$1 billion for 99 new MRT trains a 'worthy investment': Transport Minister

SINGAPORE - Commuters can look forward to better rides as 99 new and better trains will be added to Singapore's rail system between this year and 2019.

These trains will cost over $1 billion, according to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Writing on this "worthy investment" on his blog, Mr Khaw Boon Wan said 57 new trains will be for North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL), 18 for the North-East Line and 24 for the Circle Line.

He said Singapore is acquiring the better train models with enhanced reliability features as they are now available in the market.

"They will be more cost effective in the longer run. Most of all, they will help us achieve higher rail reliability," said Mr Khaw.

"These trains are also easier to operate and maintain. Adding them to our fleet can therefore make a difference to the overall performance of the rail network and in turn, better our service delivery," he said.

Giving details of the new trains on his post, he said they will have "improved propulsion systems, and more reliable and durable AC synchronous motors which require less maintenance".

The minister said the new North-South, East-West trains will also have electric train doors that require less maintenance. They will also not face air leakage problems associated with pneumatic doors on the older trains.

Operations data for the doors of the new trains will be logged and stored for the maintenance crew to pre-empt door faults before they occur.

MRT rail engineers and technical staff have been posted to China factories in Shanghai and Qingdao where the trains are being built, to monitor the entire assembly process and participate in train testing, said Mr Khaw.

"This also helps our officers gain valuable experience and enhance their technical understanding of the trains."

Addressing the issue of train disruptions that have hit commuters in recent years, the minister named several reasons: equipment and component failure, operation and maintenance lapses by operators and contractors, passenger action, and design issues.

He noted that almost half of the major disruptions on the oldest NSEWL were due to train issues, with other factors such as track or power faults causing the rest.

He said: "As with all machines, as trains age, we must work harder to keep them in good condition. Like those in London and New York, trains can last us twenty years or longer, if they are maintained properly and refurbished at the right time."

"Eventually, we must decide when to replace them with new trains," he concluded.