Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore)
The Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT, is a rapid transit system forming the major component of the railway system in Singapore, spanning the entire city-state. The initial section of the MRT, between Toa Payoh and Yio Chu Kang, opened on 7 November 1987, making it the second-oldest metro system in Southeast Asia, after Philippine's Manila Light Rail Transit System Line 1 that established in 1984. The network has since grown rapidly in accordance with Singapore's aim of developing a comprehensive rail network as the backbone of the public transport system in Singapore, with an average daily ridership of 3.031 million in 2015 (including the Light Rail Transit (LRT)), approximately 78% of the bus network's 3.891 million in the same period.
The entrance of Raffles Place MRT station
|Native name||Sistem Pengangkutan Gerak Cepat Singapura (Malay)
சிங்கப்பூர் துரிதக் கடவு ரயில் (Tamil)
|Owner||Land Transport Authority|
|Transit type||Rapid transit|
|Number of lines||8 (5 in operation, 1 under construction and 2 under planning)|
|Number of stations||154 (106 in operation, 16 (Downtown Line Stage 3) opening in 2017, 32 (Thomson-East Coast Line and Canberra Station) more under construction or planning)|
|Daily ridership||3.1 million (2016), excluding the LRT|
|Began operation||7 November 1987|
|Operator(s)||SMRT Trains (SMRT Corporation)
SBS Transit (ComfortDelGro)
|System length||178.2 km (110.7 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The MRT network encompasses 178.2 kilometres (110.7 mi) of route, with 106 stations in operation, on standard gauge. The lines are built by the Land Transport Authority, a statutory board of the Government of Singapore, which allocates operating concessions to the profit-based corporations, SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit. These operators also run bus and taxi services, thus facilitating full integration of public transport services. The MRT is complemented by a small number of local LRT networks in Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol that link MRT stations with HDB public housing estates.
The origins of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are derived from a forecast by city planners in 1967 which stated the need for a rail-based urban transport system by 1992. Following a debate on whether a bus-only system would be more cost-effective, Ong Teng Cheong, came to the conclusion that an all-bus system would be inadequate, as it would have to compete for road space in a land-scarce country. The initial S$5 billion construction of the Mass Rapid Transit network was Singapore's largest public works project at the time, starting on 22 October 1983 at Shan Road. The network was built in stages, with the North South Line given priority because it passed through the Central Area that has a high demand for public transport. The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC), later renamed as SMRT Corporation — was established on 14 October 1983; it took over the roles and responsibilities of the former provisional Mass Rapid Transit Authority. On 7 November 1987, the first section of the North South Line started operations, consisting of five stations over six kilometres. Fifteen more stations were opened later, and the MRT system was officially launched on 12 March 1988 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Another 21 stations were subsequently added to the system; the opening of Boon Lay on the East West Line on 6 July 1990 marked the completion of the system two years ahead of schedule.
The MRT has subsequently been expanded. The first expansion was in 1996. This was a S$1.2 billion expansion of the North South Line into Woodlands, merging the Branch Line into the North South Line and joining Yishun and Choa Chu Kang Stations. The concept of having rail lines that bring people almost directly to their homes led to the introduction of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines connecting with the MRT network. On 6 November 1999, the first LRT trains on the Bukit Panjang LRT went into operation. In 2002, the Changi Airport and Expo stations were added to the MRT network. The North East Line, the first line operated by SBS Transit, opened on 20 June 2003, one of the first fully automated heavy rail lines in the world. On 15 January 2006, after intense lobbying by the public, Buangkok station was opened. The Boon Lay Extension of the East West Line, consisting of Pioneer and Joo Koon stations, began revenue service on 28 February 2009. The Circle Line opened in four stages from 28 May 2009 to 14 January 2012. Stage 1 of Downtown Line opened on 22 December 2013 with its official opening made on 21 December 2013 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Stage 2 opened on 27 December 2015, and was officially opened on 26 December by Prime Minister Lee.
