Rail reliability target ambitious, says SMRT chief

An SMRT train travelling near Jurong East station.
An SMRT train travelling near Jurong East station. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Rail operator working to achieve 2018 target of 400,000 train-km between disruptions

The North-South and East-West MRT lines managed 144,000 train-km between disruptions in the first 10 months of this year, said SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek yesterday.

This was the best performance for the lines since 2012, he said at the first Singapore Rail Technology Conference.

Last year, it was 143,000 train- km between delays for the two oldest MRT lines here.

The Circle Line, which began operations in 2009 and is also operated by SMRT, clocked 233,000 train-km between disruptions from January to October this year, up from 118,000 train-km for the whole of last year.

There is still some way to go before the trains can hit 400,000 train-km between disruptions, the 2018 target first announced by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in May.

 

AIMING HIGH

What this means... is that our trains cumulatively travel no less than 10 times around the Equator, or more than 4,000 times across the length of our North-South and East-West lines, before incurring a single delay of more than five minutes.

MR DESMOND KUEK, SMRT chief executive.

That is an "ambitious aspirational target" for the MRT network here, said Mr Kuek.

"What this means... is that our trains cumulatively travel no less than 10 times around the Equator, or more than 4,000 times across the length of our North-South and East-West lines, before incurring a single delay of more than five minutes," he said, adding that only "a small handful" of rail operators internationally have managed to hit such targets consistently.

"Having high standards is good, but it is quite a jump from the current performance," said National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng, adding that some of the upgrading works to the older MRT lines may have come too late.

But Hong Kong Polytechnic University transport practice professor Lee Kang-Kuen said it is possible for the MRT network to hit its target, as new technology can provide a "quantum leap" in rail reliability. He said SMRT can learn from the experience of other railways via networks such as the Community of Metros, which met here this week.

At yesterday's conference, Mr Kuek said SMRT is working hard to achieve the target and is "encouraged by the steady progress already made". This includes upgrading efforts such as the replacement of sleepers and third rails on the North-South and East-West lines, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

Mr Kuek also cited the delisting of SMRT from the Singapore Exchange earlier this month and the introduction of the new rail financing framework last month, which transferred ownership of assets such as trains to the Government.

These changes make SMRT better able to provide safe and reliable service "without the burden of heavy and lumpy capital expenditures, and the distractions of meeting short-term earnings expectations".

There was one disruption per 158,000 train-km travelled for the entire MRT network here in the first six months of this year, according to the Land Transport Authority. The East-West line was the worst-performing line, with four major breakdowns of more than 30 minutes each in the first half of the year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Rail reliability target ambitious, says SMRT chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe