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    Mar 12, 2014

    Fleets to get larger, train rides smoother

    THE rail network will be bigger, waiting times shorter and the crowds thinner.

    With plans to inject 83 new trains, fleet sizes on the various MRT lines will be pumped up by between 30 and 70 per cent. This will increase trips during rush hours and shorten the wait during off-peak periods.

    Larger fleets will also allow the public transport operators (PTOs) SMRT and SBS Transit to intensify their maintenance work and upgrading of older trains.

    The boost in rail capacity, outlined by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday, has already kicked off, with 13 new trains earmarked this year for the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL).

    Four have already been put into service and, from 2016, another fleet of 28 will be added to the NSEWL.

    From 2015, a total of 42 new trains will join the North East Line (NEL) and Circle Line to boost their fleets by 70 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively.

    Mr Lui said a new signalling system will be in place on the North-South and East-West lines by 2016 and 2018, respectively. This will allow trains to run at intervals of 100 seconds during peak periods, instead of the current 120 seconds.

    This means six trains every 10 minutes, instead of five.

    Transport expert Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore said knowing that another train is coming soon means commuters will feel less pressured to jostle and squeeze into the train cars.

    Track maintenance efforts must also be intensified, Professor Lee said. "Having more trains on the tracks at any one point in time means the load on the system is higher, increasing wear and tear," he added.

    Mr Lui said the journey to improve the reliability of the train system is a "lengthy and painstaking" one. There were at least four train disruptions in the last two months that resulted in delays of more than 30 minutes.

    He said a "predict and prevent" approach is being taken towards maintaining the system, so that rail equipment can be upgraded or replaced before it fails.

    Ageing infrastructure like sleepers and the third rails are also being replaced on the NSEWL.

    What's more, the bus fleet for public services will be boosted by 35 per cent in the future.

    This will be due in part to the near doubling of the Government-funded Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) to 1,000 buses.

    The number of new routes under the BSEP, announced in 2012, will be doubled from 40 to 80. Many of these will be feeder routes or short trunk services to connect residents to key nodes like MRT stations and bus interchanges.

    Twenty of the 80 routes will be operated by private bus operators, linking commuters from heartland towns to the Central Business District.

    To date, 320 of the 550 Government-funded buses have already been delivered. Separately, the PTOs themselves have contributed 100 of the 250 new buses committed under the scheme.

    A survey showed that satisfaction with bus services rose to 88.3 per cent last year, up from 86.4 per cent in 2012.

    However, satisfaction with train services fell from 92.1 per cent to 88.9 per cent.