Bukit Panjang LRT's days numbered?
RAIL operator SMRT and regulator Land Transport Authority (LTA) are deciding on what to do with the problematic Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT), including the option of scrapping it altogether.
In a company blog, SMRT Trains managing director Lee Ling Wee said a joint team is reassessing the future of the system, with a view to giving it a major overhaul.
"It will be more than just a makeover," Mr Lee wrote, adding that the 17-year-old system is near "the end of its design life".
He said there are three options.
One, to deploy self-powered, autonomous guided vehicles on the existing viaduct.
Earlier this year, SMRT announced a venture to market, supply and operate the Netherlands-based 2getthere's automated vehicles here and in the region.
Two, build a new LRT system with significant design enhancements. Mr Lee noted the current system is more suitable as an airport shuttle plying short distances on flat ground. BPLRT trains have to tackle gradients.
Three, to renew the existing Bombardier system with a more updated signalling system - allowing trains to be tracked more accurately, and to ply at a higher frequency.
If all three options are not feasible, there is another alternative.
Mr Lee said an idea to do away with the LRT system was also mooted, and for residents to go back to buses.
"This is not far-fetched, as a fully-loaded high-capacity bus like a double-decker can take 130 passengers, which is more than the 105-person capacity of a single Bombardier train," he said.
But he noted that this option would lead to more road congestion.
The BPLRT has been beset with problems since it began operating in 1999, most recently last week when services were disrupted for more than eight hours.
Bukit Panjang resident Ashley Wu, 35, a communications officer, said: "I've always felt the LRT brought more inconveniences than conveniences to us."
SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon said doing away with the line should be considered.
"There are (a) few successful implementations at airports and parks... but not as public transport for the masses," he noted.
Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of engineering firm KTC group, said he favours the first two options of transforming the system. The third, he said, was "tricky".