People will complain less about the slow rides on the North-South Line from the fourth quarter of this year, when trains are set to pick up speed.
By the middle of next year, trains will run at normal speeds of up to 80kmh from one end to the other.
The reason is that, by then, all the sleepers, which hold the tracks on the North-South Line in place, would have been replaced. With the new sleepers, trains will no longer be subject to speed restrictions.
"Commuters will find that their journeys would be shorter than what it is today," said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday morning during a site visit to observe the sleepers between Bishan and Ang Mo Kio stations being replaced.
Until then, commuters will experience slower speeds along stretches with the newly installed concrete sleepers, which will last twice as long as the old wooden ones.
It is a precautionary move taken by public transport operator SMRT while it makes sure the sleepers have been stabilised and carries out further safety checks.
Hence, the train speed is capped at 39-40kmh for stretches undergoing replacement work. It will be raised to 61-62kmh after a tamping machine has compacted the ballast, which are rocks that support the sleepers and tracks.
Trains can hit their top speed of 80kmh only after the tracks are assessed to be fully fit for normal speeds.
The temporary slowdown was noted in the past few months by some commuters, who wrote about it on SMRT's Facebook page in recent weeks.
Netizen Nurafian Zulkifli said the replacement works occasionally make the travelling time longer and delay train arrivals, causing a "severe human jam" during peak hours.
Aggravating the situation is the shortage of tamping machines - only one is available.
This caused a backlog of 1.6km of tracks that have yet to receive tamping, even as replacement works are carried out in more locations.
One more machine will be added this month and a third by September.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.