The following table lists the Mass Rapid Transit lines that are currently operational:
|Name and color||Commencement||Next extension||Terminus||Stations||Length (km)||Depot||Electrification||Operator||Control Center|
|North South Line||7 November 1987||2019||Jurong East||Marina South Pier||26||44||Bishan Depot
Ulu Pandan Depot
East Coast Integrated Depot(future)
|DC 750 V
|SMRT Trains||City Hall
|East West Line||12 December 1987||N/A||Pasir Ris
|Joo Koon/Tuas Link
|Circle Line||28 May 2009||2025||Dhoby Ghaut
Stadium (off peak hours only)
|30†||35.5||Kim Chuan Depot||Kim Chuan Depot|
|† excluding Bukit Brown, which is not operational.|
|Subtotal (Lines under SMRT Trains):||91||136.7|
|North East Line||20 June 2003||2023||HarbourFront||Punggol||16||20||Sengkang Depot||DC 1500 V
|SBS Transit||Sengkang Depot|
|Downtown Line||22 December 2013||2017||Bukit Panjang||Chinatown||18||20.9||Kim Chuan Depot
Tai Seng Facility Building
Gali Batu Depot
East Coast Integrated Depot(future)
|DC 750 V
|Kim Chuan Depot|
|Subtotal (Lines under SBS Transit):||34||40.9|
Facilities and servicesEdit
Except for the partly at-grade Bishan MRT Station, the entirety of the MRT is elevated or underground. Most below-ground stations are deep and hardened enough to withstand conventional aerial bomb attacks and to serve as bomb shelters. Mobile phone and 3G service is available in every part of the network. Underground stations and the trains themselves are air-conditioned, while above-ground stations have ceiling fans installed.
Every station is equipped with General Ticketing Machines (GTMs), a Passenger Service Centre and LED or plasma displays that show train service information and announcements. All stations are equipped with restrooms and payphones; some restrooms are located at street level. Some stations, especially the major ones, have additional amenities and services, such as retail shops and kiosks, supermarkets, convenience stores, automatic teller machines, and self-service automated kiosks for a variety of services. Heavy-duty escalators at stations carry passengers up or down at a rate of 0.75 m/s, 50% faster than conventional escalators.
The older stations on the North South and East West lines were originally built with no accessibility facilities, such as lifts, ramps, tactile guidance systems (Braille tactiles on the floor surface), wider fare gates, or toilets for passengers with disabilities; authorities in the past actively discouraged use of their system by the disabled. Now, these facilities are being progressively installed as part of a programme to make all stations accessible to the elderly and to those with disabilities. All stations are now barrier-free, although works are still ongoing to provide stations with additional barrier-free facilities. The installation of lifts at pedestrian overhead bridges next to six MRT stations and additional bicycle racks at 20 stations is slated to be completed by the end of 2013.
Hours of operationEdit
MRT lines operate from 5:30am to before 1:00am daily, with the exception of selected periods such as New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya, Christmas, eves of public holidays, and special occasions such as the state funeral of Lee Kuan Yew (2015), when most of the lines stay open throughout the night or extended till later. MRT serves as an essential purpose of transport owing to the support from various organisations and being a car-lite society. When train services operate 24 hours, operators cannot carry out maintenance and engineering works to be done overnight.
The following table lists the rolling stock of the network:
|Total||Service commencement||Power supply||Price|
|C151||North South Line
East West Line
|6||400||7 November 1987||750 V DC
|C651||6||114||20 September 1994||S$259 million|
|C751B||6||126[a]||28 January 2000||S$231 million|
|C151A||6||210||27 May 2011||S$368 million|
|C151B||6||270||16 April 2017||S$281.5 million|
|C751A||North East Line||6||150||20 June 2003||1500 V DC
|C751C||6||108||1 October 2015||S$234.9 million|
|C830||Circle Line||3||120||28 May 2009||750 V DC
|C830C||3||72||26 June 2015||S$134 million|
|C951/C951A||Downtown Line||3||276||22 December 2013||S$689.9 million[b]|
East Coast Line
|4||364||2019||750 V DC
At present, all Singapore lines run with fixed length trains between three and six cars, with the future Thomson-East Coast Line using four cars. Since the system's conception in 1987, all train lines have been powered by the 750 volt DC third rail, with the exception of the North East Line which is powered by 1500 volt DC overhead lines. The North South and East West lines uses an automatic train operation system that is similar to London Underground's Victoria line.
