We refer to the letters “SMRT needs to get its act together”, “Send shuttle buses, deploy more staff during breakdowns” and “Commuters expecting to hear from management and authorities” (all July 3), on the recent North-South Line service disruptions.
We are sorry that commuters have been inconvenienced.
We have recently intensified tests of the new signalling system. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT, together with signalling system manufacturer Thales, are working round-the-clock to resolve the issues the tests have surfaced.
Re-signalling is a complex exercise. As we saw in cities that had undertaken similar projects, the new system will take many months to stabilise.
We have implemented a phased approach to the testing, beginning in March with off-peak and Sunday trials.
The LTA and SMRT moved to full-day testing on weekdays only after we were satisfied with the results from the earlier tests.
However, those earlier tests were limited to hours when there were fewer commuters, and therefore a less onerous demand on the system.
As it turned out, more demanding operational conditions, weekday peak hours in particular, surfaced new issues, which caused the recent disruptions.
To minimise the impact on commuters, SMRT and the LTA activated free bus services for all affected stations and deployed additional staff. For example, in the evening of the June 28th disruption, 500 additional staff were deployed to assist commuters.
Frequent in-station announcements were made, with signage deployed, to guide commuters. Updates were given on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, throughout the evening.
Even with these mitigating measures, we know that commuters will still face delays in their journeys when train disruptions happen.
Hence, we are sparing no expense to improve our rail system’s reliability, including completing the replacement of the ageing signalling system, which turns 30 years old this year.
We seek commuters’ understanding as we continue with the tests. We also thank readers for their suggestions and will study them.
Jeremy Yap, Deputy Chief Executive of Public Transport, Policy & Planning and Lee Ling Wee, Chief Executive Officer of SMRT Trains