Maintenance more cost-effective than replacing old parts

An MRT train passes by Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.
An MRT train passes by Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

It was reported that higher MRT fares are necessary to fund the increased cost of higher rail reliability (Khaw: Fares have to rise to keep transport subsidies in check, July 9).

Apparently, a large chunk of the improved rail reliability is due to a massive overhaul of the East-West and North-South lines which started in 2013. This involves replacing and renewing three core components - the sleepers, signalling system and third rail - resulting in increased rail network operation cost "by around $270 million".

And improving the rail reliability can be as simple as purchasing or replacing these components. But should we examine if this is the only way to improve rail reliability? Does SMRT review the need for preventive maintenance, adherence to a disciplined maintenance schedule, and conducting predictive maintenance of its rail systems?

The analogy is that the reliability of the car can be dramatically improved by simply replacing it with a new car (which is costlier) versus maintaining the car regularly to ensure that it is in a functional condition (a more cost-effective approach). Thus, SMRT should explore all possible avenues of improving rail reliability instead of merely replacing parts with newer components which would result in astronomical costs.

Lee Kek Chin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Maintenance more cost-effective than replacing old parts'. Subscribe