First of 57 trains with new signalling system starts service

First of 57 trains with new signalling system starts service
The new SMRT train (right) pulling out from Yishun MRT station on its first day of passenger service yesterday. Tech and other upgrades in the new trains are expected to improve the commuting experience. Photo: Nuria Ling
Feature will cut waiting time; upgraded train to run every Sunday on North-South Line
Published: 12:10 AM, April 17, 2017
Updated: 12:15 PM, April 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — Shortly before 8.30am on Sunday (April 16), a 50-strong crowd gathered on the train platform at Ang Mo Kio Station, craning their necks whenever a train approached, their cameras at the ready.

There were cheers from the train-spotters from the Friends of SMRT club — accompanied by the sounds of their cameras clicking furiously — when the train they had been waiting for that morning finally pulled into the station — it was the first of 57 new trains that will be rolled out by 2019.

Fitted with the new signalling system, these trains also boast new features such as LCD boards that display information about upcoming stops, such as the various station exits, landmarks and buildings nearby, the station layout, as well as safety messages.

The trains employ energy-saving LED lights, which are brighter, instead of the current fluorescent lighting, and also have marked spaces in their cabins for wheelchair users.

The first train plied the North-South Line all day on Sunday, and will run every Sunday henceforth in tandem with the trial of the new signalling system conducted by rail operator SMRT.

Train fan Mohd Zakry Mohd Darus, 17, said that with the new display board, passengers will be better informed: “We’ll now know which exit to leave the station from, even before we reach the station. The lights also (make me) feel more comfortable.”

Other commuters, such as Ms Sng Ju, however, felt that the information screens would be useful only in certain situations.

“They would be better for people who are new to a particular area, or for tourists. Otherwise, for normal commuters who are familiar with the stations, we won’t even look at them,” said the 38-year-old, who works in sales and marketing.

Retiree Mary Chee, 68, said she did not notice any major changes, but was pleased with the trains’ overall sleeker and newer look.

When fully deployed, the new trains will ply both the North-South and the East-West lines. Sunday also marked the start of full-day tests of the new signalling system to be used on the North-South Line.

Nine trials had been conducted during the last hour of weekday service since last month, but the trial will now run during service hours on Sundays for two months. It involves more trains — 41 versus more than 30 during the weeknight trials — and they will no longer halt for 10 minutes.

The new signalling system is meant to lead to shorter waiting times. During peak hours, commuters can expect to wait up to 100 seconds instead of the current 120 seconds.