Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan wrote a Facebook post on Sunday (11 March), saying that the ministry is focusing on the re-signalling of the East-West Line (EWL) and asked for passengers' patience during the process.
The minister stated that the new signalling system on the North-South Line has been stabilised, adding, "Learning from the NSL experience, we are intensifying testing of the system, without passengers. This means doing so during engineering hours. That is why the ECLO (Early Closure, Late Opening) is so useful to us."
"Extra engineering hours provides us with longer blocks of time on the train tracks. With ECLO for the entire EWL, we are also able now to test the new system for the entire line, and not just partial stretches," he stressed.
However, the minister did not provide details on when the tests would start, the periods of the day that the tests would be conducted or how long they would go on for.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) announced last year that they will trial the new signalling system on the North-South Line (NSL) during the last hour of passenger service from 28 March 2017 at around 11 pm for about 10 minutes, after more than six months of tests during non-revenue hours.
The authorities then stated that following the successful weekday trials during the last hour of passenger service since 28 March 2017, the trial of the new signalling system for the NSL was extended to a full day on Sundays from 16 April 2017.
However, the minister told Parliament last September that the trials led to multiple delays for NSL commuters before the new system stabilised. In June 2017, there were 27 delays.
The delay still occurred to date. In February 2018, there were at least five delays along the line, on 13 February it happened twice a day and the last one was without an announcement from SMRT.
"We were at the Operation Centre to observe the testing on both NSL and EWL as we run them all on the new signalling system," wrote Mr Khaw, posting pictures of him to SMRT's Operations Control Centre to observe tests on the NSEWL of the new signalling system, which allows trains to arrive at shorter intervals during peak hours.
"Testing allows us to calibrate and tune the signalling equipment on each train. That is why re-signalling is so complicated and time-consuming," he added.
"We plan to extend testing to revenue hours, i.e. with passengers on board. Expect glitches and delays. I urge commuters to bear with us and thank them for their patience," the minister noted.
This announcement follows a statement by SMRT and LTA last week that late openings and early closures would extend beyond June this year as the transport operator continues to renew the NSEWL’s critical rail systems, including the signalling system, power supply system and track circuit system, which is used to detect the location of trains on the line and facilitate speedier recovery from a signalling system failure.
The authorities noted that parallel shuttle buses will be provided between affected MRT stations, advising commuters to plan their journeys in advance, and seek alternative transport via other MRT lines or bus services where possible.
"They can also get the latest updates on affected train services and alternative transport arrangements on LTA and SMRT’s websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds," it added.