Netizens concern about transport fares as Govt plans to replace ageing trains on North-South, East-West MRT lines

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Monday (28 Sept) that it will replace the city-state’s two oldest MRT lines with 40 new trains from Canadian rail manufacturer Bombadier, which cost about S$337.8 million.

The LTA announced in a Facebook post today that the new trains will be rolled out progressively from 2024 to replace “the second and third generation trains” that are currently in service on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL).

“We had previously also purchased 66 new trains from Bombardier to replace the 1st generation trains that have served the NSEWL since 1987.

“This latest batch of 40 trains uses the same design and this will enable our engineers to deepen their skills and technical know-how in one train type!” it stated.

The trains will be equipped with a suite of condition-monitoring features for timely fault detection, more open spaces for strollers and wheelchairs users, train-borne gap fillers, as well as new LCD screens with train travel information.

According to the Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, combining the purchase of the replacement trains would result in economies of scale, lowering the purchase and operating costs of the trains, as reported by Channel News Asia (CNA).

“Once the replacement exercise is completed, we will have fewer train types, which also helps our engineers to develop deeper expertise on each train type,” he said during the signing ceremony for the contract at rail operator SMRT’s Bishan Depot.

The NSWEL’s operator, SMRT, will also sign a long-term service support contract with Bombardier. The 10-year contract is set to commence in 2022, which will also offer the option to extend for another 20 years, said SMRT.

Mr Ong highlighted that the arrangement will help to ensure low costs of train maintenance and allow Singapore to “tap on experts from around the world to keep our trains safe and reliable”.

“The 106 new MRT trains will enter passenger service from 2022 to 2026. When fully introduced, 53 per cent of the NSEWL (North-South and East-West Lines) trains will be brand new.”

The Minister added that the S$639.5 million integrated train testing centre at Tuas, which is set to begin from 2022, will also help to ensure that the new trains are “acclimatised to the local environment” before being allowed to go on service.

He described the first three generations of MRT trains as “workhorses” and “important markers of the Singapore story”, noting that the replacement is just a part of the Government’s multi-year effort to renew six-core systems on NSWEL.

Three of the six systems – which include the replacement of track sleepers, third rail and the upgrading of the signalling system – have already been upgraded, said Mr Ong. While the power supply replacements works are expected to be completed by 2023.

“It will enable better real-time monitoring, to predict and detect faults. If there is a power outage, the system can also automatically switch to an alternative source of power supply, improving overall resilience of the MRT network,” he added.

Netizens voice concern of an increase in transport fares

Over on social media, many netizens fret that there might be an increase in transport fares due to the trains upgrade.

They penned their thoughts in the comment section of CNA’s Facebook post – which covered the news – urging the Government to not use it as “an excuse” to increase the transport fares.

 

One netizen commented that since fares increment is “inevitable”, the Government should at least disclose to the public about the operation costs of the trains and where the profit would be used.

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