Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan has told reporters that public confidence in the train system has been shattered due to the recent incidents but “it happened so we have to just get over with”.
Mr Khaw was responding to the question of whether it would be more difficult to garner the public’s confidence in the new signalling system after the collision incident on 15 November.
The Minister said that it means that the Government needs to get back to the same-old job, which is to raise reliability, “As I told Singaporeans before, this is a multi-year effort. I gave myself four years, we are halfway through – if not for the incident, as well the flooding incident, we were actually making a good progress, as Prime Minister described it before,”
Mr Khaw said that when the Tuas West Extention was launched, “We intended it to be a seamless service. So, all the way from Pasir Ris to Tuas Link. On hindsight, of course, this introduced a lot of complications because you have two stretches, each running on different signalling systems.”
He said that it also creates a lot of very challenging situations for the signalling equipment provider, in this case, Thales.
“But still, Thales could have done better,” he stressed, adding that, however, it has acknowledged their mistakes and apologised.
“So I decided to end their misery, we just keep this complete separation, so you have a clean system. You are either on the old legacy system or on the new system,” the minister said.
He then said that from now people travelling from east to west will have to take the train, take a bus, and then take a train – all counted as one journey.
“But, we will try to do this, speed up the complete resignalling of the East-West Line and that’s why I need more engineering hours for various other reason as well,” he said.
Mr Khaw then said that to get it going quickly, they have decided on the schedule, adding that he hopes commuters will be understanding.
“We will make sure that the affected stretches, there will be enough buses, so that there will be good replacement of the capacity,” he added.
So having settled this one, he said that the ministry, along with SMRT, have to come back to their original job, which is to raise reliability.
Mr Khaw said that Chairman Seah Moon Ming has not been resting.
“I think he has been working hard for the last few weeks, beefing up various levels of the engineering team and the maintenance team. So I think, let’s press on ahead and complete the job,” he added.
Responding to a question of what compensation will the government be seeking from Thales, he said it that will be contractual obligations and he leaves that to LTA because the LTA is the one who contracts them.
“My priority is to get this thing over with. Now that we have identified the causes and in any case we have taken the decisions to avoid all this risk altogether by keeping the stretches separate. I think that is a good decision,” he said.
The Minister stressed that the resignalling does add complications to all this issue because it is a project by itself, adding, “I can understand why commuters especially travelling on the North-South Line, could not understand. ‘You said things have improved, but I still experience delays.’ But that’s because of resignalling.”
“So, fortunately, I think we have turned the corner for the North-South Line,” he said and added, “We will wrap up the North-South Line and speed up implementation on the East-West Line. So that the improvement of the reliability can be more visible to the commuters. I am confident. Thank you,”