Is rail system ready to support car-lite strategy?

An MRT train approaching Ang Mo Kio Station.
An MRT train approaching Ang Mo Kio Station. PHOTO: ST FILE

The discovery of defects in so many new MRT trains does not bode well for the Government's car-lite strategy ("Hairline cracks in 26 MRT trains made in China"; Wednesday).

This unfortunate episode raises the possibility that the rail infrastructure, which is the backbone of our public transport, may not be ready as planned for the increased passenger load, if a significant portion of car owners either heed the Government's call to give up their cars or are forced to do so by rising costs such as higher parking fees ("Govt taking clear stand on curbing car ownership: Experts"; July 1).

An overburdened public transport system will not be beneficial to Singaporeans.

Given that the outlook of the global economy is still gloomy, the authorities should rethink the timing of the car-curbing measures.

At the very least, the measures should be effected only when our rail operation capability is comparable to standards in Hong Kong and Japan.

Another issue that should be scrutinised is the upcoming High-Speed Rail project between Malaysia and Singapore, which is estimated to be ready by 2022. Rail companies in China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and France are reported to be interested in the project.

No doubt cost will be of paramount importance to both Malaysia and Singapore when picking the right rail contractor.

However, the selection criteria should be tweaked such that other important factors, such as safety, reliability and the track record of the bidding companies, will have equal, if not greater, weight than cost alone.

Sim Eng Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Is rail system ready to support car-lite strategy?'. Print Edition | Subscribe