Delays on MRT network less frequent: LTA data

Christopher Tan The rail system has continued to improve, according to first-half reliability data released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

For the first six months of the year, the MRT network averaged 574,000km between delays - up from 555,000km in the first quarter - and 181,000km for the whole of last year. The star performer was the Circle Line, which averaged 1.2 million km between delays.

In terms of major delays - those lasting more than 30 minutes - the system showed a more dramatic improvement. There was only one such incident in the second quarter, compared with three in the first quarter of this year.

If this continues, the MRT network will have the lowest number of major disruptions since 2010, although the number seems to be creeping up in the current (third) quarter, notably on the East-West Line. The MRT system experienced 16 such breakdowns for the whole of last year.

Things were less rosy on the LRT. The light-rail network had eight major delays in the first six months, compared with 11 for the whole of last year. Trains clocked 64,000 car-km between delays. Although better than the 47,000 car-km posted in the first quarter, it was lower than the 77,000 car-km clocked for the whole of last year.

The LRT performance was pulled down by the older Bukit Panjang line, which managed 34,000 car-km between delays in the first half, compared with 159,000 car-km for the newer Sengkang-Punggol LRT.

The latest results bring Singapore's rail reliability standards closer to what gold standard bearers Hong Kong and Taipei achieved. Last year, Hong Kong's MTR clocked 650,000km between delays, while the Taipei Metro achieved 883,000km.

In terms of major delays - those lasting more than 30 minutes - the system showed a more dramatic improvement. There was only one such incident in the second quarter, compared with three in the first quarter of this year.

They also bring the measurement closer to what Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has set. Mr Khaw said that by 2020, the MRT should average one million km between failures.

Industry watchers were encouraged by the latest results.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said: "I am impressed by the results. Based on the statistics, from 2016 to 2017, the overall improvement was marginal. However, from 2017 to first-half of 2018, the improvement was well beyond three times. I do consider this an indication that our overall rail reliability is on a rising trend."

 
 

Associate Professor Park Byung Joon of the Singapore University of Social Sciences' School of Business noted that a lot of resources have been expended to arrive at the latest results.

"It is time for us to ask ourselves, 'what next?'," he said, adding that it will be very expensive to raise distance between failures beyond a certain point.

"Also, it may not make a real difference between one million km and two million km for commuters," he added.

"There will be a certain point where it may not be wise to pursue further improvement... from a cost-benefit perspective."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Delays on MRT network less frequent: LTA data'. Print Edition | Subscribe