Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Train service disrupted on N-S, E-W Lines

Update 10 Jul 2015: Experts from Sweden, Japan to assess North-South, East-West Lines’ power system
A team of five experts from Sweden and Japan will be conducting an independent assessment of the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) today (July 14)

Checks have so far failed to pinpoint the root cause of a massive 3.5-hour train breakdown on July 7.

The team will focus on identifying the root cause of the power trip and propose areas for improvement, review the current condition of the power supply and trackside installations, as well as provide recommendations to enhance the overall system and its maintenance, said the LTA.

The team comprises four people from design and engineering company Parsons Brinkerhoff in Sweden and a traction power expert from Tokyo-based company Meidensha, which has extensive experience in power supply.

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Independent expert to look into rail network
Engineers have yet to identify the root cause of Tuesday's train disruption , despite carrying out a comprehensive second round of checks.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

An independent consultant will be brought in to examine the rail network, even as a second day passed with engineers unable to pin down the root cause of Tuesday's massive disruption.

Staff from SMRT Corp and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had carried out a second round of checks on Wednesday night.

In a statement yesterday, the LTA said it will engage an independent consultant specialising in transit power systems as early as this month.

related: Root cause of train breakdown still not identified

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SMRT breakdowns – learning from London’s Tube
Tube train at Lancaster Gate station, London (image – Wikimedia Commons)

Singapore has run like a well oiled machine for many years and people have come to expect that this is the way that things should always be.

Given the government’s promises and the tacit understanding between Singaporeans and the incumbent ruling party, this is no surprise. In the years of intense nation building, civil liberties were exchanged in return for economic stability and efficiency.

To put it bluntly: “I, average Joe, give you my unconditional support. I put aside any questions or disagreements I may have, and in return you take care of everything for me.”

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Stark differences between HK’s MTR and SG’s MRT
Mr Jacob C. Kam, MTR operations director

Earlier this year, CNN looked at why Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is so successful. CNN described MTR as the “most envied metro system” in the world (‘Hong Kong’s MTR: Taking a ride on the world’s most envied metro system‘).

MTR was established as a public entity in 1973-74 before it was privatized and listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange as MTR Corporation Ltd in 2000. At the time, the Hong Kong government sold its stake in public utilities, with the aim of reducing expenditure and boosting overall efficiency. But the government remained majority shareholder of MTR Corp.

MTR is both competitive and profitable, and able at the same time to serve the Hong Kong public efficiently.

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Hong Kong's MTR: Taking a ride on the world's most envied metro system
Hong Kong's MTR system operates 2.8 million train trips per year with a 99.9% on-time rate

In a spacious, high-ceiling room, rows of yellow-shirted controllers monitor a wide, curved video panel that spans the length of an entire wall.

In front of this space age-like console, staff keeps tabs on Hong Kong's sprawling mass transit system, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Everything is humming along normally on a recent winter day, until the black "incident box" at the center of the room suddenly jolts to life.
"There's a problem on one of the tracks."
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Singapore’s two major train lines paralyzed in largest train breakdown ever

Singapore’s two major train lines, the North-South and the East-West lines, is paralyzed today (July 7) around 7pm. The private transport operator responsible for the two major train lines is the SMRT, who announced that the breakdown happened because of “traction power fault”.

This disruption affects all 53 MRT stations along the two major train lines making it the largest train breakdown ever in Singapore history. Photos of overcrowding and power outage are now actively shared over social media. The Government-linked company said that there are free shuttle buses operating at every station but there have been numerous complains saying that everywhere is confusion and there are very few shuttle buses to accommodate the amount of crowd. The buses now are so full that people are even boarding the buses from the back door.

As of press time, the SMRT trains are still faulty. Below is the list of MRT breakdowns after GE2011:

related: Major North-South MRT line to stop operations for 5 hours today

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SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek's worst nightmare has just come to pass:  A massive island-wide MRT disruption has taken place along the North-South (NS Line) and East-West (EW Line) MRT lines during evening rush hour today.

