10 things normal commuters don’t know about Singapore’s MRT

Singaporeans probably don’t know much about our MRT, despite 2015 statistics reflecting an average of 2,762,000 trips made daily across the MRT network. Travelling on the MRT during peak hour is often uncomfortable and can get frustrating when delays happen. Putting all the hate for our MRT aside and turning to the lighter side of things, here are 10 facts that general commuters don’t really notice or know about.

1) Missing station codes

The numbers on the system map do not actually always run in sequential order. Before Canberra station was announced, there was a missing NS12 on the system map. Other examples of missing station codes are NE2 and CC18. These codes are reserved for future use when the surroundings between two existing stations are more developed (i.e. Canberra, which is between Yishun and Sembawang) and the cost of building, operating and maintaining a new station in between is justified.

2) Trains on the North South & East West Lines are semi-automatic

Trains on the North South & East West Lines are semi-automatic.

During a trip under normal conditions, the train captain in the cab does not need to operate the train. They are only required to press a set of buttons which will activate the train’s computer system to run the train based on the signalling system on the track. On top of that, they will control the opening and closing of the train doors and visually inspect the tracks for any obstruction.

The train captain will be required to operate the train in manual mode under certain conditions such as wet weather, track or train faults, training etc. Under manual operations, trains usually approach stations at a slower speed to allow for accurate alignment to the platform screen doors, as the train captain manually slows the train to a stop.

There may also be cases where the trains stop short of the stopping point. Passengers are advised to hold on to the grab poles or hand grips as the train corrects its position.

In cases where the train stops beyond its stopping point, train captains may either: – reverse the train to accurately align with the platform screen doors, or – skip the station, such as during peak hours where the frequency of train trips is high, to minimise disruption along the train line.

With the new signalling however, trains on the North South Line are now fully automatic. The train captains do not even need to manually open or close the doors! All these are done automatically according to the timetable with the new signalling system. The East West Line will soon also be fully automatic once Re-signalling works are complete and the system on the North South Line stabilises.

3) All stations have official abbreviations

All MRT and LRT stations in Singapore have an official 3 letter abbreviation assigned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). For example, WDL is for Woodlands, JUR is for Jurong East, CTH for City Hall and TPG for Tanjong Pagar. You may sometimes see these abbreviations on SMRT’s Twitter page. There is, however no fixed formula to which station codes are derived.

Can you guess which stations do JKN and TLK refer to? The next time, instead of telling your friend to meet you at Raffles Place Station, why not just tell your friend to meet you at RFP instead? We heard that there’s very good food near NEW station!


Did you know? You can snap and report a fault on WhatsApp!

SMRT SNAP-REP (Short for Snap and Report) is a new technical defect reporting channel launched by operator SMRT as part of a trial to provide commuters with a fast and easy way of reporting any technical defect they come across while travelling on the SMRT network (North South, East West, Circle Lines & Bukit Panjang LRT).

Commuters simply need to snap photos of the defects with their mobile devices and send them using WhatsApp to +65 9788 4398 with details such as the train car number, date, time, location, and a short description of the defect. We advise commuters to use the feedback channel responsibly. Do also give some time to allow the operator to rectify the defects reported.

5) Train carriage numbers

Each train car in Singapore is assigned a unique number, like a car registration plate! The next time you take the train, maybe try looking at the ends of the cars and see if you notice these numbers. Knowing these numbers can make it easier for you to retrieve back your items if you lost it on the train. You can also use these numbers to report any fault to the train operator (e.g. aircon temperature too warm and stuffy !) These numbers are also needed when you report a fault via SNAP-REP.

6) Train door push back


Did you know that the doors of the North East, Circle & Downtown Lines trains are designed so that they can be slightly opened while running?

The trains running on the North East, Circle & Downtown Lines have an interlocking relay system which prevents the train from moving off when the train doors are not properly closed. However, during the journey between stations, the doors can be opened to a maximum of 10cm.

This is not a design fault but a feature which allows items, which were stuck in between the doors, to be removed.

PLEASE HOWEVER DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FORCE THE DOORS OPEN. Passengers are also advised not to lean against the train doors as the force might be enough to push the door open.

7) The White Train is Not the Oldest Train

While travelling on the North South & East West Lines, you may be wondering, “These white trains are really old”. Well, in fact, they aren’t actually the oldest MRT trains in Singapore, but rather the 2nd oldest.

The oldest trains have already been refurbished (and also turned into “black”) back in 2008 so they look new!

These old white trains are also currently being refurbished so that they will look more new and modern! The newest Kawasaki C151B are also white in color too!

8) “Fresh trains”

Have you ever boarded a really empty train in the middle of the line during the peak hours and was so happy you got a seat and never wondered why the train was so empty? You may have boarded what we train enthusiasts’ call a “fresh” train. At certain times and at certain stations before and during the peak hours, train operators will launch trains that are fresh from the depot (hence the term fresh trains) to stations adjacent to the depot. Stations you can get “fresh” trains are Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Clementi, Jurong East, Simei, Tanah Merah, Tuas Link, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang stations, which are near the Bishan, Ulu Pandan, Changi, Tuas, Sengkang, Kim Chuan and Gali Batu depots.

Another reason for empty trains may be because the train was doing a short-working trip and was turned around to maintain better frequency in the higher demand areas. Trains usually get turned around at Yishun and you will sometimes get empty trains when travelling south of Yishun.

So if you are at these stations during or just before the peak hour and would like a seat, why not wait a while for these “fresh” trains.

9) The Circle & Downtown Line tracks are connected

The Circle & Downtown Lines, while being two different lines and using two different systems, are actually connected to each other! When the Downtown Line Stage 1 was in operation, it didn’t have a depot and trains were temporary stabled at the Circle Line depot at Kim Chuan. To get any major repairs done, the train will have to be hauled by a locomotive from the Downtown Line at Bayfront all the way to the depot via the Circle Line.

Kim Chuan Depot is also linked to the Downtown Line 3. When the line opens, it will also house trains for the Downtown Line.

Who knows, in the future, these two lines may be integrated and you may see the Downtown Line train on the Circle Line?

10) You can take a look at the designs of future trains at LTA Gallery

Interested in how future Singapore MRT trains will look like? You can head on down to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Gallery at Hampshire Road to take a look! Here mock-ups of future train models are exhibited to collect public feedback on the design. Who knows, your feedback may be implemented for all future trains! Drop by there to see for yourself the mock up of the Thomson-East Coast Line Kawasaki-Sifang CT251 train!

BONUS: There are TWO train operators, not one

I am sure many of you know this fact. However, many commuters often still complain about train services to the wrong train operator on various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Many of these people seem to think that SMRT is the only train operator and SBS Transit is the only bus operator.

SBS Transit operates the North East & Downtown Lines, Sengkang-Punggol LRTs. SMRT operates the North South, East West, Circle Lines and Bukit Panjang LRT. Make sure you feedback to the correct operator’s website or social media platforms, if not you will just make yourself look like a joke!


Benjamin Goh

A transport enthusiast with keen interest in railway, buses, and planes operations. During his free time, he usually read up on transport issues to deepen his knowledge and understanding of topics.