Above: (From left) Senior SMRT executives Khoo Hean Siang, Tan Ek Kia and Goh Chee Kong at yesterday’s media conference on the recent breakdowns.
By Daryll Nanayakara
Rail operator SMRT will spend about $900 million on upgrading and maintenance works to overhaul its ageing train network.
Speaking at a media conference yesterday, SMRT's interim chief executive, Mr Tan Ek Kia, said the works are aimed at making the network more robust.
The works will be implemented in phases starting from this year, and are expected to take until 2019.
He apologised for the "unacceptable" spate of disruptions on April 8 and 13, and last Tuesday and Wednesday.
Last Wednesday's breakdown on the Circle Line affected 18,000 commuters during the morning rush hour.
"On behalf of SMRT, I want to apologise for this. People who were affected were very frustrated, and we can understand their feelings," said Mr Tan.
The upgrading will see a complete overhaul of the signalling system on the North-South and East-West lines. This will make the system more reliable and allow trains to run at a higher frequency.
Older trains, which have been running on the rail network for the last 25 years, will have their propulsion systems replaced.
Existing sleepers - wooden planks that hold the tracks together - on the two lines will also be replaced. This will be done in phases to minimise any inconvenience to passengers.
Mr Tan said the $900-million price tag is an indicative figure and may increase, pending any recommendations from the ongoing Committee of Inquiry hearing into last December's major train breakdowns.
SMRT will also discuss cost-sharing arrangements with the Land Transport Authority for the project.
Yesterday, Mr Tan also pinpointed the cause of last Wednesday's Circle Line disruption: a defective power cable, which led to a power failure in the line's communication network. This meant trains could not communicate with one another.
Mr Tan added that electrical and mechanical failures were contributing factors in the three breakdowns on the East-West Line this month.
Investigations into these are ongoing and he said that SMRT will continue to look into its response plans to make them more comprehensive in dealing with any future breakdowns.
He added that the company has learnt from past disruptions, and that there is "a lot of work ahead of us".
"We have to improve our performance. In fact, we must."
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