What’s upcoming in 2019?

2018 had been a rather quiet year for the rail network with only the introduction of new trains with tip-up seats on the North South Line, without any new rail line or extensions opening.

The amount of breakdowns have been reduced significantly thanks to MRT stations closing early and opening late every month to speed up the maintenance work to improve rail reliability to allow passengers to have a more comfortable ride.

Here’s a list of the upcoming events of the rail network in 2019!

Enhanced Transfer Rules

At the end of 2018, the fare review exercise introduced a six cents increased in adult card fares for both trains and buses. However, a new rule has also been added into the system which can introduce significant time and cost savings when combining multiple train trips in a single journey.

The new rule states that you will now be able make multiple rail transfers within a single journey, and if transferring between two train stations, you will need to tap in within 15 minutes of tapping out from the previous station. This will encourage walking between stations that are within minutes away to shorten journey time and cost.

Opening of the sixth MRT Line

The first stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) – Woodlands North, Woodlands Interchange and Woodlands South – will open for passenger service in the last quarter of 2019. The TEL1 primarily serves as a feeder connection within Woodlands.

TEL Stage 1 will connect residents of Woodlands South and Woodlands North to the renovated Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange as well as the North South Line.

As with new MRT lines, the TEL will be a fully underground and automated rapid transit line. When fully completed, it will span 43km with 31 stations. The TEL will serve as an alternative to the North South Line (NSL) from Woodlands to Marina Bay, while providing new access to the train network for commuters in the East Coast area.

Additional North South Line station

Constructions of the new Canberra station between Yishun and Sembawang on the North South Line is also expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2019, together with TEL1. This station will be the second elevated station constructed on an existing line and will utilise side platforms, similar to Dover station of the East West Line. The station will feature five exits, linking it to the new housing estate across Canberra Link via a direct bridge that connects to the southbound platform.

Full day closures were also implemented during the Jurong East Modification Project back in 2011.

Full Weekend Closure on the North South Line

In order to modify and construct a 72-metres long crossover track near Canberra station, a full weekend closure on the North South Line will be required in the second quarter of 2019. It is highly expected that this will happen during the Vesak Day long weekend. As works can only commence on a Saturday morning after train service has ended. The team will only have about 72 hours to complete the modification works and enable train service to run as per normal by Monday morning. Taking into consideration that the following Monday is a public holiday, there is more flexibility in the schedules in the event that train services could not be resumed on time due to the complexity of the works and/or weather conditions i.e. heavy thunderstorms. This way, the number of passengers affected will be significantly reduced. Train services are expected to end at Yishun and Sembawang station respectively and free shuttle buses will be provided during this period to bridge passengers across affected stations.

Workers laying tracks during the Full Day Closure for the Jurong East Modification Project back in 2011.

This additional crossover track will be useful when there is a track fault, or when there is an obstacle to prevent the train from proceeding. With this crossover track, the operator will be able to maintain train services at a reduced frequency while the fault is being rectified.

Noise barriers will also be installed at the new crossings, due to the tracks’ proximity to nearby condominiums and HDB flats.

More Early Closure on MRT lines

In the first quarter of 2019, stations along the North East Line (NEL) will close earlier on the nights of selected Fridays and Saturdays. This is the first of the early closures on the NEL since its opening in 2003 and is necessary to intensify maintenance and rail replacement works.

Based on our observations, the authorities have learned from previous experiences with the ageing equipment on older lines and are stepping up on maintenance and renewal works. With a well-planned ahead project timeline for the newer lines, the authorities will be able to prevent occurrences of equipment failures or faults along the older lines due to wear and tear.

Concurrently, North South and East West Lines (NSEWL) stations will continue to have early closures on different sectors after March 2019 to accelerate rail renewal works, such as the replacement of track circuits in the 58 signalling equipment rooms. As the current track circuit equipment has been in use since 1987, it is necessary to replace them with newer equipment that employ newer technology such as a built-in condition monitoring system to address possible track circuit failures before they occur.

Changi Airport Skytrain

With the completion of Jewel at Changi Airport, travellers can look forward to travel between Terminals 2 and 3 without walking via the mezzanine level link bridge.

We will also see six new Mitsubishi Crystal Mover train cars, which were purchased to cope with the expected increase in ridership. These new trains will be coupled with existing train cars, allowing more passengers on the skytrain system in both the public and transit areas. In lieu of the additional train cars, the signalling, communications systems and station infrastructures have been upgraded at the various stations.

The new Mitsubishi Crystal Movers being delivered back in 2018, seen here wrapped and parked in a public carpark at Changi Airport.

Relocation of Operation Control Centre

The North South and East West Lines (NSEWL) Operations Control Centre (OCC), which has been in operation since the beginning of MRT operations, is currently located at Victoria Street. The facility will cease operations and be relocated to its new permanent location in Kim Chuan Depot with a larger floor area, and better technology and equipment. This new integrated facility will be situated next to the current Circle Line OCC and will provide a complete overview of SMRT’s three MRT lines with real-time data visualisations, graphs and statistics, therefore giving better coordination between the three lines in the event of a major disruption.

Circle Line Operations Control Centre at Kim Chuan Depot. (Photo: SMRT)

With this move, the current land where the SMRT headquarter sits at North Bridge Road will be returned to the Land Transport Authority for future developments.

2019 seems like an exciting and busy year for the rail industry. What do you guys think?

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Matthew Ng

An avid train enthusiast since 2009, he designs graphics and infographics to promote the little known facts about Singapore's train network.