No rolling stock has been completely scrapped since service began, with the oldest C151 trains operating since the inauguration of the MRT System in 1987. Older trains have been renewed over the years under refurbishment schemes to enhance their lifespan as well as to adhere to updated safety and usability codes. Refurbished and new trains sport sleeker designs, improved passenger information systems, more grab poles, wider seats, more space near the doors, spaces for wheelchairs and CCTV cameras. As a trial run, luggage racks were installed on the C751B trains to serve travellers on the Changi Airport branch line. However, the scheme was subsequently withdrawn in June 2002 and the luggage racks removed.
All trains are contracted by open tender, with their contract numbers forming the most recognised name of the stock. Official sources occasionally refer to the trains of the North South and East West lines as numbered generation trains, with the C151 train being the first and the newest C151C train being the Sixth.
All Mass Rapid Transit lines are capable of running trains automatically without operator intervention.
The oldest lines, the North South Line and East West Line are the only lines running with fixed block signalling. The North South Line was recently upgraded to moving block CBTC in 2017, with the East West Line upgrade to be implemented in 2018.
All new MRT lines built since the North East Line in 2003 are equipped with moving block CBTC from the outset, and have the capability to be completely driverless and automated, require no onboard staffing. Operations are monitored remotely from the operations control centre of the respective lines. Trains are equipped with intercoms to allow passengers to communicate with staff in emergencies.
|Line||Supplier||Solution||Type [note 2]||Commission Date||Length (km)||Level of Automation[note 3]||Control Centre||Remarks|
|North South Line||Thales||SelTrac||Moving Block CBTC||Mid-Late 2017||44||DTO||City Hall Headquarters||BrownField|
|East West Line||Westinghouse||FS2000||Fixed Block-Speed Coded||1987||57.2||STO||City Hall Headquarters||Tuas West Extension to use SelTrac CBTC from opening in June 2017|
|North East Line||Alstom||Urbalis 300||Moving Block CBTC||2003||20||UTO||Sengkang Depot|
|Circle Line||Alstom||Urbalis 300||Moving Block CBTC||2009||35.5||UTO||Kim Chuan Depot|
|Downtown Line||Siemens, formally Invensys Westinghouse||Sirius CBTC||Moving Block CBTC||2013||20.9||UTO||Gali Batu Depot||Phase 3 under testing|
|Thomson-East Coast Line||Alstom, formally GE||Urbalis 400||Moving Block CBTC||2019||43||UTO||Mandai Depot||Under Construction|
SMRT Corporation has four train depots: Bishan Depot is the central maintenance depot with train overhaul facilities, while Changi Depot and Ulu Pandan Depot inspect and house trains overnight. In March 2012, it was announced the new Tuas Depot would be ready in 2016 for the East West MRT Line. The underground Kim Chuan Depot houses trains for the Circle Line and Downtown Line, now jointly managed by the two operators.
SBS Transit has two depots: Sengkang Depot houses trains for the North East MRT Line, the Sengkang LRT Line and the Punggol LRT Line. Kim Chuan Depot is currently jointly operated with SMRT for the Downtown Line. Major operations will eventually be shifted to the main Gali Batu Depot by end 2015 although it will continue to operate on a minor capacity.
In August 2014, plans for the East Coast Integrated Depot, the world's first four-in-one train and bus depot were announced. It will be built at Tanah Merah beside the original Changi Depot site to serve the East West, Downtown, and Thomson-East Coast lines. The new 36ha depot can house about 220 trains and 550 buses and integrating the depot for both buses and trains will help save close to 66.12 acres (26.76 ha), or 60 football fields' worth, of land space.
