Photo of Khaw Boon Wan at the sleepers replacement completion ceremony from Straits Times

Singapore’s nationalised public transport operator SMRT came out with a new explanation yesterday (Jan 29) for the train breakdown incident on the East-West (EW) Line in recent weeks.

An anonymous SMRT spokesperson wrote in the SMRT blog yesterday pinning the recent train breakdown incidents on a new fault – track circuit:

“Track circuits are integral to the signalling system, as they send signals to the operations control centre to monitor the speed, location and identity of trains. When a track circuit fails, trains have to travel at a lower speed over the affected stretch for safety reasons,” said the rail operator, adding that the slower speeds caused congestion during peak hours. The failure could be due to equipment failure either at a signal equipment room within an MRT station or at trackside.”

As the incident happened on a rainy day, SMRT wrote that their staffs were not able to conduct on-site maintenance due to the bad weather.

“While a hardware failure in the signal equipment room can be quickly rectified, engineering staff must go to the track to investigate trackside failures. This can be very challenging when the track is on a rail viaduct, particularly in heavy rain or when there is risk of lightning. Replacement of the signalling system, which began in 2012, will substitute the old track circuits with a more advanced system that is more reliable. After we renew the signalling system, faulty track circuits will no longer cause prolonged delays.”

However, as the new signaling system is ready only by March 2017 – backtracking their earlier promise that train speed will resume to 80km/hr.

Commuters took issue with the EW Line performance after SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the completion of a S$195 million sleepers replacement project.

Read: SMRT promise 80km/h train speed on EW Line by end 2016

Read: Track fault right after Minister Khaw Boon Wan declare speed increase

The announcement was made on Jan 20 and barely 3 days later, a 3-hour long track fault occurred between Clementi and Joo Koon station.Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is avoiding media queries and refusing to respond on the recent train breakdown incidents.