Friday, September 3, 2010

New trains to ease MRT crush next May

Sep 3, 2010

Upgrading of signalling system, more trains, new rail lines planned
By Maria Almenoar

RELIEF from overcrowded trains will come no later than next May, when the first of 22 new trains are added to the rail system.

Together, they will cut waiting time by a minute on average for commuters using the North-South (NS) and East-West (EW) lines during the peak period, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

Elaborating on announcements made by the Prime Minister on Sunday, the LTA said more steps would be taken over the next few years to enhance rail services, such as the upgrading of the signalling system and construction of new lines.

PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the initiatives at the National Day Rally when he assured commuters that the authorities were studying the rail crunch and would do everything possible to ease it, but urged patience as modifications take time.

Yesterday, the LTA laid out a four-stage process to ease overcrowding on trains.

The first stage, from next year to 2012, will see 22 new trains shoring up the system's backbone, the NS and EW lines which cover 95km and have 54 stations.

Trains are persistently crowded between 7.45am and 8.45am from Bukit Gombak to Dover and Toa Payoh to Novena.

They cannot be laid on more frequently because of the bottleneck at Jurong East, an interchange station where the two lines converge.

Now, an extra track and passenger platform are being added to the station, so that trains bound for each direction will have their own platform.

Currently, a train approaching Jurong East station has to wait for the preceding one to leave before it can pull in.

By May, five new trains will arrive to take advantage of the faster turnaround time made possible by the refurbishment.

Waiting times for commuters when all 22 new trains are online should shorten to between two and three minutes, from the current 2.5 and 4.5 minutes.

The second stage of improvements will start around 2014 when the LTA puts more trains on the North-East line (NEL).

The 20km line is likely to get 12 more trains to boost its capacity by 50 per cent.
In the meantime, one extra train during the peak hour and the opening of the rest of the Circle Line next year should tide commuters over, said the LTA.

The most crowded stretch on the North-East line during the morning rush hour is from Serangoon to Dhoby Ghaut, with about 1,400 passengers per train.

The third stage will be the upgrade of the signalling system on the NS and EW lines. This major project will begin next year and take six years to complete on the NS line and eight years on the EW line.

The changes will allow trains to run at intervals of 100 seconds during peak periods, down from the existing 120 seconds, boosting the system's capacity by some 20 per cent. More trains will also be ordered at this point.

The last stage is to build three new rail lines: the Downtown Line in stages from 2013, the Thomson Line by 2018 and the Eastern Region Line by 2020.

Asked why the projects take so long to be completed, LTA said the trains and signalling system must be customised.

MP for Aljunied GRC Cynthia Phua said her constituents would welcome these initiatives even though they take time. By the time trains get to the Serangoon station in her constituency, downstream from new population centres in Punggol and Sengkang, they are packed.
'PM has given concrete plans on the expansion measures and this will give residents a little hope that the situation will improve,' she said.

NEL train commuter Joreen Chew, 25, however, is less enthusiastic. Said the human resource executive of the four-year wait for new trains: 'There needs to be some alternatives in the meantime.'

Group director of rail (Thomson and existing lines) Chua Chong Kheng said the LTA would look into alternative services such as buses running routes parallel to the train lines to ease congestion along crowded stretches for the time being.

[Waiting times will be down to between 2 and 3 minutes (from 2.5 to 4.5 minutes) and trains will come every 100 secs down from 120 secs. Commuters have been complaining that they have to wait up to three trains before they can board. Wow. Assuming they just miss one train, they would have to wait up to... 13.5 minutes!...? At the short estimate, 7.5 minutes. And this is... intolerable? Unbelievable hardship? Enough to drive one to buy a car (so that we can complain about roadworks, traffic congestions, ERP prices, COE, fuel prices, inconsiderate drivers, road tax, parking, etc)?

Singaporeans really have nothing to complain about. You will be able to get on a train, if not the first, the second, or the third, most likely within 10 minutes during morning rush hour. Unlike buses where a crowded bus comes along and you try your best to get on because you can't be sure when the next one is coming, for trains during morning rush hour, you can be pretty sure another one will be along shortly - within 5 minutes. Skipping the first 2 crowded trains is not that big a hardship.]

Sep 4, 2010

'Victims of own success'

By Irene Tham

'I want to put these challenges into perspective with the overall needs of our society,' said SM Goh.

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong has chided Singaporeans for complaining too much about overcrowded trains and the lack of carpark spaces and public housing.

He said that these were problems created by Singapore's success, and urged the nation to look at them in context.

'I want to put these challenges into perspective with the overall needs of our society,' he said.

'There are still some poor people. Those who are disabled and those who needed help.'

SM Goh was speaking on the fringe of the 10th anniversary celebration of Ramadhan On-Wheels (ROW), organised by Malay voluntary welfare group 4PM.

He was giving his take on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech last Sunday.

[Unfortunately, this will just provoke the usual calls of PAP out of touch with the concerns on the ground.]

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