Architecture and artEdit
Early stages of the MRT's construction paid relatively scant attention to station design, with an emphasis on functionality over aesthetics. This is particularly evident in the first few stages of the North South and East West lines that opened between 1987 and 1988 from Yio Chu Kang to Clementi. An exception to this was Orchard, chosen by its designers to be a "showpiece" of the system and built initially with a domed roof. Architectural themes became a more important issue only in subsequent stages, and resulted in such designs as the cylindrical station shapes on all stations between Kallang and Pasir Ris except Eunos, and west of Boon Lay, and the perched roofs at Boon Lay, Lakeside, Chinese Garden, Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak, Choa Chu Kang, Khatib, Yishun and Eunos stations.
Art pieces, where present, are seldom highlighted; they primarily consist of a few paintings or sculptures representing the recent past of Singapore, mounted in major stations. The opening of the Woodlands Extension introduced bolder pieces of artwork, such as a 4,000 kg sculpture in Woodlands. With the opening of the North East MRT Line, more series of artworks created under a programme called "The Art In Transit" were commissioned by the Land Transport Authority. Created by 19 local artists and integrated into the stations' interior architecture, these works aim to promote the appreciation of public art in high-traffic environments. The artwork for each station is designed to suit the station's identity. All stations on the North East, Circle and Downtown Lines come under this programme. An art contest was held by the authorities in preparation for a similar scheme to be implemented for the Circle Line.
The Expo MRT Station, located on the Changi Airport Branch Line (CAL) of the East West Line, is adjacent to the 100,000-square-metre Singapore Expo exhibition facility. Designed by Foster and Partners and completed in January 2001, the station features a large, pillarless, titanium-clad roof in an elliptical shape that sheathes the length of the station platform. This complements a smaller 40-metre reflective stainless-steel disc overlapping the titanium ellipse and visually floats over a glass elevator shaft and the main entrance. The other station with similar architecture is Dover.
Changi Airport, the easternmost station on the MRT network, has the widest platform in any underground MRT station in Singapore. It is rated 10 out of 15 most beautiful subway stops in the world in 2011.
Two Circle Line stations—Bras Basah and Stadium—were commissioned through the Marina Line Architectural Design Competition, which was jointly organised by the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Institute of Architects. The competition did not require any architectural experience from competitors, and is acknowledged by the industry as one of the most impartial competitions held in Singapore to date. The winner of both stations was WOHA. In 2009, "Best Transport Building" was awarded to the designers at WOHA Architects at the World Architecture Festival.
The MRT system relied on its two main lines, the North South and East West lines, for more than a decade until the opening of the North East Line in 2003. While plans for these lines as well as those currently under construction were formulated long before, the Land Transport Authority's publication of a White Paper titled "A World Class Land Transport System" in 1996 galvanised the government's intentions to greatly expand the system. It called for the expansion of the 67 kilometres of track in 1995 to 360 in 2030. It was expected that daily ridership in 2030 would grow to 6.0 million from the 1.4 million passengers at that time
The following table lists Mass Rapid Transit lines and stations that are currently under testing, construction, or that are in the planning stages:
|Name and color||Commencement||Between stations||No. of stations||Length (km)||Depot||Operator|
|Downtown Line||2017 (Stage 3)
|18||23.2||Gali Batu Depot
Kim Chuan Depot
|North South Line||2019 (Canberra Station)||Canberra||1||0 (on existing line)||Bishan Depot
Ulu Pandan Depot
East Coast Line
|2019 (Stage 1)
2020 (Stage 2)
2021 (Stage 3)
2023 (Stage 4)
2024 (Stage 5)
Gardens by the Bay
East Coast Integrated Depot(future)
|Circle Line||2025 (Stage 6)||Keppel||Prince Edward||3||4||Kim Chuan Depot||SMRT Trains|
|North East Line||2023 (NELe)||Punggol Coast||1||1.6||Sengkang Depot||SBS Transit|
|Jurong Region Line||2025||N/A||20||N/A|
|Cross Island Line||2030||N/A||50||N/A|
The 42-kilometre, 36 station fully underground Downtown Line, will connect the northwestern and eastern regions of Singapore to the new downtown at Marina Bay in the south and to the CBD. Similar to the Circle Line, three-car trainsets will run on the Downtown Line with line capacity projected for 500,000 commuters daily. The Downtown Line is slated to be completed in three stages. Stage 1 from Bugis to Chinatown began operations on 22 December 2013. Stage 2 from Bukit Panjang to Rochor began operations on 27 December 2015. Stage 3 from Fort Canning to Expo will begin operations on 21 October 2017 and Stage 3e from Expo to Sungei Bedok in 2024 respectively.
