Fewer train disruptions, shorter waits next year: Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew revealed yesterday that the review was under way when he opened the Marina South Pier MRT station, the southernmost stop on the North-South MRT Line and part of a $357.5 million 1km extension. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew revealed yesterday that the review was under way when he opened the Marina South Pier MRT station, the southernmost stop on the North-South MRT Line and part of a $357.5 million 1km extension. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Ongoing review likely to be completed by then, and stricter standards are expected

Train commuters can look forward to shorter waiting times during peak hours and fewer disruptions from as early as next year.

That is when the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is expected to complete an ongoing review and announce higher standards that rail operators have to meet.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew revealed yesterday that the review was under way when he opened the Marina South Pier MRT station, the southernmost stop on the North-South MRT Line and part of a $357.5 million 1km extension.

He explained that the review was prompted by "more new trains coming into the system, and the completion of (rail) projects from 2016". During the Budget debate this year, he announced that 83 new trains will be progressively added to the various MRT lines to boost capacity.

The standards for rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit were last tightened in January last year. Currently, they have to keep trains running at frequencies of two to three minutes during peak hours.

"In the coming years, commuters can expect to see newer trains, better frequencies and faster speeds," said Mr Lui yesterday, three days after the Public Transport Council revealed that it has started its annual fare review.

In his speech, he outlined the progress made in improving the MRT network, saying the rail network had expanded by about 25 per cent in the past four years.

The expansion will continue with the construction of the Downtown and Thomson-East Coast lines.

Mr Lui also said reliability has improved, with fewer train delays of five minutes or more. There have been 1.2 delays per 100,000km on the North-South and East-West lines so far this year, down from 2.3 delays last year.

These lines can expect "significant" improvements in train frequencies after an upgrade to the signalling system is progressively completed in 2016 and 2018, he added.

Member of Parliament Cedric Foo, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, believes the review is timely. "Still, these new standards must be realistic. Otherwise the operators will throw up their hands and say this is unachievable."

Businesses in the vicinity of the new station, which will start serving visitors to both the pier and Marina Bay Cruise Centre from this morning, are hoping it will bring a boost. "Few people come to this area now because of the inconvenience," said Mr Akbar Ali, who owns a money changer at the Marina South Pier. "Hopefully the new station will bring more visitors."

tohyc@sph.com.sg