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Singaporeans flock to Tuas at 7am to board new MRT train

Singaporeans flock to Tuas at 7am to board new MRT train
Train enthusiasts taking pictures of the new Alstom Movia R151 model which began passenger service on June 4 on the East-West Line.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE — As an Alstom Movia R151 train rolled into Tuas Link station, its operator sounded a horn, eliciting cheers from more than 100 people gathered to welcome it into service.

"Open, open, open," they chanted at about 7.10am on Sunday (June 4) as the first of 106 seventh-generation trains to be launched on the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL) slowed to a halt, before its doors opened for commuters to board.

Among those waiting in anticipation was primary school pupil Tan Teck Ern, accompanied by his parents and six-year-old brother.

The nine-year-old woke up at 4am for the occasion.

By about 6am — the usual time he gets out of bed for school, he was at Tuas Link station with his family, making the trip from their home in Bishan.

Like many other train fans there, he could rattle off features of the new model effortlessly.

He looked forward to seeing its liquid-crystal display (LCD) route map — similar to the ones on the fifth- and sixth-generation trains.

When he got on board, his first impression of the cabin was that it was "bright", which he attributed to its large single-frame windows — a distinct difference between the seventh-generation model and its predecessors.

The new trains have cabins with more open spaces to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs, and perch seats that take up less space than conventional ones, allowing for greater passenger capacity.

Among those who turned up to quiz SMRT Corp staff and compare train collectibles was Mr Jeremy Teng, a train enthusiast of about five years.

The 25-year-old, who is between jobs, said he was thrilled to be at a train launch, having missed previous ones because he could not wake up in time.

Mr Teng said he is most intrigued by the different motor sounds each train model makes during acceleration and deceleration, and looks forward to acquainting himself with those made by the new R151.

"We have seen our rolling stock go from very basic trains, having nothing inside, to having all these features like the self-test system as well as the LCD screens that give passengers information on their route," he said.

SMRT's Tuas West Depot fleet manager Yusmar Yusof said the self-test system, which takes about 12 minutes to run every morning, has helped maintenance staff to optimise their efforts by pinpointing issues linked to, say, the air-conditioning, doors, brakes, propulsion and auxiliary power systems.

The system also saves staff time and makes checks more routine, as some of these tests — which have to be done at a minimum of once every three weeks — would otherwise have to be conducted manually.

Mr Yusmar, 34, said the trains were designed with the input of SMRT engineers, which led to them being easier and safer to maintain.

For instance, he said, air-conditioning filters on previous models were replaced via the train's roof, which exposed workers to height risks, but the job can now be done from within the cabin.

The Land Transport Authority purchased 66 of the 106 new trains in a $1.2 billion deal in 2018 to replace the first-generation NSEWL Kawasaki trains, which have been operating since the two MRT lines opened in 1987.

It bought another 40 trains in 2020 for $337.8 million to replace the second-generation Siemens and third-generation Kawasaki-Nippon Sharyo trains.

The remaining 105 seventh-generation trains will be put in service on the NSEWL progressively till end-2026.

The fourth- to sixth-generation trains on the two lines were manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CSR Qingdao Sifang. They comprise 92 trains, of which the first began operations in 2011.

ALSO READ: Extra cabin space, perch seats: New MRT trains to come with more features from June 4

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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