The Transport Minister says that more engineering hours are needed to ensure the quick upgrading of rail assets, which may reduce train operating hours
Longer engineering hours needed to ensure quick upgrading of rail assets: Khaw Boon Wan Mr Anand (left), a technical officer, explains the virtual reality training solutions to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at Tuas West Depot on Nov 13, 2017. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - More engineering hours are needed to allow for ageing rail assets to be quickly upgraded, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

This means that train operating hours will likely be reduced.

So far, upgrading work has been done on two rail assets – sleepers and the third rail, said Mr Khaw. Work still needs to be done on the  signalling system, the power supply, trains and track circuits, he added.

"That is why we need more engineering hours. This can only come if we reduce train operating hours. It is a zero-sum game," said Mr Khaw at the Future Railway Technology for Depot and Trains, held at SMRT's Tuas West Depot on Monday (Nov 13).

Mr Khaw noted that while the Tuas depot, which opened in June, comes with a power substation that has increased the power capacity for the rail network by 50 per cent, existing equipment in the older substations has "aged significantly and is due for renewal".

The North-South and East-West lines were previously drawing power from four substations - Buona Vista, Bishan, Stamford and Yasin - with the peak-hour power load at about 80 per cent of the network capacity.

This was anticipated to increase by an additional 25 per cent, with the opening of the Tuas West Extension and completion of resignalling works, said Mr Khaw. This would force SMRT to tap backup reserves, he added.

"We were cutting it real close. And the need to reduce overcrowdedness in trains forced us to add new trains, further pushing the limits on our power capacity."

Engineering hours are currently conducted outside of operating hours for the 30-year-old North-South and East-West lines.

Mr Khaw added that a "qualitative upgrade" to train depots is needed, to build Singapore's capabilities in "predictive maintenance" for its rail network.

At the event, Mr Khaw viewed an array of technology being developed for use on the rail network here, including augmented reality and autonomous mobile robots.