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Rail reliability central to Singapore transport in 2030

Central to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan's vision of Singapore transport in 2030 is a reliable rail network.

CENTRAL to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan's vision of Singapore transport in 2030 is a reliable rail network.

Regarding train faults and breakdowns, Mr Khaw said there have been "some improvements'' in the six months he has been transport minister.

Last year, trains on the MRT network travelled an average of 133,000 train-km between delays of more than five minutes, or "mean kilometre before failure" (MKBF), a common reliability measure widely used globally.

"133,000 km is way below Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway's MKBF of 300,000 train-km. But it is a significant improvement of 40 per cent from 2014 of 93,000 km,'' he said, adding that the target is 200,000 train-km this year.

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As part of his strategy to improve rail reliability, the train operators are firstly ramping up their engineering and maintenance resources.

Secondly, about a billion dollars is being invested in hardware replacement and upgrading.

"We are aggressively renewing the infrastructure of our rail network. Within two years, we would have completely replaced the sleepers and third rail on the North-South and East-West Lines, and also upgraded their signalling system,'' said Mr Khaw.

"Thirdly, we are forging a closer team, between the LTA (Land Transport Authority) designer and the train operators.''

Fourthly, LTA has set up technical advisory panels to learn from the best, such as in the area of power systems.

Finally, engineering and maintenance crew are reskilling and up-skilling.

The minister explained: "We need a quantum leap in the numbers and in the capabilities of our rail industry, both to up our existing maintenance standards, and to cope with a rapidly expanding network.''

But expanding capacity can impact reliability, the minister warned, because adding more trains and running them more frequently exert a heavy load on the power system during peak hours.

"So please be forgiving if you experience a disruption.''

To upgrade the rail industry and meet its long-term manpower requirements, LTA will establish the Singapore Rail Academy (SGRA) in the second half of 2016.

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