Bus maneuvering into Punggol temporary bus interchange near residential apartments at Punggol Central, located adjacent to the Punggol MRT/LRT Station (Photo by Kae Lee from Shutterstock.com)

Early closures to be implemented for NEL starting January 2019 due to renewal works

Early closures will be implemented for the North East Line (NEL) starting January 2019 to support intensified maintenance and renewal works of the line as it ages and maintenance needs to be stepped up to sustain a high level of reliability.

In a joint press release on Monday (17 December), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SBS Transit stated that a contract worth about $116.7 million for the mid-life upgrade of all 25 trains in the first-generation fleet of NEL has been awarded to CRRC Nanjing Puzhen Co Ltd.

The authorities noted that the line has been serving commuters every day since the line opened 15 years ago.

They stated that the mid-life upgrading works for NEL include installing a new condition monitoring system to monitor train performance more closely and facilitate better maintenance planning, upgrading trains’ air-conditioning, ventilation and passenger information systems for better functionality, replacing interior fittings of the trains, such as seats, panels and flooring, for more pleasant and comfortable rides, and detailed inspections on all the mechanical and electrical systems for the trains, with parts repaired or replaced where necessary.

According to authority, the mid-life upgrade of NEL trains will be funded by the Government under the New Rail Financing Framework (NRFF).

Works are scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2019 and are expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2024.

The authorities also noted that the trains will be renewed and upgraded one at a time at the NEL Sengkang Depot to minimise inconveniencing commuters.

LTA said that the NEL is one of our most reliable MRT lines, and has consistently achieved 1 million Mean Kilometres Between Failures (MKBF) in 2018.

From 4 January to 2 March 2019, NEL stations between NE12 Serangoon and NE17 Punggol will be affected by early closure at around 11.00 pm on selected Fridays and Saturdays. Train services for the rest of the NEL, between NE1 HarbourFront and NE12 Serangoon, will also operate with longer intervals of about nine minutes during the early closures.

From 8 to 30 March, NEL stations between NE1 HarbourFront and NE6 Dhoby Ghaut will be affected by early closure on Fridays and Saturdays and more details will be announced in due course.

Source: LTA.

During the early closures between 4 January to 2 March 2019, commuters travelling between Serangoon and Punggol stations in both directions will be able to reach their destinations using a dedicated bus service, Shuttle 21.

“The shuttle buses will stop at designated bus stops / bus interchanges near affected stations. Fares for the shuttle service will follow the same fare structure as the trains,” the authorities stated.

Source: LTA.

Southbound train services from NE12 Serangoon to NE1 HarbourFront will be extended to 12.09 am to facilitate connectivity. Light Rail Transit (LRT) services will also be extended to 1.10 am in Sengkang and 1.20 am in Punggol.

Source: LTA.

As last train timings vary for each station, commuters are advised to plan ahead by checking the station-specific timings at affected MRT stations, or through SBST’s website and social media platforms. Commuters should also cater for additional travel time when travelling between affected stations using the shuttle service.

LTA had bought operating assets on the NEL as well as the Sengkang and Punggol LRT lines from SBS Transit, and will take control of them from April this year as part of the NRFF and the value of these assets iwas estimated to be about $30.8 million, including trains as well as signalling and power systems, and  goods and services tax.

The move came after more than six years of discussion between the LTA and the transport operator, which brings all of the Republic’s rail assets under the Government.

Earlier in 2016,  LTA paid $1 billion to SMRT Trains Limited (SMRT Trains) to purchase the latter’s operating assets under the New Rail Financing Framework (NRFF) after discussions concluded for the transition of the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), the Circle Line (CCL) and the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT).

Last week, LTA also announced that Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) network will close earlier at 11.30 pm daily starting from Sunday (13 January) to enable SMRT to intensify and accelerate maintenance and system renewal works.