China manufacturer for MTR secretly recalls 35 SMRT subway trains after cracks found
“A source from the mainland railway industry told FactWire that Singapore’s subway operator SMRT Trains Ltd (SMRT) was secretly shipping defective trains back to mainland China for replacement and repair by manufacturer CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company Ltd (CSR Sifang).
However, multiple sources from mainland China and Singapore have confirmed to FactWire that problems have been found with C151A trains since they began service in 2011. Sources said the trains are of poor quality and that the glass next to passenger seats has repeatedly shattered due to shoddy workmanship. In 2011, one of the trains’ Chinese-made uninterruptible power supply batteries exploded during repair. While there were no injuries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries-CSR Sifang replaced all of the batteries made in China with ones made in Germany.
In December 2011, serious malfunctions occurred on the SMRT’s North South Line, which the SMRT suspected were caused by C151A trains. A subcontractor responsible for supplying train components to CSR Sifang admitted to FactWire that after the malfunctions, SMRT significantly reduced the frequency of C151A trains and asked to delay payment for extra trains of the same series, greatly impacting the subcontractor’s cash flow.
The mainland railway industry source stated that quality issues with the Chinese-made C151A trains began to worsen in 2013. They said cracks were found in structural components, including the sub-floor – a compartment under the passenger floor holding the equipment box and electrical wires – and bolster function parts connecting the car body to the bogie, the latter having the most serious problems.”
FactWire contacted several retired Singaporean subway staff. One of them said: “I’ve never encountered a situation like this in all my decades of working in railway construction. Replacing the whole frame [of the train] – you can tell how serious [the problem] is.”
Another former SMRT worker admitted that the C151A train model had quality issues in its propulsion system, engine system, and other components. “It’s not a complete failure you know, it’s [that] the [train’s] life is so much shorter, maybe about half [of the normal lifespan]. [For instance], if normal trains can [run for] one million km, but this one can only do 500,000km.”
He said that Kawasaki Heavy Industries-CSR Sifang had been providing “after sale service” for the trains and sending staff to Singapore to “troubleshoot”. “[Chinese-made trains] are very cheap. How can you have [something] that is very good and pay a very cheap price? So this is [the] trade-off.”