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Update: NS, EW train services may be limited on Wednesday: SMRT

THE train disruption on two major lines in Singapore - the first time both lines were down concurrently - was due to a power trip, preliminary investigations by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) showed.

SMRT Corporation has advised commuters to make alternative travel plans on Wednesday, as both the North-South and East-West lines may run on limited services in the morning.

It said free bus services will continue to run, and fare gates will be opened until the resumption of full train services. SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) have been making announcements through Twitter and Facebook throughout Tuesday night. SMRT said it will continue to keep commuters updated. 

Singapore's two major rail lines were disrupted on Tuesday from 7.15pm - the first time that both lines were affected concurrently. The East-West line was running by 9.20pm, and the North-South line resumed service at 10.35pm.

Singapore's transport minister Lui Tuck Yew said SMRT and LTA will work through the night to fully recover train services, and ensure that services run properly on Wednesday."This is the first time that services on both the North-South and East-West Lines were affected at the same time," he said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. 

"I have told SMRT and LTA to work through the night to fully recover train services and ensure that services run properly tomorrow."

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SMRT, in a late statement Wednesday morning, said from 6pm, multiple power trips on the two lines were detected. "These power trips were linked to the voltage protection circuit of traction power, which is designed to safeguard the safety of commuters at station platforms. Our engineers initially managed to reset these power trips.” said Lee Ling Wee, managing director, SMRT Trains.

“But as we tried to identify the cause of the power fault, the frequency and impact of power trips intensified. At 1915 hours, we decided to detrain all passengers and suspend NSEWL train services for safety reasons in order to isolate the cause of the network-wide power trips. Our preliminary assessment points to a possible power-related equipment failure at substations or along the track, or the undercarriage of a potential defective train which we are investigating tonight. But we are not ruling out other possibilities.” added Mr Lee.

SMRT's chief executive office Desmond Kuek said SMRT has mobilised all engineering and technical staff to comprehensively check the entire network and train fleet.

"SMRT and LTA engineers are working round the clock to conduct tests, and sections of the network are being isolated to pin-point the fault. While it is still early to conclude the cause of the fault, we are doing our utmost to recover the system with the view to resume full train services as soon as possible. We deeply apologise for the inconvenience caused to all our commuters.” said Mr Kuek.

All passengers onboard trains were "safely detrained" at station platforms, SMRT said.

SMRT separately held its shareholders' meeting Tuesday afternoon, hours before the train disruption. In his speech, Mr Kuek told SMRT's shareholders that it has been making progress in its discussions with authorities over the "financial sustainability" of the rail business.

He said that the train business suffered an operating loss of S$2.4 million for the first time in the last quarter of fiscal 2015, as there has been no "commensurate increase in fare revenue to offset the rising operating costs brought about by higher headcount and depreciation because of network expansion, intensified repairs for an ageing fleet, and heightened regulatory and operating standards".

He said under a new rail financing framework, the government - instead of SMRT - should own all operating assets and the associated risks for major capital asset investments. These assets will be leased to SMRT over a shortened licence period, with a charge payable that will comprise fixed and variable components.

"The new framework is being constructed with an appropriate level of risk and reward sharing between the government and SMRT. It is a complex exercise with many implementation details to be worked out," he said in his speech, which was made available through the SGX website Tuesday evening.

"We are making progress in our ongoing discussions with the authorities, and will be able to share more when timely and appropriate."

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