S'pore must learn from Hong Kong's rail operator

Sunday's report on Hong Kong's MTR ("HK rail's 'always improving' ethos") is informative and revealing.

In particular, we see some stark differences between Hong Kong's MTR and Singapore's MRT.

The numbers and analysis presented in the report offer no comfort to Singaporeans.

We have a younger rail system that runs a shorter total route length, with fewer passenger trips a year. Yet, we have more major delays over the years and our trains are less punctual.

As the report rightly points out, repairs and maintenance are at the heart of MTR's success.

Hence, the MTR management spares no effort and expense (37 per cent of revenue) to keep up the best possible performance of its system.

Yes, the Hong Kong MTR is not flawless.

But its efforts to minimise passenger inconvenience and train delays are to be lauded.

When are the SMRT and SBS Transit management teams going to learn from Hong Kong?

Why is there such a disturbing high rate of breakdowns and delays, yet so little is spent (19 per cent of rail revenue for SMRT) on repairs and maintenance? Has the "always improving" ethos been lost in the effort to rake in higher and higher revenue each year?

Perhaps these management teams should also set maintenance and repairs as top priority rather than emphasise how to control and deploy stranded crowds during breakdowns.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore must learn from Hong Kong's rail operator'. Print Edition | Subscribe