While the government is working on minimising major disruptions, some disruptions and defects on the MRT are unavoidable, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew on Monday.
Speaking at Parliament, Lui said the government is trying its best to minimise major disruptions of more than 30 minutes, AsiaOne reported.
He cautioned, however, that “train service disruptions can still occur from time to time," Lui said in response to Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Ramasamy Dhinakaran's question on the resources spent on preventive maintenance for the North-East Line (NEL).
"Where necessary, Land Transport Authority (LTA) will work with the Public Transport Operators (PTOs) to refine maintenance procedures so that the safety and reliability of the rail system is not compromised," he added.
Lui also said transport operator SBS Transit (SBST) spent $16 million between 2007 and 2011 on preventive maintenance for NEL’s rail tracks, tunnels and the Overhead Catenary System (OCS).
The OCS is what transmits electricity to trains and was responsible for the train disruption between Dhoby Ghaut and Harbourfront that affected 90,000 commuters on 15 March. The OCS is inspected every three months, as well as yearly, to ensure it is well-maintained.
During the parliamentary sitting, Lui also said the government will review its regulatory framework, and oversight on the public transport operators' maintenance regimes following the Committee of Inquiry's (COI) investigation into the train disruptions last December. The COI will hold its hearings in public and a full report will be available.
Operators to recruit 1,600 more bus drivers
Meanwhile, in response to a question on transport, Lui said that with 800 buses to be added to the public bus fleet over the next five years, the country’s two bus operators will have to recruit a total of about 1,600 more bus drivers because it takes an average of two bus drivers to operate a bus throughout the day.
“The public bus operators will also have to compete with other companies that similarly have to target locals in the face of a reduction in intake of foreign labour,” Lui said, responding to NMP Teo Siong Seng.
“Nonetheless, how the public bus operators intend to improve their wages and employment terms to attract and retain sufficient bus drivers are ultimately matters for the PTOs to decide as the government will not micro-manage such matters,” he added.
MP Janil Puthucheary also asked the minister to clarify if Malaysia has confirmed reported plans to introduce a toll on Singapore-registered cars at the causeway to recover the costs of constructing the new Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL).
Minister Lui said his ministry has checked with the Malaysian government, which told him that no decision has been made and they are still exploring their options.