Khaw Boon Wan sets higher target for train reliability, but expects ‘hitches’

An SMRT train leaving an MRT station. (Photo: Bloomberg)
An SMRT train leaving an MRT station. (Photo: Bloomberg)

While train reliability in Singapore is improving, it is “not yet where we want to be”, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament on Wednesday (8 March).

As such, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) will set a higher target for train reliability, said Khaw, who was speaking during the MOT’s Committee of Supply debate.

The Mean Kilometre Between Failure (MKBF) performance target will be set at 300,000 train kilometres for this year. This is up from the MKBF rate of 192,000 train-km achieved in the second half of last year, which was slightly lower than the 200,000 train-km target that Khaw had previously set.

The MBKF is a measure of the average number of kilometres that trains on a network travel before a delay of more than five minutes. By comparison, Hong Kong’s train system managed an MKBF rate of 520,000 train-km in the first quarter of 2016 – a figure cited in a speech by Khaw in May last year.

“And next year, we will shoot for 400,000 (train) kilometres. It can be done,” Khaw said. The minister noted that improving train reliability is a “multi-year” effort.

Khaw pointed out that the completed upgrades of the North-South line’s signalling system will bring benefits to many residents. But he warned of “hitches” that are bound to happen as train operator SMRT does the same for the East-West line.

“Resignalling is a complex engineering operation. Getting it done perfectly… is almost impossible.

“That has been the painful experience of London, Hong Kong and Taipei. They warned us that we should expect many teething problems when we cart over the signalling system to the new one this year,” said Khaw.

Responding to queries from Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng on recent disruptions between the Joo Koon and Jurong East stations on the East-West line, Khaw said the “very old” signalling components along that stretch are in need of replacement.

Due to the limited engineering hours available, train services for that stretch were occasionally affected when planned works extended into train service hours, said the minister.

“I shall ask (the Land Transport Authority) and SMRT to consider ending the revenue service for that stretch of the East-West line earlier so that we have more engineering hours for these works,” he said.