New train being tested disrupts NEL
A NEW train that was being tested pulled a wire on the North East Line's (NEL's) overhead power system, causing a disruption that lasted nearly two hours and affected the morning rush period yesterday.
About 41,000 commuters, including students on their way to their O- and A-level exams, were affected.
Land Transport Authority (LTA) chief executive Chew Men Leong said the train was being withdrawn to the Sengkang depot when the incident happened, at around 5am.
The train had tugged onto the overhead power system, called the overhead catenary system, snapping one of the wires which caused a power fault across the entire NEL.
He said it was one of two new trains being tested over the past few weeks, and this was the first time such a problem cropped up.
Why the train affected the overhead system will be investigated, he told the media at Hougang MRT station yesterday morning. Tests on the two trains will be suspended as LTA investigates the problem.
The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board said in a statement that fewer than 20 students reported late to their schools or examination centres to take their O- or A-level exams yesterday. They were given the full duration of their papers.
Yesterday's disruption was the fifth major incident on the 12-year-old line this year.
Two weeks ago, train services on the line were disrupted for more than 11/2 hours during the morning peak period, due to a power fault which caused a blackout in several stations along the line.
SBS Transit chief executive Gan Juay Kiat, who was also at Hougang station yesterday, called the disruption a "very major incident" as it was the first time both the north- and south-bound services on the NEL line were down together.
A total of 110 shuttle buses were activated in view of the disruption. Some 150 "goodwill ambassadors" were mobilised to help commuters.
South-bound train services towards HarbourFront resumed at 6.51am while north-bound services towards Punggol were back up at about 7.20am.
Trains ran initially at longer intervals of about 6.5 minutes compared with the usual peak hour intervals of 2.5 to 3 minutes, resulting in crowded station platforms and commuters struggling to board packed trains. Commuters were also allowed past the gantries only in batches to avoid overcrowding platforms.
Kalaivani Rajaretnam, 37, a patient service associate, said her journey to work from her home in Buangkok to Farrer Park doubled because of the disruption.
"There were already so many people on the train, we couldn't board," said Ms Kalaivani, who had to skip some trains before boarding.
LTA, SBS Transit and TransitLink said that commuters who had paid for their bus rides yesterday morning when the NEL service was down can seek a refund over the next seven days, starting from today until Monday. This would mean anyone who had taken a ride on all public buses between 5.23am and 9.30am.