Downtown Line 3 extensionEdit
A commuter who lives along the corridor of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) will be able to access key employment nodes along the Downtown Line 3 corridor in a single train ride. The Downtown Line 3 Extension also brings direct connectivity along the corridor it serves.
Thomson-East Coast LineEdit
The 43-kilometre, 31 station fully underground Thomson-East Coast Line will connect the northern region of Singapore to the south, running parallel to the existing North South Line passing through Woodlands, Sin Ming, Upper Thomson and Marina Bay before turning east and running through Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Marine Parade and Bedok. The line will commence operation in five stages, with the first three stages starting from Woodlands North to Gardens by the Bay commencing operations between 2019 and 2021 respectively, Stage 4 from Tanjong Rhu to Bayshore in 2023 and Stage 5 from Bedok South to Sungei Bedok in 2024. The northern terminus of Woodlands North is also expected to interchange with the Singapore-Johor rail link to provide access to Johor Bahru and the future Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System.
Jurong Region LineEdit
First proposed as a LRT line when originally announced in 2001, the Jurong Region Line has since been upgraded to be a medium capacity line after the project was revived in 2013. The new configuration will serve West Coast, Tengah and Choa Chu Kang and Jurong. Details will be announced once Tengah New Town development is up, and the completion will be by 2025.
Cross Island LineEdit
The 50-kilometre Cross Island Line will span the island of Singapore, passing through Tuas, Jurong, Sin Ming, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Punggol, Pasir Ris and Changi. The addition of the new line brings commuters with another alternative for East-West travel to the current East West Line. It will also connect to all the other major lines to serve as a key transfer line, complementing the role currently fulfilled by the orbital Circle Line. This line will even have a longer timeframe due to the environmental study aspects, with the completion by 2030. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has also expressed interest in the implementation of possible express services on the CRL in future, apart from having just normal services. This express service would benefit commuters during the morning peak hours as trains would stop at only the interchanges and skip the remaining stations, hence, reducing travel time greatly.
Tuas West ExtensionEdit
Expected to be opened for service in Q2 2017, the Tuas West Extension will extend the East-West Line from Joo Koon Station. The stations — Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link — will extend MRT connectivity to the Tuas area and are expected to serve more than 100,000 commuters daily. The 7.5 km extension comprises a twin tracked viaduct and 4 above ground stations.
A 26-hectare depot built to provide stabling and maintenance facilities for the additional 13 trains that will be bought for the extension and cater for future capacity expansion of the North-South Line and East-West Line.
The Tuas West Extension officially opened on 16 June 2017 as part of an open house event where passengers could ride for free and passenger service started on 18 June 2017.
Circle Line Stage 6Edit
To be completed by 2025, the 4-kilometre extension will run from Marina Bay through Keppel, ending at HarbourFront. On 29 October 2015, the LTA announced the 3 station locations for the 'Circle Line Stage 6'. The stations are Keppel, Cantonment and Prince Edward Station.
North East Line extensionEdit
To be completed by 2030, the 2-kilometre extension will run from Punggol through Punggol North including the new Punggol Downtown. The extension is for future residents in Punggol North to have train access to the city centre as well as other parts of Singapore. On 7 June 2017, it was announced by Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng that the North-East Line extension will open in 2023 instead, a few years ahead of the expected opening date. The single station extension will span 1.6km and will serve the future Punggol North area. The station is tentatively called Punggol Coast station.
