Rail challenges in Singapore mirror that of overseas metros: SMRT advisory panel

SINGAPORE: Recent rail challenges experienced by SMRT in its signalling project mirror the experience of overseas metros like Hong Kong and London, according to a nine-member technical advisory panel set up by the Singapore operator.The panel - made up of local and international rail experts - spoke to the media on Friday (Sep 22) after its sixth meeting in Singapore. It was asked about teething issues faced in recent months, as trials of a new signaling system on the North-South Line take place.Commuters have experienced several train delays, due to glitches in the system.The new signaling system is expected to cut the wait time between trains, with tests beginning in March this year. Completion is targeted for end-November.When asked for his assessment, panel member and Professor of Railway Systems at the University of Birmingham, Clive Roberts, described the pace of work here as “adequate, if not a benchmark of a good practice”.

Still, he pointed out that having more than the current three and a half hours between revenue service, would help in maintenance and upgrading work.The professor, who also has experience working with the railway industry in Britain, added that Singapore does not have the luxury like London to close rail lines to carry out upgrading work.“There’s obviously a trade-off here. You can shut the line for a week and you can get it all done very quickly, but that just doesn’t work as a solution in Singapore,” said Prof Roberts.“The Singapore metro is a vital transport link and there’s no redundant networks and parallel lines which others can use. I think in the future as the network expands, there may be that opportunity which will allow those things to happen.”

Professor Lee Kang-kuen, who has been involved in Hong Kong’s MTR, also noted that the metro did not shut its lines when it carried out similar signaling works.Likewise, he added that it took about nine months for trials to be completed, and up to another nine months after the system was put into full revenue service before the system stabilised.“It is fairly natural that when commuters are facing all these disruptions and hiccups, they are unhappy,” said Prof Lee.

“The railway corporation just has to explain to them that these sort of things are unavoidable and the corporations are giving their best effort to resolve them and adopting the best practices in the industry.”Formed in 2013, the nine-member panel has been tasked to provide SMRT with independent advice in rail operations and maintenance, as well as the renewal and upgrade of assets and infrastructure.
Source: CNA/ly

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