Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, has officiated the completion of the sleeper replacement programme on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) on Friday (20 January).
Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that this marks a significant milestone of a four-year effort to improve commuter experience on the 29-year-old NSEWL, Singapore’s oldest and most heavily-utilised rail lines.
As the project has been completed, the trains on the lines will run faster with speed restrictions being lifted.
LTA noted that the 188,000 wooden sleepers have been in use since the NSEWL started operations close to thirty years ago, and were nearing the end of their useful life.
In August 2013, LTA and SMRT embarked on a multi-year project to replace these ageing wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers, along all 200km of tracks on the NSEWL. Besides being more durable, the completion of the sleeper replacement will also improve journey times and provide commuters a smoother ride.
LTA said that a commemorative plaque, signed by Minister Khaw, will be installed at Clementi MRT Station, where the last batch of wooden sleepers were replaced with concrete sleepers on the westbound track on 20 December 2016.
Mr Chua Chong Kheng, Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) Deputy Chief Executive (Infrastructure and Development), said, “Sleeper replacement is one of the key projects in our efforts to renew and improve the performance of the NSEWL. In the coming months, we will also see the completion of re-signalling works on the North-South Line, and the third rail replacement project.”
“The renewal and upgrade of our oldest rail lines, coupled with the more rigorous maintenance regimes by the operators, will contribute towards more reliable, comfortable, and faster rides for our commuters,” he added.
SMRT Trains Managing Director, Mr Lee Ling Wee, said, “Reliability and safety enhancement were the key drivers to our push to renew all wooden sleepers completely. It has been a challenge for us to undertake such extensive rail renewal work while continuing to run services every day. Almost 1,000 staff from LTA, SMRT and its contractors have worked tirelessly to complete the sleeper replacement project on time, and we thank them for their hard work and perseverance.”
“We also thank the commuters for their patience as we introduced temporary speed restrictions for safety and early closure and late weekend openings of stations to give our engineers more time to work on the tracks. This is the first of many milestones to come, and we look forward to the completion of our re-signalling and third-rail replacement projects which will improve the journey experience for all commuters,” he said.
SMRT had slowed down train speeds along NSL – from the usual 80 kmh to the current 40 kmh – while the old timber sleepers on train tracks are being replaced with sturdier concrete ones.
Speeds have been reduced since works on replacing the sleepers began, which started in November 2012 following major disruptions on the NSL in December 2011. The disruptions caused hours of delays for commuters and SMRT was subsequently fined S$2m by the Land Transport Authority.
However, many netizens commented online that there is not any improvement on the line, even as the project has been completed.
Ying Ada wrote that this sleeper replacement program does not help with the train breaking down every time at Jurong East and Clementi Area.
Ken Ho wrote that he is a bit worried about the increasing speed, saying that he was on train and the train was swining so violently from left to right that it looked as if it is going to bang against the tunnel wall. He also said that it seemed to hit something on the rail track when approaching Kallang station from Lavender that he was wondering if it would be derailed and plunged into the river.
Amos Tan wrote that it is also time to upgrade the trains too, as the air-conditioner is warm and cabins smell really bad.