Bukit Panjang LRT Line

  Bukit Panjang LRT Line  
A typical BPLRT station
A typical BPLRT station
Type Light Rail Transit
Station Count 14
Line length 7.8km
Termini Choa Chu Kang
Ten Mile Junction
Depot Ten Mile Junction
Operational Data
Operators SMRT Trains
Rolling stock Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (C801)
Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (C801A)
Electrification 600V AC power rail
Track gauge Central guideway with rubber tyres
Opened 6 Nov 1999

The Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) is a light rail line serving residential estates within Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang. The 7.8-kilometre network is the first driverless and fully automated train system in Singapore. Opened on 6 November 1999, the line operates on the Bombardier Innovia APM 100 rolling stock, which are rubber-tyred automated people movers operating in single-car and double-car arrangements.

Unlike other train lines in Singapore, the Bukit Panjang LRT using Service Letters to indicate its direction of travel and destination. This is due to the unique, non-linear shape of the line, which branches out at Bukit Panjang Station. Trains travelling from Choa Chu Kang will split directions at Bukit Panjang station, making either a clockwise or anti-clockwise loop before returning to Bukit Panjang station.

The Bukit Panjang LRT was developed to extend the reach of the MRT network closer to residents with stations situated within the Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang neighbourhood, connecting to the heavy-rail North South Line and Downtown Lines. It also complements existing trunk and feeder bus services within the two estates.

Train Services

The BPLRT operates with three routes, namely Service A, B and C.

Both Services A and B start from Choa Chu Kang, and upon reaching Bukit Panjang station, Service A will travel around Bukit Panjang estate in a clockwise fashion via Senja station, while Service B travels the counter-clockwise loop via Petir station. Both will meet up and Bukit Panjang and continue towards Choa Chu Kang where they terminate.

Service C is a supplementary service that starts and ends at Ten Mile Junction station via the Bukit Panjang loop. It operates every 20 minutes, and loops within the Bukit Panjang estate in a clockwise direction similar to Service A.

Service Terminus via Notes
A Choa Chu Kang Bukit Panjang & Senja (Clockwise loop) Full Day
B Choa Chu Kang Bukit Panjang & Petir (Counter-Clockwise loop) Full Day
C Ten Mile Junction Bukit Panjang & Senja (Clockwise loop) Every 20mins

Service C operates between 10.00am and 11.10pm daily. It suspends operations between 4.15pm and 9.15pm on Weekdays, and operates continuously on Weekends and Public Holidays.

Diagram of LRT services A, B and C. The station codes have since been changed.
Diagram of LRT services A, B and C. The station codes have since been changed.

In the event of a train disruption, shuttle buses will be activated. Please refer to this LRT disruption guide for more information.

Stations

Rolling Stock

The Bukit Panjang LRT operates on the Bombardier Innovia APM 100 rolling stock. An initial 19 trainsets were delivered in 1999 under Contract 801, which bear a turquoise livery. An additional 13 trainsets were delivered in 2014 under Contract 801A, bearing SMRT’s pixel livery and a slightly different exterior design.

These trains, also known as automated people movers, are rubber-tyred for minimised operating noise within built-up areas and guided by a central guideway which also contains a power rail. They operate in both single-car and double-car arrangements, paired with a similar model (C801 and C801A trainsets are not cross-coupled).

Platform edge barriers at Keat Hong station
Platform edge barriers at Keat Hong station

Upgrades In Progress

By 2017, all stations along the Bukit Panjang LRT will be fitted with fixed, half-height platform barriers in an effort to improve commuter safety. Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Panjang stations were the first to be installed with these barriers in 2015, in anticipation of higher commuter traffic with the opening of Downtown Line 2. All stations would eventually be installed with the platform barriers.


Bukit Panjang LRT Overhaul

Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (C801A) - Approaching Bangkit Station
Bombardier Innovia APM 100 (C801A) – Approaching Bangkit Station

As mentioned in the Committee of Supply Debate 2017, an overhaul of the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT) Line has been planned, including new trains, power rails, signalling system and various other critical components. Minister Khaw has set a target of Year 2017 for a tender to be called for the complete replacement of the BPLRT’s ageing components and an upgrade of its systems.

Details on the renewal process have yet to be disclosed by the LTA, which only commented that it would be “a complex project” performed on a live and running system.

Ever since its opening in 1999, the reliability of the BPLRT has been “unsatisfactory” in the words of Mr Khaw, despite efforts by the LTA, SMRT and the train manufacturer, Bombardier, over many years to improve it. By “shoe-horning” the LRT system into a built-up town, the LRT has to make sharp bends and over undulating terrain, worsening the problem of misalignment between the power rail and the trains’ collector shoes which were responsible for 60% of major disruptions over the past three years.

Plans to fix the glitch-ridden system were first revealed last October in a blog post by Mr Lee Ling Wee, managing director of operator SMRT Trains. Three options were laid out, namely: (1) to deploy self-powered, autonomous guided vehicles on the existing viaduct, (2) to build a new LRT system with significant design enhancements, or (3) upgrading the signalling system to deploy more trains at closer intervals, but retaining the current Bombardier guideway system.

Should all 3 options be unfeasible, the last alternative would be to scrap the system and revert to buses. However, that option was dismissed, as the road network in Bukit Panjang would not be able to cope with the increased congestion.

With the 20-year design lifespan of the BPLRT fast approaching, the complete overhaul is a sensible move, but the future of the new C801A LRT trainsets have been called into question. Introduced in November 2014 and still in good working condition, it would be a waste if these trains are discarded, in the likely scenario that they will be incompatible with the new system. The revamp could see a re-design of the Bukit Panjang Station, its track layout and the service routeing so that the trains do not have to constantly switch tracks, as the switch point is described as a ‘critical vulnerability’. At the same time, works to refit all BPLRT stations with fixed platform barriers is in progress, and it remains to be seen if the new system will be compatible with these barriers.

The overhaul of LRT systems is not unheard of. In the early 2000s, the Changi Airport Skytrain was refitted from the AdTranz/Bombardier system (similar to the BPLRT) to the Crystal Mover system (similar to the Punggol LRT and Sengkang LRT) prior to the opening of Terminal 3. A similarly challenging undertaking on the Taipei Metro Brown Line involved the tackling of many obstacles in converting the two-car system into a four-car system.


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