MRT more reliable now, but lots more to do: Lui

RELIABILITY on the MRT network has improved since 2011 but "much more needs to be done" to improve it, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday.

While overall reliability has improved, large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than what is acceptable, he added.

In a speech during a visit to the Gali Batu depot in Woodlands, Mr Lui said that compared to 2011, trains now travel, on average, more than double the distance - of about 127,000km - before experiencing a delay of more than five minutes.

Trains also travel triple the distance, of about 111,000km, before they have to be withdrawn from service, he added.

Mr Lui said the Government will focus on three areas to tackle the issue of rail reliability.

First, the authorities will ensure that train operators have a rigorous maintenance regime. Problems such as leaks and worn-down insulators - the causes of the July 7 breakdown which crippled both the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL) - can surely be prevented, he said.

While the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been working with operators to adopt a "predict and prevent" approach, more can be done.

SMRT, for example, has started a trial in which maintenance check lists are digitised, to minimise human error, and LTA has embarked on a comprehensive audit of SMRT's maintenance regime for the NSEWL.

Second, older rail lines are being upgraded, such as through the replacement of timber sleepers on the East-West Line that is expected to be completed by end-2016. SMRT will also replace the third-rail power system by 2017 and LTA has called for a tender in April for a thorough health check of the NSEWL.

Lastly, Mr Lui said that new rail lines will help to improve the overall resilience of the network, as commuters will have alternative routes in the event of a disruption.

The last big breakdown was on July 7 which saw both the East-West and North-South lines crippled, affecting 250,000 commuters.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.