Speaking on the sidelines of an event about the upgrading of the North East Line (NEL), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that public transport has had a good year in 2018. Particularly, he noted that train reliability has improved significant, due in part to the new SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong who Mr Khaw describes as a ‘good leader’.
Mr Khaw is looking forward to great things for Singapore’s trains this year, expecting the rail reliability target to be exceeded by a ‘very comfortable margin’. The exception is the East-West Line which has been affected by re-signalling tests earlier this year which have affected its reliability figures. Reliability is measured by looking at the mean kilometres between failures (MKBF) which is the average distance a train travels before experiencing a service delay of more than 5 minutes. The target for 2018 is 400,000km.
“In particular, the oldest line, North-South Line, which gave us big trouble in the last few years, the improvement is quite significant, more than 10 times improvement in reliability,” said Mr Khaw.
However, Mr Khaw added that this doesn’t mean there won’t be any delay or disruptions, but simply that these will be less frequent than before.
Mr Khaw added, "We are not quite out of the woods. We have to continue to focus on this area, we cannot rest on our laurels. But even the best of operators sometimes meet problems, so I hope to get Singaporeans' understanding.”
Mr Khaw said that the ongoing NEL upgrades are part preemptive measures taken to ensure that mistakes with the older East-West and North-South lines aren’t repeated.
As the rail network ages, the Transport Minister warned that commuters will have to adjust to early closures at MRT stations for maintenance purposes. “If we take the approach as we do for NEL where we change out earlier, than wait until last minute, then we can plan it, so we don’t have to have such disruptive ECLO (early closure and late openings) too frequently,” said Mr Khaw.
Not everyone was comforted by Mr Khaw’s statement though.
Many commenting on Channel News Asia's Facebook page, did not agree with the performance of the train system or noted that it is the technicians who should be praised and not the new leader.
There were also those who felt that Mr Khaw might have jinxed the rail reliability altogether by even bringing it up and hinting at early closures and late openings due to maintenance: