Blurring of line between LTA, SMRT's responsibilities

To the man in the street, the interests and the line of responsibility between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT have become somewhat unclear (LTA, SMRT to pay for extra buses as train hours are cut; Nov 25).

It is widely known that the LTA owns the infrastructure and the hardware of the MRT system, while SMRT is one of the operators of the MRT lines.

To complete the loop, the LTA reports to the Ministry of Transport.

All the authorities in Singapore were incorporated by their respective Acts in Parliament to give them teeth in their fields.

For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulates and exercises oversight over all financial matters and banks operating in Singapore.

In the same way, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and so on, are responsible for playing regulatory and oversight roles in their spheres of expertise.

The LTA is, therefore, the regulator, while SMRT is the "regulatee" just like the other rail operator SBS Transit.

So, if SMRT falls short in its operations, the LTA can bring to bear disciplinary actions on it, in the same way that the MAS had disciplined some banks and IMDA disciplined Singtel.

The role of the regulator and the responsibilities of the regulatee are distinct, and they must maintain their separate functions.

However, today, there appears to be a conflict of interest between the LTA and SMRT, and a blurring of the line of responsibility between them.

Tan Ah Ung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Blurring of line between LTA, SMRT's responsibilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe