Rail developments in the year 2018

The year 2017 was an eventful one for the Singapore rail network. In spite of several isolated incidents where we saw trains “swimming” and coming into contact with each other, there were large, significant network improvements with the opening of the Tuas West Extension and the Downtown Line 3, which enhanced connectivity in various parts of the island.

This upcoming year, let us look forward to improved reliability, fewer breakdowns and, of course, safer and more comfortable rides. Let us now have a preview on some of the rail developments we can expect in the year 2018.

New & upgraded trains

Kawasaki Heavy Industries CSR-Sifang C151B

In 2018, we can look forward to the introduction of the remaining 11 C151B trains into passenger service as the East West Line (EWL) transits to the new Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling system. These trains had gone through progressive tests and are expected to enter passenger service once CBTC is commissioned on the EWL. Also, do keep a lookout for the latest few units of its kind to be commissioned – there will be a new distinct feature in the train car; a first on our MRT trains.

Photo: Land Transport Authority

Kawasaki Heavy Industries CSR-Sifang C151C

On top of the C151B, 11 more C151C trains are expected to be delivered in the year 2018. These new C151C trains will bear the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) black, red and green livery. The interior will resemble its counterparts, the C151A and C151B, but with slight enhancements to improve passenger experience on board. Certain parts of the train car will come with foldable seats that can be locked up during peak hours to allow more standing space.

Also, there is a possibility for these trains to be equipped with an on-board WiFi system. The trains will be tested thoroughly before they are put into passenger service. The C151C trains will further enhance the capacity of the NSEWL once the new CBTC signalling system is fully commissioned. The first of its 11 trains was delivered on 27 October 2017, and is currently housed at Tuas West Depot. The new trains are expected to be rolled out progressively, starting from the second half of 2018.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries CSR-Sifang CT251

In preparation for the opening of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) Stage One in the year 2019, the first of these four-car trains will be delivered by the second quarter of 2018. A total of 91 trains have been purchased, fully automated and equipped with the Alstom Urbalis 400 signalling system. The trains will be housed in Mandai Depot as well as the new East Coast Integrated Depot located in Changi.

Siemens C651 refurbishment

Gone will be the old white trains we see today – those with narrow seats that makes one uncomfortably claustrophobic. We expect the first refurbished Siemens C651 train to enter passenger service in the year 2018. These refurbished C651 trains will sport new interiors, electric doors, propulsion motors as well as air-conditioning system. On top of that, the STARiS 2.0, which are found on the C151B, will also be installed during the refurbishment process. With these upgrades, the reliability of the train and passenger comfort are expected to improve significantly.

SMRT Active Route-map and Information System (STARiS) 2.0

Remember those LCD screens above the doors that raised many eyebrows during the launch of the C151B train last year?

SMRT is currently embarking on a project to revamp the STARiS 2.0 and will be reviewing the relevancy of the information currently being shown. We understand feedback from commuters is being addressed, and we may see a better designed and intuitive user interface within this year.

Contract R151 – Replacement Trains for Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151

The first-generation Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) C151 trains have served the NSEWL for 30 years since the MRT lines were launched in 1987. To boost the reliability of the NSEWL, LTA has decided to replace all 66 KHI C151 trains, which are now relatively old compared to the other rolling stocks. A tender has been called and is expected to be awarded in the year 2018. The 5 companies which participated in the tender are as follows:

Alstom Transport

  • French Company. The builder of the Circle Line trains (C830 and C830C) as well as the North East Line trains (C751A and C751C).

Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF)

  • Spanish company with no known portfolio in Singapore

Hyundai Rotem

  • Korean company. Responsible for the refurbishment of the NSEWL KHI C151 trains

Bombardier Transportation

  • Canada based company. The builder of the Downtown Line C951 trains and the Bukit Panjang LRT C801 and C801A trains

Kawasaki Heavy Industries / CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co. Ltd

  • A joint venture of a Japanese and Chinese company. The Japanese company Kawasaki has built numerous NSEWL trains for Singapore, such as the C151 and C751B. Together with CRRC Sifang, they have built the C151A, C151B, C151C as well as the upcoming CT251 trains.

New lines & network renewal

Jurong Region Line

It is expected that LTA will be announcing the alignment and stations of the upcoming Jurong Region Line (JRL) this year. This is in line with the timeline of which the JRL is to be completed by 2025. The JRL will be the 7th line to be introduced into the Singapore MRT network. It is planned to be a medium-capacity rapid transit line that will be fully automated and driverless, consisting of both elevated and underground stations. In addition, as the JRL is smaller in scale and generally serves the suburbs, train cars are expected to have a slight reduction in width compared to the current MRT trains.

The JRL will span about 20km and come in two stages with a possible extension currently being studied. The two stages are slated to open in the years 2025 and 2026 respectively. The extension, if feasible, will run along the West Coast to connect the JRL to the Circle Line at Haw Par Villa station, spanning about 5km. This will be completed by the year 2030.

North South & East West Lines

To accelerate the re-signalling and rail renewal works on the North South & East West Lines (NSEWL), shorter train service hours are expected monthly at different sectors of the East West Line for the first half of the year. Night testing of the new CBTC signalling system, similar to that conducted on the North South Line, will soon commence on the East West Line. This will progress into full day testing with passengers on board from June 2018.

The purpose of quickening the pace of the CBTC project on the East West Line is to resume train services between Joo Koon and Gul Circle stations. These two stations are currently isolated due to the train collision incident back in November 2017. Presently, free shuttle buses are deployed to connect commuters between Joo Koon and Gul Circle stations. When the CBTC project is completed, commuters can travel directly to Tuas again, restoring its initial benefit of shorter travelling time.

Sengkang-Punggol LRT

To improve the reliability of the Sengkang-Punggol LRT (SPLRT), SBS Transit will be conducting maintenance works on Sundays during service hours starting from 14 January 2018. Train service will continue to operate on one platform, whereby the other platform will only commence service at 7.00am on maintenance days.

Circle Line Stage 6

Ground breaking for Circle Line Stage 6 is expected to be held this year. The Circle Line Stage 6 will complete the loop of the Circle Line with an addition of 4 stations between HarbourFront and Marina Bay. It is expected to be completed in the year 2025.

And of course, there are many other upcoming rail projects this year such as the Tanah Merah Modification Project and North East Line Extension. But we will save that for, perhaps, another blog post so… stay tuned!

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You Yuan

President of SGTrains since 2011. Studied Bachelor in Business Information System at University of Wollongong, Australia.