Parliament: MRT reliability and fatal track accident raised by MPs during debate

Issues such as the reliability of the MRT system was raised during the debate on the Ministry of Transport's Budget on Monday evening.
Issues such as the reliability of the MRT system was raised during the debate on the Ministry of Transport's Budget on Monday evening.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The reliability of the MRT network and a recent track accident which killed two rail staff were among the issues cast under the spotlight by MPs during Monday evening's debate on the Ministry of Transport's Budget.

Questions about the role of driverless vehicles in the future and whether the training and licensing of bus drivers could be enhanced were also brought up during the debate, which was adjourned till Tuesday.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is expected to address these issues when Parliament sits again at 11.30am.

Starting off the debate, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) asked whether there are sufficient resources to ensure that existing train lines improve in reliability, even as new lines or extensions are launched yearly in the next five years.

"Is this a case of biting off more than we can chew? Are we equipped to ensure reliability across the entire MRT system while rapidly expanding its capacity at the same time?" Mr Sitoh asked.

Noting that MRT reliability remains a "disconcerting issue", Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan also said train disruptions result in a loss of productivity in the economy, arising from the man-hours lost by workers during delays.

Mr Tan also raised concerns about the March 22 accident in which an oncoming train hit and killed two young workers on the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT.

He asked if there were prior obligations by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to check on MRT operators' observance of safety protocols for maintenance and operations, and if there would be any added measures put in place in the wake of the accident.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang GRC) similarly called for the Transport Ministry to take a comprehensive review of how rail operators carry out maintenance work.

In other matters, Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked about the ministry's plans to tap technologies such as autonomous vehicles to improve public transportation.

Touching on the profession of bus driving, Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked whether the Government would make the Omnibus Driver Vocational Licence transferable for bus captains who leave one operator to work for another.

Mr Yong also called for a more structured career progression and for the designation of an annual "Bus Captain's Day" to recognise the contributions of the more than 8,000 bus captains here.