Fares and ticketingEdit
Stations are divided into two areas, paid and unpaid, which allow the rail operators to collect fares by restricting entry only through the fare gates, also known as access control gates. These gates, connected to a computer network, can read and update electronic tickets capable of storing data, and can store information such as the initial and destination stations and the duration for each trip. General Ticketing Machines sell tickets for single trips or allow the customer to buy additional value for stored-value tickets. Tickets for single trips, coloured in green, are valid only on the day of purchase, and have a time allowance of 30 minutes beyond the estimated travelling time. Tickets that can be used repeatedly until their expiry date require a minimum amount of stored credit.
As the fare system has been integrated by TransitLink, commuters need to pay only one fare and pass through two fare gates (once on entry, once on exit) for an entire journey for most interchange stations, even when transferring between lines operated by different companies. Commuters can choose to extend a trip mid-journey, and pay the difference when they exit their destination station.
Because the rail operators are government-assisted, profit-based corporations, fares on the MRT system are pitched to at least break-even level. The operators collect these fares by selling electronic data-storing tickets, the prices of which are calculated based on the distance between the start and destination stations. These prices increase in fixed stages for standard non-discounted travel. Fares are calculated in increments based on approximate distances between stations, in contrast to the use of fare zones in other subway systems, such as the London Underground.
Although operated by private companies, the system's fare structure is regulated by the Public Transport Council (PTC), to which the operators submit requests for changes in fares. Fares are kept affordable by pegging them approximately to distance-related bus fares, thus encouraging commuters to use the network and reduce heavy reliance on the bus system. Fare increases over the past few years have caused public concern, the latest one having taken effect from 1 October 2008. There were similar expressions of disapproval over the slightly higher fares charged on SBS Transit's North East Line, a disparity that SBS Transit justified by citing higher costs of operation and maintenance on a completely underground line, as well as lower patronage.
The ticketing system uses the EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay contactless smart cards based upon the Symphony for e-Payment (SeP) system for public transit built on the Singapore Standard for Contactless ePurse Application (CEPAS) system. This system allows for up to 4 card issuers in the market. The EZ-Link card was introduced on 13 April 2002 as a replacement for the original TransitLink farecard, while its competitor the NETS FlashPay card entered the smartcard market on 9 October 2009.
A stored value adult EZ-Link or NETS FlashPay branded CEPAS card may be purchased at any TransitLink Ticket Office or Passenger Service Centre. The CEPAS card may be used for the payment of MRT, LRT and bus fares. The CEPAS card may also be used for payment for goods and services at selected merchants, Electronic Road Pricing tolls, and Electronic Parking System carparks. Additional credit may be purchased via cash or NETS at any General Ticketing Machine (GTM), Add Value Machine, TransitLink Ticket Office, Passenger Service Centre, AXS Station, DBS/POSB/OCBC/UOB Automatic Teller Machines, online via a card reader purchased separately, or selected merchants. Additional credit of a predetermined value may also be automatically credited into the card when the card value runs low via an automatic recharge service provided by Interbank GIRO or credit card. An Adult Monthly Travel Card for unlimited travel on MRT, LRT and buses may also be purchased and is non-transferable.
A Standard Ticket contactless smart card for single or return journeys may also be purchased at the GTM for the payment of MRT and/or LRT fares. A S$0.10 deposit will be levied on top of the fare to be paid. The deposit will be automatically refunded through an offset of the fare to be paid for the third journey on the same ticket while an additional discount of S$0.10 will be given for the sixth journey on the same ticket. No refund of the deposit is provided if the card is used for fewer than 3 journeys. The ticket can be used for the purchase of single or return journeys to and from pre-selected stations up to a maximum of six journeys over 30 days. Fares for the Standard Ticket are always higher than those charged for the stored-valued CEPAS (EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay) cards for the same distance traveled. The ticket is retained by the user after each journey and does not need to be returned to any GTM or Passenger Service Centre. Identical to the usage of CEPAS cards, the ticket is tapped onto the faregate reader upon entry and exit.
