SMRT aims to be at least three times more reliable by 2020

A signalling fault caused train delays on the Circle Line at Bishan MRT station, on Nov 15, 2017.
A signalling fault caused train delays on the Circle Line at Bishan MRT station, on Nov 15, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Rail operator SMRT Corporation is aiming for no more than one delay per month by 2020 - at least three times better than its performance today.

At its annual review on Wednesday (March 28), chief executive Desmond Kuek described this as "a bold target", which "only a handful" of the world's metros can match.

"Our goal is to reduce any delay to less than five minutes, and in the worst, ensure that it does not last longer than 30 minutes," Mr Kuek said.

"It is these major incidents, lasting longer than 30 minutes, that we must strenuously avoid."

Last year, SMRT had nine such incidents, excluding those related to a project to change-out the signalling system - which determines how closely trains can travel to each other.

If signalling faults were included, there were 13 such long delays on the North-south, East-west and Circle lines - lines operated by SMRT. This was one more than what the lines chalked up in 2016.

If delays of more than five minutes were included, signalling-related delays totalled more than 140 last year, going by a chart provided by the newly-privatised operator. Signalling-related delays formed the bulk of delays on its lines last year.

SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek (centre) and chairman Seah Moon Ming (left) at the company's annual review. ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Mr Kuek said however, that incidents related to the resignalling project were "temporal", and were thus excluded in its reliability count.

In response to questions on when signalling-related delays would be included in the count, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said they should be included from end-June, when the new signalling system is completely operational on both the North-south and East-west lines.

Mr Seah said the early closure and late opening (ECLO) of the two lines since late last year had provided SMRT "nearly three times the engineering hours for maintenance, inspection and renewal works".

Asked how long ECLO will continue, the chairman said it would need to continue for at least the rest of this year.

"We cannot say forever," he said.


"But if there's a need, we'll go for it."

As at end-February this year, SMRT said the North-south line had clocked 447,000km between delays, while the East-west line posted 289,000km, and the Circle line 564,000km.

Mr Kuek said: "With the completion of key projects and stabilising of the new signalling system, we've seen positive results in rail reliability.

"While this is encouraging, there's more we can do to drive reliability even higher."

He noted that the company now spends 60 per cent of fare revenue on maintenance, up from 50 per cent.

"Going forward, we are gunning for zero safety breaches and zero delays of more than 30 minutes," he added.

To do so, Mr Seah said the SMRT board has to "ensure that all SMRT assets are well maintained throughout their entire life cycles".