Khaw’s 2014 rail disruption numbers don’t seem to tally


In a recent blog post, “Catching up with HK“, the new Transport Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, shared his thoughts on the transportation system, and how Singapore should emulate Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) in terms of reliability and how Singaporeans should be mentally prepared for future breakdowns.

On building up citizen’s mental preparedness for future breakdowns, Mr Khaw wrote:

“…even MTR experiences major disruptions, once a month on average last year. We should therefore be mentally prepared for the next disruption.  We will be very disappointed when it happens, but we shall stand up, lick our wounds, examine the causes, and work very hard to prevent a repeat.

I hope Singaporeans will cheer us along, like we cheer our athletes even when they lose.  Indeed, more than the spectators, our athletes are the most disappointed with themselves when they do not perform to expectations.”

One thing which Mr Khaw needs to note as the transport minister is that Singapore’s rail system is run by private operators, they are not athletes who pay from their own pocket to contest in regional or international competitions for national pride and personal glory.

Instead, the operators enjoy a monopoly on providing essential public transportation service to the public and issue generous dividends to their shareholders at the end of their fiscal years.

When Hong Kong’s MTR fails to perform to standards, it gets fined by the government for each disruption and offers discount on trips. And while the Singapore government also does fine the private transport operators for disruptions, the manner of how fines are handed out is questionable, as noted in an earlier TOC report. Also Hong Kong’s MTR cannot pass the burden of the fines to commuters by increasing their fares, unlike what Singapore’s private transport operators indirectly seem to do yearly through the Public Transport Council’s “reluctant” approval of “fare revision” exercises.

But what may be of more concern to the public is Mr Khaw’s understanding of the total number of disruptions in the rail system.

In his post, he said that there were only 10 disruptions which exceeded 30 minutes in 2014.

“While all delays are frustrating, major disruptions (which we, as well as MTR, define as delays exceeding 30 minutes) in particular, greatly inconvenience and anger commuters.  Last year, we had 10 such disruptions across all our lines.  MTR experienced 12 major disruptions last year, but their network is significantly longer than ours.”

However, according to (a website which tracks all rail disruptions in Singapore), there were in fact 29 recorded instances in 2014 where the disruption was more than 30 minutes; and till date, there have been 29 disruptions in 2015 which are more than 30 minutes (recorded instances where there were reports or announcements by the rail operator).

So whether the new transport minister is not given the correct numbers or is trying to play down the questionable service standards of the public rail system, is a serious concern either way.

TOC has written to the Ministry of Transport for clarification on the numbers.

List of rail disruptions in 2014

1Train door fault at Dhoby Ghaut station disrupted service between Marina Bay and Newton on 15 Oct 201451
2Power fault disrupted service along the North-East Line on 29 Sep 201457
3Train fault disrupted service between Yio Chu Kang and Marina Bay on 29 Sep 201433
4Power fault disrupted service on the Sengkang West LRT on 24 Sep 201436
5Train fault at Somerset station disrupted service between Marina Bay and Newton on 23 Sep 2014120
6Train fault at Redhill station disrupted service between Outram Park and Queenstown on 19 Sep 201438
7Train fault disrupted service between Toa Payoh and Marina Bay on 1 Sep 201432
8Signalling fault at Braddell station disrupted North-South Line service on 27 Aug 201478
9Power fault disrupted service between Sengkang and Punggol on 21 Aug 2014540
10Signalling fault disrupted service between Tai Seng and HarbourFront on 8 Aug 201474
11Rail defect disrupted service between Lavender and Kallang on 26 Jul 201454
12Train fault disrupted service between Newton and Marina Bay on 23 Jul 201452
13Sleeper replacement works disrupted service between Woodlands and Admiralty on 3 Jul 2014100
14Traction power fault disrupted service between Yio Chu Kang and Yishun on 2 May 201450
15Power fault disrupted service between Dhoby Ghaut and Potong Pasir on 6 Apr 201455
16Train fault disrupted North-East Line service towards HarbourFront on 29 Mar 201435
17Track fault disrupted service between Outram Park and Raffles Place on 26 Mar 201448
18Power fault disrupted service between Hougang and Dhoby Ghaut on 21 Mar 201439
19Power fault disrupted service on the Downtown Line on 7 Mar 201435
20Door fault disrupted service on the East-West Line on 3 Mar 201434
21Signalling fault disrupted service between Paya Lebar and Dhoby Ghaut on 27 Feb 201477
22Track fault disrupted service between Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay on 25 Feb 201457
23Track fault disrupted service between Jurong East and Ang Mo Kio on 24 Feb 201490
24Track fault disrupted service between Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay on 29 Jan 201443
25Track fault disrupted service between Tampines and Tanah Merah on 22 Jan 201467
26Signalling fault disrupted service between Woodlands and Marina Bay on 20 Jan 201488
27Power fault disrupted service between Fajar and Bangkit on 19 Jan 201446
28Defective 3rd rail disrupted service between Bugis and Aljunied on 16 Jan 2014155
29Loss of traction power disrupted service between Kranji and Yew Tee on 11 Jan 201495