

In his maiden press event yesterday, during a visit to Bishan depot with Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Mr Neo said the 12 new trains "will add capacity and meet commuter demand on the North-South, East-West lines" - Singapore's oldest, longest and most heavily used MRT lines. The two lines now have a fleet of 186 trains.

The trains come with new features, such as enhanced air-conditioning to cope with peak passenger load, tip-up seats which will free up more space during peak hours, and several reliability enhancements.

For instance, an automatic alert will go off when a train's current collector device - the part which makes contact with and draws power from the third rail - is dislodged.

Reliability is a basic requirement, so we have to do that. But reliability alone is not enough, you have to sustain it at a level. SMRT Corp chief executive Neo Kian Hong

This will prevent major breakdowns such as the twin incidents in December 2011 which led to passengers being stranded in tunnels.

Mr Neo said he had "moved to near Shunfu, just to make sure I can take the train to work".

He had sold his car "earlier on, but I didn't want to buy a new car because it's more useful for me to take the MRT to understand the issues" of commuters.

The new chief, who took over from Mr Desmond Kuek on Aug 1, said he has set three "mission objectives" - to deliver reliability, sustainability and continuous improvement.

"Reliability is a basic requirement, so we have to do that," he said. "But reliability alone is not enough, you have to sustain it at a level."

He added that "continuous improvement is a culture we want".

"This is a trains company, and we will deliver," he said.

Asked when the new signalling system will deliver its shorter 100-second service interval - down from 120 seconds now - Mr Neo said: "Because it is a big system, whatever new project, we do it very systematically, very deliberately.

"There is a project ongoing to look at the headway between the vehicles. Headway is the one that allows us to shorten waiting time.

"But for now, it's an ongoing project, and at an appropriate time, we will let you know."

Commuter Lionel Tan is among those looking forward to that. The 28-year-old accountant, who usually takes the East-West Line, said: "The trains seldom break down now, and that is a good thing.

"But they are still very crowded, especially during peak hours. There is no difference in that area. We still have to wait for a few trains to pass before we can board one."

He hopes the shorter headways can be put into effect as soon as possible.

The new trains will account for 6 per cent of the entire fleet of North-South and East-West lines.

They will be able to carry 100, or 6 per cent, more passengers if the seats are folded up.