Netizens have flooded in with angry complaints and reports about their experiences of being stuck in unpowered, dark MRT cabins for close to 30 minutes or having to endure long, snaking queues outside of the MRT stations along the NSEW lines.

"I was riding in the cabin when the MRT suddenly started to slow down," said a commuter, Terry. "Then suddenly the lights, air con and engine shut down. It got quite stuffy and hot inside the crowded cabin, and some people got quite frightened because the train did not move and there were no instructions from SMRT staff."


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Rail meltdown

What is it about a train service breakdown that makes people so upset? Is it because they believed assurances that public transport is first class? Or because they realised that buying and maintaining a car had become too costly? Or maybe a combination of both – they’ve ditched their cars for public transport because the system is supposed to get better even as cars get more expensive?

It could well be the timing of the breakdown that adds to the temperature. Just when people are done with work and looking forward to getting home, the train slows down, stalls and they have to, to use an ugly term, “detrain”.

Besides being in a human jam with bodies reeking after a full day of work, you get conflicting instructions on whether the bus rides are really free as the train operator announced. And you argue with the bus driver who wants you to “tap! tap!”

related: Singaporeans pull together amid SMRT crisis

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This could well be the biggest train disruption we've ever seen

East-West and North-South MRT lines hit by peak hour train disruptions

After three and a half hours of disruption, train service on the North-South Line resumed at 10:35pm, while service on the East-West Line resumed earlier at 9:20pm, but trains were moving at slower speeds. Islandwide bus services were free and kept running for 30 minutes longer than usual, SMRT said. Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew also instructed SMRT and the LTA to work all night to ensure train service is fully operational the next day. More updates below.

Singapore’s two key train lines were on Tuesday evening hit by twin disruptions, affecting thousands of commuters.

related: The worst MRT breakdown in S’pore’s history occurred on SMRT’s 16th Annual General Meeting on 7/7/15

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In the wake of the biggest MRT breakdown in Singapore history, Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew has finally come up with a statement, although his words are probably little comfort to the many Singaporeans still stuck outside in the sweltering heat, squeezed like sardines into MRT train cabins, buses and long snaking queues for alternate modes of public transport.

"I am extremely concerned with today’s incident," Lui wrote on his Facebook. "This is the first time that services on both the North-South and East-West Lines were affected at the same time. I am sorry that so many commuters experienced massive disruptions to their journeys during the evening peak hours."

He added that he has "told SMRT and LTA to work through the night to fully recover train services and ensure that services run properly tomorrow."


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SMRT advises commuters to make alternative travel plan on Wednesday morning

On Tuesday evening, 58 stations were put out of service due to power trips along the entire North-South and East-West Lines, affecting the trip back home for many commuters as the disruption took place during the evening rush hour.

Free shuttle buses along with free bus services from both SMRT and SBS Transit were offered to commuters affected by the massive train an alternative mode of transportation.
The East-West Line (EWL) was put back to service at 9.20 pm, while the North-South Line (NSL) resumed its service at 10:35 pm.

The breakdown, which is reported to affect 250,000 commuters, happened at 7pm on Friday and is believed to be the worst incident in the system’s history, even surpassing the two incidents in December 2010.

related: “I am extremely concerned about today’s incident”: Lui Tuck Yew

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Commuters outraged as main MRT lines crippled
Crowds gathered for shuttle services at Yew Tee MRT station. Photo: Tristan Loh

In a breakdown of unprecedented scale, the Republic’s two main MRT lines came to a complete halt simultaneously during the evening peak period yesterday, resulting in swathes of stranded passengers across the island at all 54 stations on the North-South and East-West lines.

Services between the Pasir Ris and Joo Koon stations were restored after two hours with trains travelling at a slower speed as a precaution, while services on the North-South Line resumed 75 minutes later, at 10.35pm.

Preliminary investigations discovered a faulty train which could have caused the power to trip.

related: Transport Minister calls for probe into cause of train disruption

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MRT breakdown: North-South, East-West lines down for hours

Scene at Boon Lay MRT following a train disruption on July 7, 2015. Photo: Oii Boon Keong
In what could potentially be the worst MRT breakdown to date, services on the North-South and East-West Lines came to a complete halt for several hours during evening rush hour today (July 7).

