Auditors to check on cross-border railways

Railway safety auditors will not only check into safety, but also the maintenance regime of the future high-speed rail line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur as well as the Singapore-Johor Rapid Transit System (RTS).

In announcing this yesterday, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said those found guilty of obstructing their work can be fined and jailed.

He gave the House this assurance when replying to Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, who had alluded to an MRT flooding incident and the ongoing "fiasco" involving SMRT's maintenance lapses, to make the point that maintenance for both cross-border lines must be audited from the start.

Mr Ng said the Cross-Border Railways Bill provides for the Land Transport Authority to appoint authorised officers - rail safety inspectors and independent safety officers - who will inspect, investigate and enforce regulatory standards.

In the event of non-compliance, LTA also has the right to suspend or cancel an operator's licence, or to impose a financial penalty of up to $1 million, or 10 per cent of the licensee's annual revenue.

The Bill supports the planning and construction of the high-speed rail line which will be completed by end-2026, and the RTS, to be ready by end-2024.

It also puts in place the regulatory framework to ensure safe and secure cross-border railway operations, including the licensing of operators to run train services and maintain railway assets.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Tan raised concerns about a provision that gives LTA the power to enter or take over private land, to construct or maintain rail infrastructure for both rail lines.

Owners must be given at least two months' notice, but Mr Tan said this is too little time and suggested six months' notice instead.

Mr Ng Chee Meng replied that the Government will try to minimise the impact on landowners, adding that a longer notice period may be given on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked whether Singapore and Malaysia would need to jointly agree to shut down cross-border services, in the event of a terrorist attack. Mr Ng said under the Bill, Singapore could suspend train services within its borders.

A select committee was set up after yesterday's debate to review the Bill. The public will be invited to give feedback on the Bill.

The committee will issue a report of its discussions, including any proposed changes, before the Bill is read for a third time in Parliament.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Auditors to check on cross-border railways'. Subscribe