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Bukit Panjang LRT to close on 11 Sundays, renewal contract signed

SINGAPORE — While the renewal of the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) will not resolve bumpiness arising from the terrain of the estate, it will tackle major faults in the system, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rail operator SMRT said on Friday (March 23).

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (front row, third from left) is seen here during a signing ceremony between the Land Transport Authority and Bombadier (Singapore) for the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit renewal work on March 23, 2018.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (front row, third from left) is seen here during a signing ceremony between the Land Transport Authority and Bombadier (Singapore) for the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit renewal work on March 23, 2018.

SINGAPORE — While the renewal of the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) will not resolve bumpiness arising from the terrain of the estate, it will tackle major faults in the system, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rail operator SMRT said on Friday (March 23).

“In terms of the terrain and the ability to change it, I think there are limitations simply because of the physical constraints and you also need to have an area where you have crossings over ingresses or carparks,” said LTA chief executive Ngien Hoon Ping to reporters after signing a four-year renewal contract for the BPLRT with its original supplier Bombardier.

Besides the S$344 million deal, SMRT also signed a contract with Bombardier for it to provide long-term service support for the renewed system for 10 years.

It declined to reveal the value of the service support contract, which will see Bombardier providing speedier technical support and training for BPLRT’s maintenance staff.

In the meantime, maintenance works carried out as a stop-gap measure will result in full closure of the BPLRT on 11 Sundays from April 15 to June 24.

Track switch components, which control train movement along the tracks, will be replaced for the first time in the 18-year-old system’s history, as will sections of the power rails.

SMRT will also step up ongoing replacement of parts of the doors and propulsion systems of LRT trains.

“Closing the network on Sundays will improve the productivity of our maintenance teams, and allow these works to be completed sooner,” said Mr Roger Lim, SMRT’s vice president for Circle Line and BPLRT.

In November and December last year, the BPLRT began operations at 7am instead of 5.30am on Sundays to allow more time for works to improve service reliability.

On Friday, bus operator Tower Transit and the LTA announced a new bus service, 974, would be launched on April 8. Plying between Bukit Panjang MRT station and Joo Koon bus interchange via Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West, it will give Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang residents better access to Nanyang Technological University and Jurong Industrial Estate.

The renewal contract with Bombardier, first announced earlier this month by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, will see the majority of works completed by 2022.

Mr Khaw had famously described the BPLRT system last September as an “afterthought” that was built under “political pressure”, resulting in a design that makes for uncomfortable rides. “No LRT is designed that way, in such a masochistic manner, where you force yourself up and down, twist and turn,” he had said then, adding that the few occasions he had taken the LRT left him dizzy.

Nineteen first-generation vehicles will be replaced with new ones and 13 of the newer existing vehicles, in service since 2015, will be retrofitted.

All new vehicles will enter service, and full operations using a new communications-based train control signalling system will start by the fourth quarter of 2022.

The renewal will tackle the dislodgement of collector shoes from the power rail at sharp bends by relocating power joints to less severe curves, said LTA’s deputy chief executive of infrastructure and development, Mr Chua Chong Kheng.

New rail brackets with added tensile strength will be used in addition to prevent a dislodgement.

The new vehicles would afford better train control, and move “more gradually” at specific areas, resulting in less bumpiness, said Mr Ngien.

And by end-2024, the power rail replacement works would be completed and the old track circuit system would be decommissioned.

The authorities had picked Bombardier’s proposal after approaching various credible rail system providers because it was the only one that did not require a complete shutdown of the system.

The renewal is “not just cosmetic buying of new trains”, said Mr Ngien. “It is actually substantive changes to the engineering parts. We are not getting the same old same old. We are in essence getting a new system, and updated system.”

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