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LTA: Trains on North-South and East-West Lines safe for service

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has issued a press release on Wednesday evening to address some of the issues relating to the 26 North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) trains that had defects found on them, emphasizing that the trains on NSEWL are safe for service.

It was earlier reported on Tuesday by FactWire, an investigative news agency that defective trains were secretly returned to CSR Sifang by SMRT without the public's knowledge. The news agency verified and documented the transport of defective train carriages from the SMRT Bishan Deport to the port.

In its press release, LTA stated that it had awarded the contract, 151A in 2009 to Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Sifang to design, manufacture, and deliver 35 new trains for the NSEWL. It added that the trains were progressively put into service from 11 February, following rigorous testing of their safety and reliability.

LTA described when and how the defects were found and the details of what will be done to rectify the defects. It also noted that the cost of shipping will be borne by the contractor.

However, LTA has yet to explain why this information was kept from the public until the report by FactWire was made this week.

Below is the actual text of the press release issued by LTA

Battery and Draughtscreen Issues

Prior to the commencement of passenger service, all new trains arriving in Singapore would be put through testing and commissioning. The same was done for the KHI-CSR Sifang trains. During such testing, there was an incident on one train where the cover of the train battery housing flew open due to a build-up of gases. The manufacturer took immediate action to replace its supplier and improved the design of the battery housing for all affected trains.

Incidents of cracks of the draughtscreen on five trains were also discovered. These were found to be caused by errors during the installation process and unrelated to the hairline cracks found on the 26 trains’ car-bodies.

It is not unusual to detect some defects on new trains.  We then take appropriate action to have them rectified by the manufacturer.

Hairline Cracks

In July 2013, during a routine inspection of the trains, hairline cracks on the surface of the car-body bolster were found. 22 of the 26 trains were in passenger service then. LTA immediately carried out further inspections. No cracks were found on other components of the trains.

Bolster Location
Bolster Location

Laboratory tests showed that these hairline cracks were due to localised impurity in the aluminium car-body material that occurred during the manufacturing process. LTA engineers and its contractor assessed that the hairline cracks would not affect the operational safety of the trains. To confirm this, LTA further sought the opinion of an independent third-party assessor, TUV Rheinland, which concurred that the trains were safe to operate.

Hairline crack on train bolster – 142mm in length (Photo - LTA)
Hairline crack on train bolster – 142mm in length (Photo - LTA)

Due to the nature of the defect, the most effective way of addressing it is to replace the entire car-body shell. As the trains were under warranty, we required the contractor to replace the entire car body shell. Hence, since July 2014, the affected trains have been progressively sent back to the factory for rectification works. The costs of the shipping are borne by the contractor.

To ensure that this unexpected occurrence did not affect our train deployment, LTA has been working closely with SMRT. The replacement of a train car body is time consuming and labour-intensive, with each car body replacement taking up to four months. Hence, to minimise the impact on our train operations in Singapore as well as the lack of facilities and space for repair works of this nature at our depots, only one train is sent back to the factory in China at any one time. We did not send all of the trains back at once as they were still fit and safe for service and we wanted to ensure sufficient train-availability for commuters.

Starting next year, with the arrival of more new trains for NSEWL and when trains currently undergoing resignalling are ready, LTA will be able to send two trains concurrently for replacement works. This will speed up the rectification programme and its completion can be brought forward to 2019.

As of today, the car-body replacement for five of the 26 trains has been completed. The car-body of the sixth train is being replaced. As per safety protocols, LTA, together with the contractor, will continue to carry out rigorous inspections to ensure that all trains are safe for service.