Thursday, 26 April 2012

Transport Woes #1

SMRT's Mr Quah hits it right on its head

The ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the breakdowns of Singapore’s train system last December has put the spotlight on the city’s population growth.

Mr Quah Siew Ghee, speaking at the inquiry, said given the growth in passenger traffic over the past few years, “you are just asking [for] this to happen sooner or later”, referring to the disruptions in train service last year which affected thousands of commuters. (Today)

Mr Quah speaks with some authority, given that he is chief controller at SMRT's Operations Control Centre (OCC).

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Same woes surface for both December train disruptions

The very problems that SMRT staff faced in the first major disruption to the train service last Dec 15 cropped up again two days later, when another disruption occurred.

One employee told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) in no uncertain terms on Wednesday that he was overwhelmed by the second disruption on Dec 17, and put this down to being understaffed.

He is from the Operations Control Centre (OCC), the nerve centre for the North-South and East-West lines located in Victoria Street.

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$900m upgrading for North-South and East-West lines

Train operator SMRT is biting the bullet and changing a slew of components and systems on its ageing North-South and East-West lines in the wake of a spate of breakdowns.

The programme - the most ambitious and comprehensive in the company's 25-year history - will be rolled out over the next eight years.

It will cost an estimated $900 million, and will be co-funded by the Land Transport Authority. The amount includes previously announced plans to change the two lines' signalling system.

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Ageing at 25

After two crippling train disruptions in December which affected a quarter of a million passengers, a Committee of Inquiry was announced to look into these two disruptions. So far, we have learnt worrying details such as how train operators were “not trained to deal with emergency situations”.

Yet, whilst the Committee of Inquiry has just started their work into investigating December’s meltdown, over the past 3 weeks, this writer has come across at least 11 reports of train delays (minor and major).

List of delays over the past 3 weeks:

Circle Line:

31 Mar [2] – 100 passengers affected for 10-28 min
5 Apr [3]
13 Apr [4]
16 Apr [5]
17 Apr [6]
18 Apr [7] – 18,000 passengers affected for 2.5 hr

East-West line:

8 Apr [8]
13 Apr [9] – 20-40 min delay
17 Apr [10] – 20-40 min delay
18 Apr [11] – 15 min delay

North-South line:
16 Apr [12] – 2 hr delay

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COI focuses on SMRT manpower

SINGAPORE: Manpower appears to be a constraint that limited train operator SMRT’s ability to manage the major train disruptions in December 2011.

Chief Controller (Operations) at the SMRT’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) told the Committee of Inquiry looking into the disruptions that manpower at the OCC was enough to handle emergency situations on the morning of 17 December.

Mr Quah Siew Ghee said on Wednesday that as the disruptions wore on, it became increasingly challenging to manage the crowds.

He told the committee that one cannot expect them to handle efficiently in such a situation if one wants to run at minimal manpower.

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Electrical faults to blame for recent breakdowns

The rail disruptions in the last two weeks were traced to electrical short circuits and component failures. But what caused these glitches in the first place is still being investigated.

  • April 8, 3.15pm: East-bound train service disrupted at Paya Lebar station for 45 minutes.

  • Traced to: Power supply loss to train's obstacle detector, which senses obstacles on the track. System tripped for safety reasons.

    .  April 13, 7.12pm: East-bound train service disrupted between Tampines and Simei stations for 40 minutes.

    Traced to: Pressure from pneumatic system, which powers train doors and brakes, fell below operating limit because of faulty control circuit.

  • April 16, 7.15am: Train services between Jurong East and Kranji disrupted for two hours in the morning and five minutes in the evening.

  • Traced to: Faulty screen doors at Kranji station.

    April 17, 7.21am: Train services between Jurong East and Joo Koon stations in both directions disrupted for 40 minutes.

    Traced to: Air compressors of train pneumatic system failing because of blown fuse.

  • April 18, 7.40am: Train service between one-north and Bishan stations on Circle Line disrupted for 21/2 hours.

  • Traced to: Defective insulation of an electrical fan caused short circuit in communications network which powers the signalling system. Back-up batteries kicked in, but alarm warning did not. System failed when batteries went dry after about seven hours.

  • April 22, 4.45pm: Train services on Bukit Panjang LRT system disrupted for 21/2 hours.

  • Traced to: Train drive shaft dislodged and affected the pneumatic system powering the brakes. Train stalled when parking brake engaged for safety reasons.

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    How will SMRT, LTA split the $900 million bill?

    SMRT'S $900 million programme to upgrade a slew of infrastructural and systems components on the North-South and East-West lines exceeds what it had spent on repairs and maintenance in the past 10 years.

    SMRT interim chief executive Tan Ek Kia on Tuesday said the cost will be co-shared with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), but would not say how the bill will be split.

    Neither would SMRT give many details on various parts of the upgrading programme.

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    SMRT’s whopping S$900M plan to prevent future breakdowns

    SMRT will be spending to the tune of S$900M to rectify faults on their North-South and East-West lines which will be co-funded by the Land Transport Authority. This amount exceeds more than what SMRT has spent on repairs and maintenance in the last decade.

