SMRT earnings plunge to $26m as efforts to renew rail assets soar

SMRT's revenue fell to $791 million, from $811 million previously, as total passenger-kilometres shrank from 8,322 million to 8,271 million.
SMRT's revenue fell to $791 million, from $811 million previously, as total passenger-kilometres shrank from 8,322 million to 8,271 million.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Temasek-owned rail operator SMRT Corp has posted a drastic drop in net earnings as it continues to ramp up resources to catch up with repairs and maintenance works.

In its latest group review released on Tuesday (March 27), the group stated that its 2017 after-tax profit stood at $26 million – less a third of what it made in 2016, and the lowest in over two decades.

Revenue fell to $791 million, from $811 million previously, as total passenger-kilometres –a measure of how long commuter trips were – shrank from 8,322 million to 8,271 million.

Ridership rose from 756 million to 768 million.

In its review, SMRT said it had aimed to raise rail reliability on its North-south, East-west lines to one delay per 300,000km by end of last year – up from 180,400km and 151,400km on the North-south and East-west lines respectively as at April 2017.

In the report, chief executive Desmond Kuek said that goal has been achieved, and that the company was aiming higher now.

“Last year, mean kilometres between failure or MKBF – a reliability indicator used by international metros – improved on the Circle Line to 523,000km, 129 per cent better than in 2016.

The North-South and East-West Line achieved 336,000km and 278,000km, improving by 115 per cent and 92 per cent respectively compared with the previous year.”

Mr Kuek said early indications this year are showing “promising results”.

“We expect to reach even closer to our goal of one million in MKBF,” he said, referring to a network-wide target set by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan for 2020.

That target is dependent on the completion of several asset renewal plans.

SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said most of the renewal works will be completed within two years.

“We are pushing ahead to complete most of the renewal works on the North-South and East-West Lines by 2020,” he said in the review.

“Later this year, we will scale up pre-opening preparations for the Thomson-East Coast Line, which opens progressively from 2019.”

The company expects to hire 600 more people before the first stations along the new line opens, and 900 more by the time it fully opens in 2024.

The review was the first one the rail operator published since its transition to the New Rail Financing Framework and its delisting from the Singapore Exchange in 2016.