CEO of SMRT Trains, Lee Ling Wee (not to be confused with SMRT Corp CEO Desmond Kuek) has said in a statement that there’s no choice but to test the new signalling system on the North-South and East-West Lines throughout the day, including peak hours.
He said that if SMRT only tested the trains in the odd hours of the morning or weekends, then the process would take years.
“If we were to restrict the performance checks to only weekends, or engineering hours (i.e. 1.30AM – 4.30AM), it would take Singapore years to implement the new signalling system on the NSEWL. This is why we have no choice but to conduct checks throughout the day, including weekday peak hours, when trains are running at high frequencies with heavy commuter loads.”
Lee said that it “would not be prudent” to shut down the lines for “extended hours as the NSEWL sees about 2 million passenger trips every day.
“The system hardware and software we have are customised for the unique local environment. While the system supplier had experience working with other operators in the world, they are unable to simply replicate the well-oiled systems of Taipei, Hong Kong and London, and import those here.”
The NSEWL left many commuters frustrated after suffering multiple disruptions during the signalling system test period.
The worst of those disruptions came at the end of June, when train services on the North-South lines were halted for nearly 2 hours.
Parts of the East-West Line were also disrupted.
Lee said that SMRT was “keenly aware” of commuter feedback and inconvenience.
He said that safety was of “paramount importance” and that the team wasn’t taking any chances.
“I would like to assure commuters that we are working hard to get over with this phase of system renewal on the NSEWL.”