    At a press conference held yesterday, SMRT interim chief executive officer Tan Ek Kia announced his plans and gave details of how they plan to replace several aging infrastructural and system parts, which include the replacement of metal claws, wooden rail sleepers, train propulsion system and train pneumatic system.

    “As the system ages, our maintenance regime needs to adapt from one that focuses on repair and overhaul, to one which also includes replacement and renewal,” Tan said.

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    S$1.1b bus expenditure to include addressing operational cost issues

    SINGAPORE: The government's plans to spend S$1.1 billion on increasing bus capacity is not just for buying buses, but also address operational cost issues.

    This was one topic discussed at a post-Budget dialogue, following Minister S Iswaran's walkabout of MacPherson on Sunday.

    Transport, healthcare and immigration were some issues brought up during the Budget and which had residents of MacPherson abuzz.

    Richard Kong, who is a second year student at Nanyang Technological University, asked whether the S$1.1 billion spent on the purchasing of buses will result in an increase in transport fare over the next few years."

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    More MPs concerned about S$1.1b 'subsidy'

    SINGAPORE - For the second day running, Members of Parliament voiced concerns over the Government's move to spend S$1.1 billion to help the public transport operators boost their fleet over the next five years as well as bear the runnings costs, with Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Janil Puthucheary questioning if the authorities are heading down a slippery slope.

    Dr Puthucheary said: "How far will we go in providing government support to transport operators? If the taxi industry suffers, will the Government provide funding for it as well?"

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    Govt's move to fund bus purchases sparks public concern

    SINGAPORE: The government's move to spend S$1.1 billion over the next 10 years to fund the purchase of 550 SBS Transit and SMRT buses has sparked concerns among some Singaporeans.

    A few have written to the government's feedback portal REACH, questioning why the government is using public funds to help profit-driven companies.

    SBS Transit and SMRT are public-listed private enterprises.

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    SMRT to spend S$900m on ageing train lines

    SINGAPORE - Transport operator SMRT will be spending about S$900 million to rectify faults along the ageing North-South and East-West lines.

    The improvement work, however, will not be extended to the Circle Line, which has been hit by disruptions, including a major one last week.

    This is because each phase of the Circle Line will encounter teething problems - although the issues faced so far have been "unanticipated", said SMRT's executive vice-president for trains, Mr Khoo Hean Siang.

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    Train collisions, stalling among common glitches on Bukit Panjang LRT

    Users of the Bukit Panjang LRT system are no strangers to glitches, as the 7.8km-long intra-town light rail system has had more than 150 incidents and disruptions since it opened in November 1999.

    They ranged from trains colliding or stalling in the middle of the track, to train doors opening when carriages were moving. In 2002, a wheel fell off, leading to a five-day shutdown.

    Operator SMRT had been fined $10,000 twice, once for an incident where three passengers were injured when a moving train ran into a stationary one.

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    MRT breakdown COI: Drivers working on Dec 17 were not briefed on earlier incident

    SMRT train drivers told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on Tuesday that when they reported for duty on Dec 17, the day of the second big disruption in train service, they were not given the details of the disruption that took place two days before.

    They said they were mostly told to be more careful when driving the trains and to look out for irregularities, but received few details about the Dec 15 incident.

    The three train drivers were among the 14 who testified on Tuesday, on Day 7 of the public hearings. The others who took the stand were SMRT station managers, two other train drivers and two commuters caught in the Dec15 disruption

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    MRT breakdown COI: Train tunnels are now lit at all hours

    Lights that illuminate MRT train tunnels are now on day and night.

    This is a change from before the two major train disruptions of last December, when they were lit only after train service hours.

    This emerged on Monday, Day Six of a hearing by a three-man Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the disruptions.

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    Why was more secure claw design rejected 25 years ago?

    The spotlight on the second day of the hearing by the MRT breakdown Committee of Inquiry (COI) fell on a small but crucial object - the metal claws that kept the power-supplying 'third rail' in place.

    Mr Andrew Yeo, counsel for the Land Transport Authority (LTA), wanted SMRT lawyer Cavinder Bull to clarify his assertion that a vibration-proof claw model was available 25 years ago, when Singapore's first MRT lines were being built.

    Mr Bull, in his opening statement on Monday, had stated that MRTC - the rail builder that eventually became a part of the LTA - had rejected an improved claw design way back in 1987.

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    MRT breakdown COI: Passengers pitched in to help woman

    When a train stalled on that fateful Dec 15 evening last year, commuters in a cabin were swift in coming to the aid of a passenger who struggled to breathe.

    They gave her a sweet to suck, fanned her and gave up their seats for her to lie down.

    The train heading north on the North-South line had just left City Hall, said Ms Charlene Ang on Tuesday.

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    Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable
    Two SMRTstaff killed by an oncoming train
    Train disruptions under new Minister of Transport
    Train service disrupted on N-S, E-W Lines
    Recap of recent Train service disruptions
    Recent Train Disruptions
    Transport Woes #2
    Transport Woes #1
    Transport Woes - A Picture Story
    Mixed Reactions To Announcement Of Free MRT Rides
    Strange & inappropriate behaviour on public transport
    Burned by mystery liquid in trains and bus stop
    SMRT subway trains recalled after defects found
    Untitled Document