Bukit Panjang peeps rejoice, tender for LRT overhaul to be called by end-2017

SMRT will form a quick-response team to help shorten service recovery times.

By Sulaiman Daud | October 2, 2017

Residents of Bukit Panjang, your long nightmare is over. The government will call for a tender to overhaul the 18-year old Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) system by the end of 2017.

And if that’s not enough, there will be additional measures in place to improve the reliability and service of the BPLRT until then, according to Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng. Ng was responding to parliamentary questions from MPs Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) and Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

Interim measures before overhaul

These include the installation of a new power source at the Ten Mile Junction substation to provide a back-up to the existing power system at Choa Chu Kang, and shortening its operating hours so that engineers have more time to perform maintenance work.

Special attention will be paid to “hot spots” which cause the most faults.

Ng explained that the design of the BPLRT system contributed to the teething problems:

“This straight-line design of the LRT was adapted into undulating terrain and sharp turns, causing the (trains’) power collector shoes to dislodge from the power rail.

We have taken a look at the design considerations, and this will be addressed in the upcoming tender to improve the reliability of the whole system.”

SMRT is also forming a quick response team to rectify train faults and shorten service recovery times, he added.

Gif from Giphy.

BPLRT not a perfect design

Bukit Panjang commuters have experienced some serious disruptions.

On Sep. 9, the BPLRT experienced a breakdown of six hours, caused by two broken rail support brackets.

The BPLRT came under scrutiny when Khaw commented on its design flaws at an SMRT event on Sept. 12 earlier this year:

“You have to take into account terrains, no LRT is designed that way, in such a masochistic manner where you force yourself up and down, twist and turn.”

Khaw also commented that the BPLRT was an “afterthought”, as it was built after the town of Bukit Panjang itself.

Ng said that in the 1990s, the LTA was exploring a pilot LRT network to to ease vehicular congestion in housing estates. Bukit Panjang was identified in 1994 for the pilot scheme, but it was not designed to incorporate an LRT system in mind.

“The primary issue with the Bukit Panjang LRT is that the LRT design was adapted from the airport system… to a housing estate. This straight-lane design adapted to undulating and sharp turns caused power collector shoes to dislodge from the power rail.”

The tender will be awarded in the first half of 2018. Ng said that reliability of the BPLRT will improve “substantially” when completed.

That’s good news for Bukit Panjang folks, whose estate unfortunately has narrow roads and experiences frequent traffic jams.

If the LRT can be made more reliable, road congestion will be reduced too. Hopefully.

Related story:

I hate the Bukit Panjang LRT system, but I’d hate it more if it got scrapped

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Top image from SMRT.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve. In his spare time he writes about film, pop-culture and international politics, which you are very welcome to read here.

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