Parliament: Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan sets target for rail reliability to improve by 72 per cent

Tenders will also be called to replace the 66 first-generation trains on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), which are as old as 30 years.
Tenders will also be called to replace the 66 first-generation trains on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), which are as old as 30 years. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has set a new target for the island's MRT reliability for this year - for trains to travel an average of 300,000km before a major disruption occurs.

This is a 72 per cent improvement over the results achieved last year, of an average of 174,000km travelled before encountering delays of more than five minutes.

Mr Khaw said on Wednesday (March 8), during the debate on the Transport Ministry's budget in Parliament, that Singapore's MRT reliability is "not yet where we want to be, but we will get there".

"And next year, we will shoot for 400,000. It can be done," he added.

The mean kilometre before failure (MKBF) is a key indicator of a rail system's reliability and used by many cities. The Taipei metro, for example, achieved 800,000 train-km in 2015 before a breakdown.

In his speech, Mr Khaw said that tenders will be called soon for an overhaul of the backend power supply system of the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL).This power system has largely been in use since 1987, when both lines opened.

Tenders will also be called to replace the 66 first-generation trains on the NSEWL, which are as old as 30 years.

Condition monitoring instruments will be installed on the new power system and trains for the NSEWL, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

"As heating is often a leading indicator of critical asset failure, the new power system will have features that enable real-time reading of the switchgear panel's temperature," the LTA elaborated.

To monitor track conditions, imaging sensors and laser scanners will be fitted on the undercarriages of new trains. For a start, they will be installed on four trains used on the Downtown Line.

Mr Khaw also gave other updates on ongoing rail upgrading works. He said the replacement of the power-supplying third-rail system will be completed this year.

The upgrade of the North-South Line's signalling system - which will allow trains to run at up to 100 second intervals, instead of 120 seconds during the peak hours - will be completed soon too, Mr Khaw said.

However, he warned of "teething problems" with the new signalling system.

"Re-signalling is a complex engineering operation. Getting it done flawlessly is almost impossible. That has been the painful experience of London, Hong Kong and Taipei," he said.

"They warned us that we should expect many teething problems when we cut over the signalling system to the new one this year. We will do our best to minimise inconvenience, but be prepared for some hitches," he added.

In reply to MP Ang Wei Neng's concerns about the recent delays between the Jurong East and Joo Koon MRT stations, Mr Khaw said there are very old signalling components which need to be replaced, but maintenance and replacement works may not be completed during the limited engineering hours.

This is why train service was occasionally impacted when planned works extended into revenue hours, he explained.

He said he has asked the LTA and operator SMRT to consider Mr Ang's suggestion of ending revenue service for that stretch of the East-West Line earlier to accommodate the works.