With the fast approaching end-of-life for the 1st-generation Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 (KHI) Electric Multiple Unit (EMUs), replacement EMUs are to be procured to replace the retiring trains, allowing continued train service levels and rolling stock availability.
In that effort, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced the procurement of 66 (396 rail cars) trains from Canadian train manufacturer Bombardier Transportation. This 1.2 billion dollar contract also includes a 30-year dedicated technical expertise and spare parts support.
This order represents a large proportion of trains running on the North-South & East-West Lines (NSEWL), at 33% as of 2019, as shown in the breakdown below.
|Rolling Stock Model||No. of trains||Percentage|
|Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 (KHI) / Bombardier MOVIA R151||66||33%|
|Siemens C651 (SIE)||19*||10%|
|Kawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751B (KNS)||21||11%|
|Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Sifang C151A (KSF-A)||35||18%|
|Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Sifang C151B (KSF-B)||45||23%|
|Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Sifang C151C (KSF-C)||12||6%|
*: certain train sets are permanently out of service
This gives a favourable opportunity for the LTA to rethink into the design of the trains, making changes to better suit commuting needs and improvising the systems for a larger impact on the future of train commuting in Singapore.
Proposed Features (Aesthetics)
Additional Passenger Media Display (APMD)
In the R151 mockup at LTA HSO, there is a TV-sized display embedded in the train body, known as the Additional Passenger Media Display (APMD). The APMD is a touchscreen display, allowing commuters to search up for essential information such as nearby landmarks around stations.
While we feel that the APMD is a good initiative, it is not a sustainable one. The construction and maintenance of the APMD will increase long-term costs for the new trains, due to the difficulty of maintaining such screens on a train running on passenger service almost daily, not to mention since the equipment is embedded inside the body shell, any equipment replacement/maintenance would cause lengthy downtime for the EMU involved.
Singapore is poised to be a smart nation and demographics have shown that most, if not all of our commuters own smartphones/smart devices. There are currently 4.3 million active mobile social Singaporeans, comprising 75% of the population.  A mobile application on their devices would be a more cost-effective solution and potentially more useful as they can source for information tailored to their needs.
Tip-up seats are seats that can be folded, to cater for additional demand for capacity during high loading periods, such as during the rush hours. They can be an individual chair or a bench comprising of several seats. Outside of busy hours, these seats can be folded down to create extra seating capacity. This allows for greater flexibility in passenger load management as opposed to traditional rigid seats.
Several overseas operators have such installations in their trains. One such example is the London Underground. Singapore has experimented with tipping seats with the Kawasaki-CRRC Sifang C151C (KSF-C) trains introduced in 2018. The traditional rigid seats in the middle of the carriage were swapped out for those that can be folded. It comes in sets of 3 seats each, as depicted in Figure 2.
However, the current design of the tip-up seats on board the KSF-C trains have a major flaw – there is no single master switch to lock/unlock all the tip-up seats across the entire train.
The current design makes it mandatory for the train captain to unlock and fasten each seat bench manually, across the 6 cars. This made it time-consuming and challenging to tip-up/down the seats when the trains are running on revenue service. Further observations revealed that due to this inconvenient design, the seats are almost always locked in the unfolded configuration, defeating the purpose of the tip-up feature altogether.
We proposed using a design similar to those found on the London Underground – where the seats can be individually tipped down for seating space in Figure 3. Such design has also found itself onboard our newer buses, such as those on the MAN A22 buses in Figure 4 where the foldable seats are toggled manually by the user when needed.
This has the advantage of simplified operations, as the responsibility of operating the tipping seats has shifted from the train captain to the commuters, allowing them to operate the seats as and when needed.
The seat mechanism can also be simplified as there is no longer a need to install a dedicated enclosed button at the side of the seats for the train captain to operate them, as seen on the current KSF-C trains.
Click to learn more about the Kawasaki-CRRC Sifang C151C trains »
Improved Visual Information Systems
LCD screens for the passenger information displays above the doors is a good move towards modernising the interiors of our trains. A better design with a user-friendly interface could be implemented with references to the ones found on London’s TFL Rail Class 345 trains, and Tokyo Metro in-train displays, such as the one in the photo above.
For local context, this can be utilised for things such as route maps and simplified station layouts. In the image above, it shows the next station, the direction the train is headed towards, the following 7 stations with estimated travelling times and transfer information at the upcoming station.
Other information includes the car number, time, and a layout of the platform when arriving at the station. Cautionary warning messages can also be loaded, such as oncoming sharp curves and violent crossover sections, such as the NSL Jurong East approaches.