For tourists, a Singapore Tourist Pass contactless smartcard may be purchased. The card may be bought at selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and Singapore Visitors Centres. The tourists may retrieved their deposit by returning the card to the ticket offices or visitors centres within 5 days from the date of issue.
Safety and securityEdit
Operators and authorities state that numerous measures had been taken to ensure the safety of passengers, and SBS Transit publicised the safety precautions on the driverless North East Line before and after its opening. Safety campaign posters are highly visible in trains and stations, and the operators frequently broadcast safety announcements to passengers and to commuters waiting for trains. Fire safety standards are consistent with the strict guidelines of the US National Fire Protection Association.
There were calls for platform screen doors to be installed at above-ground stations after several incidents in which passengers were killed by oncoming trains when they fell onto the railway tracks at above-ground stations. Underground stations already featured platform screen doors since 1987. The authorities initially rejected the proposal by casting doubts over functionality and concerns about the high installation costs, but made an about-turn when the government announced plans to install half-height platform screen doors on the above-ground stations in January 2008, citing lower costs due to it becoming a more common feature worldwide. They were first installed at Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Yishun stations in 2009 under trials to test their feasibility.
By 14 March 2012, all elevated stations have been retrofitted with the doors and are operational. These doors prevent suicides and unauthorised access to restricted areas. Under the Rapid Transit Systems Act, acts such as smoking, eating or drinking in stations and trains, the misuse of emergency equipment and trespassing on the railway tracks are illegal, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
There were a few major accidents in the history of the MRT that raised safety concerns among the public. On 5 August 1993, two trains collided at Clementi station because of an oil spillage on the track, which resulted in 132 injuries. During the construction of the Circle Line on 20 April 2004, a tunnel being constructed under Nicoll Highway collapsed and led to the deaths of four people.
The overall reliability of the North South and East West lines (as well as the credibility of the train operator SMRT) were questioned by the public after multiple major train disruptions in December 2011 led to a Committee of Inquiry, which uncovered serious shortcomings in SMRT Corporation's maintenance regime. Since then, every MRT line had been plagued with disruptions of various degrees of severity, especially the lines operated by SMRT.
A much larger power-related incident than the December 2011 event occurred on 7 July 2015, when train services on both the North South and East West lines were shut down in both directions following a major power trip. The disruption lasted for more than 3 hours, affecting 250,000 commuters. This was considered the worst disruption to the MRT network since it first began operations in 1987 - surpassing the December 2011 event. Independent experts from Sweden and Japan were hired to conduct investigation into the cause of the disruption. The cause was identified as damage to a third rail insulator due to a water leak at Tanjong Pagar station. Consequently, a program was implemented to replace insulators liable to similar failure.
2016 fatal accidentEdit
Further casting doubts on SMRT's maintenance regime and company culture was a fatal accident that happened around 11.10 am on 22 March 2016. Two of SMRT's track-maintenance trainee staff were lethally run over by an approaching C151 at a signalling box off Pasir Ris MRT station at 60 km/h. They were part of a technical team of 15 staff led by a supervisor and were asked to go down to the tracks to investigate an alarm triggered by a possible signalling equipment fault close by Pasir Ris station. The operator said the team had permission to access the tracks, but did not coordinate with a signal unit in the Pasir Ris station control to ensure train captains in the area where the team was exercised caution while pulling into Pasir Ris Station. This incident resulted in a 2.5 hour service delay between Tanah Merah and Pasir Ris Stations, affecting at least 10,000 commuters.
Patrick Nathan, SMRT Vice-president, promised that "SMRT will review all safety protocols particularly those involving track access". SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek apologised for the incident and said SMRT would conduct their investigations.
On December 2, 2016, SMRT was formally accused of failing to ensure that its employees complied with approved operating procedures when accessing the track, facing a fine of up to S$500,000. Teo Wee Kiat, SMRT's director of control operations, faces the same charge as SMRT. If convicted, Teo could be fined up to $200,000 and/or jailed for up to two years. Lim Say Heng, meanwhile, was charged with failing to ensure trains could not enter the track before the men accessed it. For causing death by committing a negligent act, he risks being fined or jailed for two years.