This is the first time services on both lines were affected at the same time. A power fault had affected trains along the North-South and East-West Lines at 7.15pm, said SMRT in a statement. “This led to a system-wide disruption along the entire line.”

Partial service was restored at 9.20pm, with the resumption of train services, albeit at a slower speed, on the East-West Line from Pasir Ris to Joo Koon MRT stations. Train service continued to be unavailable on the North-South Line for another hour, with SMRT updating later that services on the line resumed at 10.35pm, at a slower speed.

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Service on the NSL suspended between 11am and 4pm for investigations: LTA

TRAIN service on Singapore's North-South line will be suspended from 11am and 4pm for further investigations, said the Land Transport Authority and transport operator, SMRT, in a joint statement early Wednesday - hours after the major service lines shutdown during evening peak hour the night before.

"They added that the service suspension was to allow LTA and SMRT engineers to conduct further investigations to determine the cause of the power trip that led to the shutdown of power across the entire network on Tuesday.

"While LTA and SMRT engineers have narrowed down the possible causes of the problem, and are in the process of rectifying the faults discovered, it is not yet conclusive, and they would need more time to ascertain the situation definitively,'' LTA and SMRT said.

Service on the East-West Line will continue to operate throughout the day but at reduced speed as a matter of precaution and safety.

Two major train lines knocked out for hours
Update: NS, EW train services may be limited on Wednesday: SMRT

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Full Coverage
Straits Times: Train service resumes today but at reduced speed; North-South Line

BUSINESS TIMES: Service on NSL suspended between 11am & 4pm for investigations
Channel News Asia: Train service resumes with reduced speed
Straits Times: Free train service on SMRT on Wednesday until normal service resumes
Straits Times: MRT disruption puts strain on buses, taxis
Straits Times: 2 major MRT lines down for over 2 hours
TODAYonline: Commuters struggle to find ways to get to their destinations
TODAYonline: MRT Breakdown: N-S, E-W lines may see limited services this
Straits Times: Train service resumes with longer waiting times; N-S line to close
Channel News Asia: 'Multiple power trips' detected 1 hour before MRT service disruption
Channel News Asia: Train service disrupted on North-South, East-West Lines

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Recap of recent Train service disruptions

Despite a recent series of disruptions to service, "steady progress" has been made to reduce train downtime, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Mar 12) night, Mr Lee said that maintaining and building Singapore's public transport system is a "tough, high pressure job" as the maintenance and repair crews only have a few hours to maintain the trains and tracks and get them ready for another day of service.

"The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rail operators have also been working hard to reduce downtime and malfunctions. Unfortunately we’ve had a series of incidents recently, but we are making steady progress," he wrote.


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2011 Singapore MRT disruptions

In 2011, many Singapore Mass Rapid Transit train services were disrupted.
  • October 17, 2011 – Train services disrupted, between 10.30 am to 11.10 am, on North South Line between Ang Mo Kio and Bishan. Full service resumed at 12.05 pm. Approximately 5,000 commuters were affected.[1]
  • December 15, 2011 – Train services disrupted, between 6.50 pm to 12.15 am (the next day), on North South Line between Bishan and Marina Bay stations.
  • December 17, 2011 – Train services disrupted, between 7.55 am to 1.18 pm, on North South Line between Toa Payoh and Marina Bay stations.
  • December 18, 2011 – Postponed opening hours of MRT services on North South Line and East West Line.
The two train services that disrupted on the North South Line that took place on 15 and 17 December 2011 were the worst breakdowns in SMRT's 24-year history. All MRT stations on the North South Line and East West Line were further closed due to checks on all trains and tracks to be carry out. Train services started at 10 am instead. Free parallel bus services were also available from 5.30 am to 10 am. However, as the checks were not completed, train services were delayed up to two hours. Train service on the East West Line resumed at 11 am while North South Line resumed fully at 12.08 pm.

