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Singapore's new transport minister aims to deliver the best in class on rail reliability

Friday, October 9, 2015 - 12:54
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Singapore's newly-appointed transport minister, Khaw Boon Wan, said in his blog on Friday that the government aims to deliver "the best in class on rail reliability''.
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SINGAPORE'S newly appointed transport minister, Khaw Boon Wan, said in his blog on Friday that the government aims to deliver "the best in class on rail reliability''.

In a blog post entitled "Catching up with HK", Mr Khaw shared his thoughts on the need to catch up with the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR), widely seen by experts as the best in class in providing rail reliability to commuters.

"Our operators, SMRT and SBST, must seek to match MTR's reliability and close the gap as soon as possible,'' said Mr Khaw, Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport.

"We are now behind Hong Kong MTR, but we shall catch up. Do give us some time to address all these problems,'' he added.

Mr Khaw said that while efforts in recent years have improved train reliability in the city-state, the situation is still not good enough. For example, although the average distance travelled before a delay of more than 5 minutes for Singapore's North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) has improved to 137,000 train-km, it is still far short of MTR's performance of about 300,000 train-km.

He noted that Singapore has 10 major disruptions - defined as delays exceeding 30 minutes - across all its train lines last year, compared to MTR, which had 12, "but their network is significantly longer than ours".

"My immediate priority is on these major disruptions: what caused the past disruptions, can we prevent a repeat, what other possible causes have we identified, and have we addressed those causes as well?'' Mr Khaw said.

The consensus view is that Singapore has under-invested in rail maintenance, and its engineering capabilities in this area are still lacking.

"We will need to ramp up investment in this area. We will need to recruit and retain more skilled workers. All these are significant challenges, not easy to resolve quickly, but we are determined to overcome them. We will need time to turn around and then stabilise the situation.''

Until that happens, Singaporeans must be mentally prepared for the next disruption.

"Likewise, I am sure that every disruption hurts our maintenance crew. They told me so when I visited them. Let's stand with them and boost their morale. It is not SMRT's or SBST's name that is at stake; it is Singapore's reputation. How every one of us responds to a breakdown makes a difference," Mr Khaw said.