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    Jun 26, 2015

    Upgrades for Bukit Panjang LRT on the way

    THE Bukit Panjang LRT system will be upgraded in the coming months, in a bid to improve the reliability of the system that has been hit by a spate of disruptions this year.

    Transport operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday gave details of what they would zero-in on to solve recurring problems on the 16-year-old line.

    They concluded that most of the breakdowns were caused by problems related to the tracks, the signalling system and the traction power system.

    To tackle track faults, SMRT will replace the brackets that hold the rail at all crossings by the end of next month. It also plans to double the number of brackets to hold the rail more "stiffly".

    These measures will ensure the current-drawing collector shoes on the train slide smoothly along the rail and do not become dislodged.

    A dislodged shoe was blamed for an evening peak-hour disruption in April that lasted 11/2 hours and affected 10,000 commuters.

    To address problems related to signalling, SMRT will upgrade the computer systems on its trains and install a remote reset feature, which will allow for quicker recovery when the LRT service is down.

    Cameras will also be installed on the under-frame of train cars to detect problems early.

    As for traction power problems, SMRT said it will adjust motor controller settings on trains, so that a stalled train on a slope can be pushed with a recovery train, even with passengers on board.

    The upgrading works will cost SMRT "millions", but it declined to reveal exact figures.

    Referring to March's electrical fire, which shut the system down for a day, SMRT said it would improve on the "gap breakers", so they are better insulated and less prone to arcing - which are electrical discharges that jump across a gap in a connection.

    The slew of improvements will also include hiring more staff - and having one stationed per stop - who are trained to drive the trains manually and to resolve technical faults. Currently, they are at every other station.

    Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa welcomed the improvements, but added: "Equally important is the service recovery... The operator (must) respond in a speedy manner and have clear instructions about where there would be free back-up bus services."

    The Bukit Panjang LRT's ridership increased from 51,000 last year to 54,000 currently.

    To deal with the crowds, two additional exit-only platforms at the Choa Chu Kang LRT station will be built by the end of next year.

    LTA and SMRT said that in the longer term, they will embark on a detailed study of the system.

    Said LTA's chief executive Chew Men Leong: "We are already starting to look at engineering options... to see how we can have a reliable and robust system going forward."

    Data analyst Chua Way Ne, 27, who uses the LRT daily, hopes the system will become more reliable. "The (delay) in April was bad. Even though there were bus bridging services, I was still late for work."