Public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit have put substantial investments into maintaining their rail networks, and this has led to better reliability in the past two years, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in Parliament on Monday.
He was responding to questions from MPs that were prompted by three disruptions on the North-South and East-West lines last month. Each had lasted close to or more than an hour.
He noted that SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) are spending about $500 million to overhaul older trains on the North-South and East-West lines by 2016, and upgrading signalling system so trains can run at shorter 100-second intervals by 2018.
SMRT has increased its annual spending on repair and maintenance by 65 per cent, from $38.3 million in its 2011 financial year (FY) to $64.5 million in FY2013.
Meanwhile, SBS Transit is changing problematic components of the overhead power system in the North East Line tunnels, and will start on a mid-life upgrade of its 10-year-old trains.
These investments have led to improvements in reliability, Mr Lui said.
The number of delays lasting more than five minutes across the entire MRT network has come down from 396 in 2012 to 309 last year.
Fewer trains are also being withdrawn from service on all lines as well, he said.
"We have made some strides in the right direction, but there is certainly room for improvement," he added.
He was "especially perturbed" by the recent disruptions, as delays last year had actually come down since 2011.
Replying to a question by Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar on how the disruption rate here compared to other major cities, Mr Lui said it is not easy to compare disruptions across different systems, because of differences in various factors and a lack of publicly available data.
He noted that the Hong Kong MTR's domestic lines have experienced three to four disruptions in the past two years, similar to SMRT's two major lines.
On questions by MPs about SMRT's inadequate response to the January incidents, Mr Lui said SMRT could have done "much better" in service recovery.