NEL train service disruption: 6 other power-related faults over the years

SINGAPORE – Train services between Punggol and Serangoon stations on the North East Line (NEL) came to a halt for about three hours on Sunday (March 28) morning due to a fault in the overhead catenary system.

The system supplies power to the trains and is installed on the ceiling of train tunnels.

Here is a list of other power-related faults that affected the NEL over the years.

1. Feb 27, 2020

A six-hour-long disruption affected peak hour traffic along three stations on the NEL – Punggol, Sengkang and Buangkok.

Initial investigations showed the delay was due to a broken contact wire that affected power supply to trains launching from the Sengkang depot, said SBS Transit in a statement then.

2. Oct 26, 2015

The two-hour disruption affecting the entire line happened after a new train undergoing testing damaged the overhead catenary system. It was returning to the depot from the mainline.

Investigations revealed that the train was being manually driven when the driver saw sparks from above the train and stopped the train immediately.

The train stopped at a stretch where the mainline and depot catenary system wires overlap, resulting in arcing between the two wire sections.

Arcing occurs at the overlap point because of the voltage difference between the mainline and depot catenary systems. This is not a problem during normal operations as NEL trains are driverless and will not stop at this overlap point, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SBS Transit in a joint statement on Nov 27, 2015.

LTA and SBS added then that they were working together to enhance the design of the catenary system to minimise the likelihood of a recurrence.

3. Oct 13, 2015


Commuters waiting for the train at Hougang station on Oct 13, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

The disruption between Farrer Park and Hougang stations that lasted for one hour and 40 minutes was due to a power fault, which caused the main circuit breaker to trip.

The power fault was triggered by a “malfunction of a component in the electrical switchgear at a substation” that supplied electricity to power the trains running between these stations.

This caused the main circuit breaker to trip. Power was then diverted to a backup breaker that also tripped.

4. Jan 10, 2013

A six-hour-long disruption affected about 58,000 commuters after services between Dhoby Ghaut and HarbourFront stations went down.

The disruption was traced to three broken U-bolts between HarbourFront and Outram Park stations. This caused a misalignment in the overhead catenary system which resulted in a power trip.

U-bolts are responsible for holding the overhead catenary system’s cantilever arms in position.

Further investigations showed that the U-bolts had been corroded by chlorine and traces of ammonia found at the affected stretch of the train tunnel.

5. August 2012 

Like in the January 2013 incident, U-bolts had been corroded, leading to a disruption.

6. March 2012

The incident was caused by chloride from tunnel water seepage that corroded balance weight anchor wires, breaking them. These wires are responsible for holding the overhead catenary system wires in place.

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