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Rail service still has 'some way to go'

Lui: Survey shows higher levels of satisfaction, but recent breakdowns hurt confidence in the network

Mr Lui: The "Bus Arrival" function will soon be more accurate and show the level of crowdedness in the approaching bus as well.


A survey last year indicated that more commuters are satisfied with public transport, but the recent rail disruptions show there is room for improvement, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew on Wednesday.

The spate of breakdowns occurred despite intensive efforts by the Land Transport Authority and the rail operators over the last few years, he said during the Committee of Supply debate, in a speech that also covered the issues of public transport capacity and affordability.

He said: "While I can accept the occasional breakdown or even a more severe disruption if it occurs very rarely, I am most upset with the current situation in the last few weeks.

"The incidents have inconvenienced too many commuters, disrupted their routines and schedules and, once again, undermined confidence in the transport network and the progress we had made."

He was referring to the 24-hour disruption to the LRT service in Bukit Panjang this week and the breakdowns on other lines this month and the last.

Turning to the results of last October's Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey, he noted, however, that Singaporeans' overall satisfaction with public transport had hit 91.3 per cent last year, up from 88.5 per cent in 2013.

Satisfaction with rail rose by about four percentage points, reversing a four-year decline; satisfaction with buses rose for a second consecutive year.

Statistics also show train reliability generally improving, with the North-South and East-West lines experiencing half the number of unscheduled train withdrawals in 2014, and fewer service delays lasting more than five minutes. The reliability of the LRT network had also improved.

Mr Lui said: "But while the statistics show improvement, the recent incidents are stark reminders that we still have quite some way to go. The operators must persevere and redouble their efforts to do better."

As for capacity, the minister said this will be addressed by building new rail lines and adding capacity to existing lines. Stage 2 of the Downtown Line (DTL2) will open in a year, and the full DTL, in 2017. The Thomson-East Coast Line opens from 2019.

"We are constructing these new lines at a pace unprecedented in Singapore's history. By 2030, our rail network will be almost as dense as what you see in New York and London today, and we would have achieved this in under 50 years, compared to the more than 100 years that it took both cities to do so."

Turning to public transport affordability, he said that on average, it continues to improve, especially for the second decile, which is the income group at the 11th to 20th percentile of the household income distribution. The proportion of their household income spent on public transport fell from 4.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent between 2003 and 2013.

Mr Lui also spoke on leveraging technology to enhance the public transport experience. One example is the enhanced "Bus Arrival" function, which indicates the estimated time of arrival of the next bus and its level of crowdedness.

"The accuracy of arrival times was recently improved with the installation of new equipment on board the buses and the level of crowdedness is estimated through the use of farecard data. This enhanced function will be released at the end of the month."