Investigations are still ongoing.
Security concerns related to crime and terrorism were not high on the agenda of the system's planners at its inception. However, after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the foiled plot to bomb the Yishun MRT Station in 2001, the operators deployed private, unarmed guards to patrol station platforms and conduct checks on the belongings of commuters, especially those carrying bulky items.
Recorded announcements are frequently made to remind passengers to report suspicious activity and not to leave their belongings unattended. Digital closed-circuit cameras (CCTVs) have been upgraded with recording-capability at all stations and trains operated by SMRT Corporation. Trash bins and mail boxes have been removed from station platforms and concourse levels to station entrances, to eliminate the risk of bombs planted in them. Photography without permission was also banned in all MRT stations since the Madrid bombings, but it was not in the official statement in any public transport security reviews.
On 14 April 2005 the Singapore Police Force announced plans to step up rail security by establishing a specialised security unit for public transport, the unit today is known as the Public Transport Security Command or more commonly known as TRANSCOM. These armed officers began overt patrols on the MRT and LRT systems on 15 August 2005, conducting random patrols in pairs in and around rail stations and within trains. They are trained and authorised to use their firearms at their discretion, including deadly force if deemed necessary. On 8 January 2006, a major civil exercise involving over 2,000 personnel from 22 government agencies, codenamed Exercise Northstar V, simulating bombing and chemical attacks at Dhoby Ghaut, Toa Payoh, Raffles Place and Marina Bay MRT stations was conducted. Thirteen stations were closed and about 3,400 commuters were affected during the three-hour exercise.
Security concerns were brought up by the public when two incidents of vandalism at train depots occurred within two years. In both incidents, graffiti on the affected trains were discovered after they entered revenue service. The first incident, on 17 May 2010, involved a breach in the perimeter fence of Changi Depot and resulted in the imprisonment and caning of a Swiss citizen, and an Interpol arrest warrant for his accomplice. The train involved was set 047/048, a C151 train. SMRT Corporation received a S$50,000 fine by the Land Transport Authority for the first security breach. Measures were put in place by the Public Transport Security Committee to enhance depot security in light of the first incident, but works were yet to be completed by SMRT Corporation when the second incident, on 17 August 2011, occurred at Bishan Depot.
On 22 November 2012, the Land Transport Authority carried out a ground deployment exercise with SMRT to test their incident management plans in the event of a train service disruption. In total, about 135 personnel including representatives from the Singapore Police Force's Transport Command (TransCom) and SBS Transit participated in the exercise. Train service continued as per normal and commuters were not affected by the exercise. Codenamed 'Exercise Greyhound', the exercise went through the scenario of a broken rail on the East West Line at Buona Vista. SMRT had also activated their Rail Incident Management Plan.
On 22 August 2013, ‘Exercise Greyhound 2013’ was carried out by the Land Transport Authority with SBS Transit to validate the procedures of SBST’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) and the workability of its contingency plans for bus bridging, free bus service and deployment of Goodwill Ambassadors (GAs) during a simulated prolonged train service disruption. About 300 personnel including representatives from LTA, SBST, SMRT, the Singapore Police Force’s Transport Command (TransCom), Traffic Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) participated in the exercise. Train service continued as per normal and commuters were not affected by the exercise.
- Excluding duplicating interchange stations.
- Fixed Block = Conventional Fixed Block using Line of Sight. Fixed Block-Speed Coded = Fixed Block using Coded Track Circuits. DTG-TC = Fixed Block-Distance to Go using Track Circuits. DTG-R = Fixed-Block-Distance-to-Go using Radio. Moving Block TBTC = Moving Block using Induction Loops. Moving Block CBTC = Moving Block using Radio.
- UTO = Unattended Train Operation. DTO = Driverless Train Operation. STO = Semi-automated Operation Mode
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