Frustrations mount as Circle Line delays persist for fifth day

Frustrations mount as Circle Line delays persist for fifth day
This photo shared on Twitter shows a large crowd at Bishan Station. Since Monday morning, commuters have been delayed because of ‘intermittent signalling issues’. Photo: Twitter account @Lov3N3ko
Published: 4:00 AM, September 2, 2016
Updated: 12:24 PM, September 2, 2016

SINGAPORE — For a fifth consecutive day, the Circle Line (CCL) is being affected what the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT described as “signal interference” — a problem that they are still trying to come to grips with, as they seek help from overseas experts.

The issue has affected operations on the 30-station CCL since Monday, increasing travel time by up to 10 minutes and frustrating thousands of commuters who take the line daily.

“To date, we have narrowed (down) the problem to signal interference, causing intermittent loss of signal between trains and stations,” SMRT and LTA said in a joint press statement on Thursday (Sept 1). They added that they were working with a team of experts from French train manufacturer Alstom. Commuters were told that they may “potentially experience delays” along the CCL Thursday and were advised to “factor in extra travel time to get to appointments on time”.

More SMRT staff were deployed on the trains — which are driverless — and at the stations to help with service recovery and provide assistance to commuters.

Commuters have been experiencing extra travelling time because of “intermittent signalling issues”. While SMRT said the delay was up to two minutes during non-peak hours and as long as 10 minutes at peak periods, commuters said it was longer.

Some have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, with photographs and videos posted on Twitter, for instance, showing stairwells and platforms of stations jam-packed with people waiting for the trains.

Twitter user Venus Hew described the situation on Thursday at Bishan station as a “mad house”. Another user, Arun Raja V J, posted a photo at 8.48am of a crowded station he was in and wondered if he would reach his office by lunchtime.

Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Noor Asyraf Kamil, 23, told TODAY that he had to make alternative travel plans to avoid the delay and the crowds. Usually, the Hougang resident would take a train on the North East Line (NEL) to Serangoon, before switching to the CCL to get to Buona Vista. There, he would take the East West Line (EWL) to get to Boon Lay.

On Thursday, he took a train on the NEL to Outram Park instead and switched to the EWL to reach Boon Lay — a journey that took him about 20 minutes longer than the usual route would. “It’s just a bad start to the day when you know that there are going to be train delays,” he said.

Commenting on the signal interference, transport expert Park Byung-Joon said it was “very uncommon” for the problem to persist for so long.

If it was electromagnetic interference, it meant that some source that was not present before is now in the vicinity, said Dr Park, an SIM University senior lecturer.

“It has been OK for the past five years. I’m somewhat surprised that (there) is genuine interference from some other source,” he said. That the source of the problem has not been pinned down for four days suggested that it was “something tricky”, Dr Park added.

SMRT and LTA said they were “working round the clock to restore service levels”.

“However, as the CCL runs underground, trackside checks and physical intervention can only take place after operating hours, although backend system checks are being conducted throughout daylight hours,” they said.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and seek all commuters’ understanding as we work hand in hand with all parties to resolve the issue.”