Based on a 12-month moving average, the Land Transport Authority said yesterday that the MRT network on the whole clocked 786,000 train-km between delays in the first three months of this year.
This is an improvement from 690,000 train-km for the whole of 2018, and puts Singapore on a par with reliability standards in Hong Kong and Taipei.
The North East Line operated by SBS Transit was the star performer, chalking up 2.07 million train-km between delays - almost double what it posted in 2018. Next was the North-South Line operated by SMRT, which managed 1.1 million train-km, up from 894,000 train-km.
SBS Transit's Downtown Line was close with 923,000 train-km, down slightly from 928,000 train-km for the whole of last year. SMRT's Circle Line clocked 661,000 train-km between glitches, down from 728,000 train-km.
SMRT's East-West Line remained the weakest-performing line, but showed an improved 515,000 train-km between delays - up from 408,000 train-km.
The LRT network also performed better, with 115,000 train car-km between delays in the first quarter, a rise from 82,000 train car-km. The Sengkang-Punggol LRT posted 297,000 car-km between delays, up from 216,000 car-km last year, while the Bukit Panjang LRT chalked up 60,000 car-km, up from 43,000 car-km last year.
In terms of major delays, lasting more than half an hour, the rail network had five in the first three months. The East-West and Circle MRT lines had one each, while the Bukit Panjang LRT had two and the Sengkang-Punggol LRT, one.
While the reliability statistics have significantly improved, which in the case of the MRT system are more than 10 times better than 2011's figures, observers point out that train speed and service frequency have not shown improvement. In fact, train speed has not returned to pre-2011 levels.
Meanwhile, early closures and late openings of stations continue to be an inconvenience to commuters on weekends. And reliability of station amenities such as escalators is still patchy.
Commuter Toh Teng Mok said: "In terms of breakdowns, the frequency has come down, and that is good and notable. But my beef is with the North-South, East-West line trains. They often stay at stations much longer than they should.
"The air-con on these trains sucks. So much so that I sometimes get off a train that I'm on to catch another. And if I'm lucky, it works well."
The 61-year-old financial trainer added that speed and frequency on the two oldest lines are "not good".
"If I had a choice, I'd choose to take the Downtown Line - even if I had to take a longer loop," he said, adding that Circle Line trains had "the best seats".
Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said that while rail reliability has improved dramatically in recent years, there is "room for broader, more comprehensive measures" of service. He noted for instance that "some other metros use human-centric measures such as passenger-minute lost" to determine more accurately the impact delays have on commuters. This can be done by mining fare card data, which will reveal how many people are affected by a delay, and for how long.
"Obviously, a delay during off peak will not have the same impact as one during peak," he said.