Committee of Inquiry (COI) into December 2011 breakdowns - In December 2011, the government commissioned a Committee of Inquiry into the state of breakdowns and disruptions of the train services.[8] The committee is headed by Tan Siong Thye, Chief District Judge of the Subordinate Courts and the two other committee members are Professor Lim Mong King from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University and Soh Wai Wah, Director of Prisons. On July 3, 2012, the Committee of Inquiry submitted its report to Transport Minister, Lui Tuck Yew. A response is expected to be given by the Transport Minister to the COI report at a parliament sitting which held on July 9, 2012. On July 4, 2012, the 358-page COI report made available to the public, cited shortcomings in SMRT's maintenance regime and checks done.

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SMRT chief Desmond Kuek apologises for train disruption, promises better train reliability
SMRT chief Desmond Kuek (right) and LTA chief Chew Men Leong (left) at a technical briefing at LTA's headquarters.ST PHOTO: CHITRA KUMAR

SMRT Chief Executive Desmond Kuek on Wednesday apologised for the massive disruption on the North-South and East-West lines and reiterated SMRT's commitment to improve train reliability.

In a press briefing co-chaired by LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong, Mr Kuek said: "We had to systematically check trains, tracks and power. We will continue to check and minimise such occurrences. We are committed to bringing high efforts of train reliability to commuters."

Mr Chew also apologised for Tuesday evening's disruption which lasted about three hours and affecting an estimated 250,000 commuters, possibly the worst public transport disruption Singapore has experienced.

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SMRT CEO's pay of over $2m beats predecessor's
INCUMBENT: Mr Kuek's remuneration makes him SMRT's highest-paid CEO

SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek, 52, earned more than $2.25 million last year, according to the company's latest annual report.

The amount is double what he made when he first joined the rail operator in October 2012. For the six months to SMRT's financial year end in March 2013, Mr Kuek made $611,000, which is equivalent to $1.22 million if annualised.

For the year ended March 2014, he made between $1.75 million and $2 million.

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SMRT CEO: Train withdrawal rate lowest in 7 years
LG (NS) Desmond Kuek, SMRT President and CEO

In a recent interview with the Straits Times, SMRT CEO LG (NS) Desmond Kuek said that SMRT’s train withdrawal rate has come down from 3.3 for every 100,000 km of distance covered in 2012 to 1.05 last year after he joined the company as CEO on 1 October 2012, taking over from Saw Phaik Hwa.

“Train withdrawal rate” is the rate at which a train is withdrawn from service due to fault(s).

“This is the lowest in seven years,” LG (NS) Kuek boasted. “And we are targeting to go even lower this year.”

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PM Lee 'very concerned' over train breakdown, worried problem may recur

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he is "very concerned" about the major disruption to train services on Tuesday because the root cause of the problem has not been identified and it may recur.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Lee said he has been briefed about the disruption to train services, which lasted more than two hours, on the North-South and East-West lines during Tuesday's evening rush hour.

"I had just recently visited the SMRT Bishan Depot, to see their maintenance operations and teams. So I went to the LTA Ops Centre this afternoon, to be briefed on the situation," he wrote.

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Am very concerned at the major disruption to train services last night. I had just recently visited the SMRT Bishan Depot, to see their maintenance operations and teams. So I went to the LTA Ops Centre this afternoon, to be briefed on the situation.

We are still trying to find out the cause of the problem. LTA and SMRT staff and engineers worked through the night checking trains, tracks and cables. Today fortunately trains ran without a glitch, so far. But because we have not identified the root cause of the power trips, we are still very worried that the problem may recur.

Hope we identify and resolve the faults quickly, to prevent further inconvenience to commuters.

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"Everything works, whether its water, electricity, gas, telephone, telexes, it just has to work. If it doesn’t work, I want to know why, and if I am not satisfied, and I often was not, the chief goes, and I have to find another chief. Firing the chief is very simple."

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Transport Woes - A Picture Story
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