SMRT has trialled similar ideas with their STARiS 2.0 installed on the Kawasaki-CRRC Sifang C151B (KSF-B) and KSF-C trains, which has seen mixed reviews regarding the design and functionality. On the R151, we suggest the displays be retained above the doors.
Improvements can be made such that it is an all-useful multi-purpose travelling guide with information such as journey times, route direction, etc. it can also potentially replace the current Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD), making them unnecessary and saving on costs and maintenance.
Click to learn more about the STARiS Information System »
Improving the Design of Seats
The seats on the Bombardier MOVIA C951 on the Downtown Line are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes but in reality, it is not a visible product.
Based on commuting experience, commuters will slide off as soon as the train accelerates/decelerates as the individual seats are not ergonomically designed to have a defined contour to prevent sliding to the sides. It is akin to sitting on a tilted piece of flat metal bench, one will slide off to the side.
An excellent example of ergonomically designed seats found in our MRT system are those used on the Alstom trains (C830, C830C, C751A and C751C). These seats are contoured such that it makes one stay in the seat, as shown in the picture below. These seats are also more comfortable, based on personal commuting experience.
As the upcoming R151 is also a Bombardier product, we hope that the type of seats found currently on the Downtown Line will not be used. These seats can be improved by taking reference from the other MRT trains as they are durable, practical and yet comfortable.
A good takeaway from the C951 trains are the perch seats located near the gangways and near the detrainment ramps. These seats are comfortable for commuters to lean on as compared to a plain wall.
We recommend such seats being installed on the R151s near the gangways for most practicality. Perch seats can also compliment the wheelchair bay on board trains, making more efficient use of the space. The design of the seats on the C951 are generally satisfying, and should be brought forward to the incoming R151 trains.
Photos of the C951 perch seats are shown below.
Proposed Features (Technical)
IT Solutions for Commuting Experience
Japan’s East Japan Railway Company (‘JR East’) has pioneered the use of real-time train data for enhanced commuting experience through a mobile phone application. The application, known as “Yamanote Line Train Net” draws data from various sources and consolidates them into a single interface, allowing commuters to receive the most up-to-date train information at a glance.
It should be noted that this application differs from traditional applications, in which the purpose is to update the user only on the train service status, not the train status. The application developed by JR East for the Yamanote Line is capable of showing crowdedness level of each car, ranging from “enough seats to sit” to “comfortable to stand”, “comfortable for reading”, “shoulder to shoulder”, and “overcrowded”.
The temperature of each car, with data presumably pulled from TIMS, is also shown, allowing passengers to make informed choices on where to board the train. This may aid in distributing passenger loads throughout the train evenly. Approximate locations of each train is also shown, such as “Near to Tokyo” in the above pictogram, on the right.
Although the configuration and application development is to be done on the software front, the physical hardware, such as passenger load counter, data transmitter for the API to allow the application to work, has to be installed on the trains. Hence, this is an area of improvement/novelty (in local context) that is worth exploring and developing with the new R151 trains.
Current Collector Device Shear Off Alert
Found on the KSF-C trains, the Current Collector Device (CCD) of the train features a wire embedded in the device, forming a closed circuit over the CCD frangible link joint. The CCD is designed to shear off cleanly if the maximum depressed range of 50 – 65mm is exceeded or excessive force is encountered, due to improperly gauged/forceful engagement with the third rail or foreign object damage. 
In such circumstances, the wire embedded in the device would snap off together with the CCD shoe at the frangible joint, creating an open circuit which is a positive indication of lost CCD. The alert is then shown on TIMS for further action by the Train Captain (TC). However, a limitation of this device could be that the wire would serve as a hinging point for the snapped CCD, without it being broken, as the excessive force encountered may not be sufficient to snap the cable, depending on the wire material.
It may cause the CCD to dangle along the sides of the train, causing impact and damage to trackside equipment, especially the third rail. A more robust mechanism can be developed from the current design, to eliminate this potential threat.
We suggest this feature be retained in all future generations of rolling stock as it is a very useful feature in identifying trains with damaged CCDs running on revenue service, which would aid significantly in reducing train disruptions due to trains stalling due to damaged current collection equipment.
Generally, the ideas presented in the R151 mockup are well thought out.
Moving forward, we hope that the aforementioned ideas are put forward by SGTrains from a passenger perspective, for improved travelling experience and hope that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will take them into consideration for the upcoming R151 trains.
 4.83 million Singaporeans are now online (2018), Singapore Business Review [online], retrieved 4th July 2019, https://sbr.com.sg/information-technology/news/483-million-singaporeans-are-now-online
 Committee of Inquiry (2012). REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY INTO THE DISRUPTION OF MRT TRAIN SERVICES ON 15 AND 17 DECEMBER 2011, Republic of Singapore, pp.39, 163.