Speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) convention held on Sunday (19 Nov) at the Big Box in Jurong, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged that the tunnel flooding near Bishan MRT station and train collision at Joo Koon MRT station should not have happened and the incidents have "hurt public confidence a lot".
"Last month, we had the tunnel flooding in Bishan... and the Joo Koon collision, loom large in the public consciousness," said PM Lee and "understandably" that people are frustrated and worried by such incidents.
He stressed the need to learn the right lessons from the incidents, get to the root of the problems and put things right.
PM Lee as with Minister K Shanmugam in his recent Facebook post, threw his support behind Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in his speech and described Mr Khaw's position as having one of "the toughest jobs" in the Cabinet.
"I know Comrade Khaw Boon Wan and his team have been working very hard, day and night, tackling the issues," said PM Lee and urged the public to give the same support to Mr Khaw and his team.
He also expressed hope that the train delays "should go away" in a year following the full completion of the signalling system upgrade on the North-South East-West Lines.
"We are upgrading the old signalling system on the North-South Line, .. almost done, so residents in the North should see the benefits soon. We will then have to do the East-West Line, which will inevitably cause some delays," he said, urging commuters to give the transport team "the time and space" to solve the nagging rail issues.
PM Lee said: "Improving train reliability is a very complicated problem, the technical issues such as resignalling are already complex."
Seemingly giving an excuse to the matter, he said that the task was made more difficult given the urgency to deliver consistent results.
"We need to strengthen the organisation to deliver consistent high performance, reinforce the engineering and maintenance teams, maintain morale and raise standards, and that involves people... they are delicate issues and take time to sort out," he said.
Despite the recent incidents, PM Lee reiterated his belief that Singapore has a "first class public transport system" and said though "We are not the best, but we will get better,"
The transport minister noted to the 2000-pax audience that he had taken the train to the event and that commuters came forward to shake his hand, with him promising to "finish the good work" started. But interestingly, no photo of Mr Khaw was taken by members of public has surfaced on social media.
Khaw Boon Wan at PAP convention: “Some of you asked how I got here this morning. Of course by train! Took the NSL from Yio Chu Kang to here (Big Box), it took 35 mins... Commuters came forward to shake my hand, told me jiayou.” He promises to finish the good work started.
— Singapolitics (@singapolitics) November 19, 2017
Correction: In the previous version, it is written that PM Lee had taken the train. Upon notification by PAP, TOC has corrected the person to be Mr Khaw.