Oct 28, 2013

    Train travel times up on older MRT tracks

    IF IT seems like it takes longer than usual to get to work by train on the North-South-East-West Line, that is because it is.

    Travelling times have been extended by about 10 minutes, a delay that could persist all the way to 2016.

    This is because ongoing works to replace ageing wooden sleepers on rail tracks will be completed only by then. In the meantime, trains have to slow down as a precaution.

    An SMRT spokesman told My Paper on Thursday that speed restrictions have led to total journey times between the line's terminals to increase by an average of 10 minutes.

    "When the sleeper replacement is done, as well as other critical track works completed in two to three years, and safety has been assessed and confirmed, the travel time will be restored to the normal range," she said.

    It was announced in May that SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) are accelerating their replacement programme for sleepers, which are pieces of timber that support the rails upon which the train wheels sit.

    Some 188,000 sleepers are due to be changed, as they are designed to last between 15 and 25 years. The initial stages of the North-South and East-West lines were first opened in 1987.

    About 11,000 of the sleepers have been replaced since November last year, according to reports in May.

    The delay caused by the sleeper replacement was flagged on the government feedback portal Reach in August, when a netizen complained about slower travelling times on the East-West Line.

    Citing a rail-regulation spokesman, Reach replied that SMRT had started works to replace the worn sleepers between Bukit Batok and Jurong East stations "in the past few weeks".

    An LTA spokesman told My Paper that there are speed restrictions on sections of the track where sleepers have been replaced recently. These are monitored for a few weeks "as a precautionary measure" before the speed restrictions are lifted.

    Commuters have noticed the longer travelling times.

    Trader Yap Eng Khuan, 47, realised that his train trips from Pasir Ris Station to Raffles Place Station were taking longer than usual, due to slower-moving trains and "infrequent waiting times".

    "I've switched to taking buses instead," he said.

    But passengers can look forward to a "reliable and smooth" ride when the replacement programme is completed, said the LTA spokesman.