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Singaporeans should not have to get used to regularity of train disruptions: NCMP Dennis Tan

In Parliament on 11 April, Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Dennis Tan expressed concern about the unacceptable frequency of train disruptions that has recently plagued the MRT system. This issue were then further addressed by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.

During the Committee of Supply's debate for the Ministry of Transport, Mr Tan stated that a week prior, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) reported that average distance clocked between overall train breakdowns had increased, which indicated an increase in train reliability.

However, Mr Tan agreed with Senior Transport Correspondent of The Straits Times Christopher Tan that from a commuter’s perspective, the greater frequency of breakdowns and delays would not be seen as improvements.

“Commuters who use the MRT everyday can attest for themselves the frequency of disruptions,” Mr Tan said, adding that the situation is not something Singaporeans should have to get used to.

He also expressed concern about the loss of productivity of workers due to time lost during the train delays, stating that this would negatively affect the economy.

In response, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan aimed for a target of 200,000km travelled by MRT trains between delays, an increase from 133,000km between delays last year. He cited the reliability of Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway as a standard that Singapore’s trains should achieve in the long run. Hong Kong’s trains travel 300,000km between any delay.

In order to achieve this goal, Mr Khaw highlighted various strategies to improve the train system.

There are plans for an increase in the “condition-monitoring” sensors to monitor train wheels and the power-supplying third rail, especially on the North-South and East-West Line (NSEWL). On the North-East Line, infra-red sensors will also be installed to monitor the line’s power system. These changes are slated to be carried out by this year.

Over the next two years, the NSEWL will also have the sleepers and third rail replaced, along with an upgrade for the signalling system.

Mr Khaw estimated the overall cost of hardware upgrading to be around one billion dollars, but also stated that such improvement works are necessary.

Mr Khaw also aimed to ramp up the manpower working on train services due to the plans for expansion of the MRT network. The Singapore Rail Academy for the training of engineers and maintenance crew will soon be set up, headed by Professor Cham Tao Soon, former president of Nanyang Technological University and former Chairman of SIM University.

Overall, Mr Khaw emphasised that the Ministry is looking towards strengthening preventive measures in order to lessen train breakdowns and delays by carrying out the necessary maintenance before any issues arise.