The multi-year renewal of two of Singapore’s oldest and most heavily used MRT lines will cost more than S$2.5 billion, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on 2 January.
The renewal programme for the North-South and East-West MRT lines includes a replacement of the power supply system, track circuits and first-generation trains.
The first phase of the renewal involved replacing the rail sleepers, third rail and signalling systems of the two lines which are more than 30 years old, having been opened in 1987.
The Minister announced that the second phase of the programme was already underway.
Mr Khaw revealed the cost of renewal program during a visit to the Bukit Batok Station along the North-South Line on Thursday. The programme, started in 2013, is expected to be completed by 2024.
The minister remarked that the most complex of the three remaining projects was the renewal of the power supply system, which at this point is already about 40 percent completed.
Once completed, the system will allow for both lines to accommodate more trains, thus reducing waiting times for commuters.
Scheduled to be completed by 2023, the power supply system renewal will involve replacing approximately 1,300km of electric cables, 206 transformers, 172 switchboards and equipment in 171 substations, as well as laying down about 250km of fibre optic cables. The fibre optics will allow for real-time monitoring of the two lines.
As for the renewal of track circuits, Mr Khaw said it is about 25 percent completed.
He added that the new trains could be deployed next year as they are now being built overseas by Canadian engineering group Bombardier. The company was awarded the trains supply contract worth $S1.2 billion in 2018, which includes supplying 66 new trains and providing service support for the 30-year lifespan of the trains.
Besides upgrading the old lines, Mr Khaw also noted that expansion of the rail network continues. He highlighted that the government’s spending will “peak during the next two decade” as announced projects like the Thomson-East Coast Line, Jurong Region Line, Circle Line and Cross Island Line are constructed.
The first phase of the Thomson-East Coast line is scheduled to open later this month while the Cross Island Line is projected for completion in 2031. But then, the country’s rail network would have doubled to 360km.
Beyond that, Straits Times said in its article that observer are estimating at least another two lines beyond 2031, given that the 2040 Land Transport Master Plan noted that a new line parallel to the North-South Line is being studied.
“2020 will be better”
During his visit, the Minister had also commented that 2019 was “a very good year” for the MRT, with the network recording more than one million train-kilometres between delays in the first nine months. That is 18 times better than 2011’s figure and comparable to only a few other rail systems around the world.
However, Mr Khaw also cautioned transport workers present from being too complacent. He said: “Remember: this is a continuous commitment.”
“Today’s reliability does not guarantee tomorrow’s. We have to stay vigilant and diligent all the time,” he added.
Mr Khaw concluded by saying that 2019 was good for public transport and that “2020 will be better”.
Was 2019 good for public transport?
In mid-December 2019, commuters experienced delays as the Nort-South line service was suspended due to a signal failure between Kranji and Bukit Gombak during morning rush hour.
While SMRT deployed free shuttle busses, they seemed unable to cope with the volume of commuters, judging by the multiple social media postings about frustrating delays of busses and ill-communication and crowd management by ground staff.
In June 2019, a power fault caused delays along the North-South Line. Though for this one, no free bus service was mentioned and commuters were only told that the would be some delays on train arrival times.
One month before in May 2019, the North-South Line experienced another morning rush hour delay. Though transport operator SMRT didn’t announce the disruption via its social media platforms, commuters said that the delay was caused by a track fault at Ang Mo Kio which caused delays in the Southbound service towards Marina South Pier.
Though to be fair, those delays could be chalked up to teething pains from the upgrades made on the North-South Line.