SINGAPORE — Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday acknowledged a “disconnect” between rail reliability numbers, which showed the Republic making significant strides, and the picture seen by journalists and Singaporeans.
He attributed this to a conflation of two separate missions that the transport authorities are grappling with: Raising the reliability of existing MRT lines and pursuing new rail projects, such as the Thomson-East Coast Line.
Recalling the authorities’ release of reliability figures several months ago, Mr Khaw described the disconnect as “very understandable”.
“‘You said you’ve improved reliability, MKBF (mean kilometre between failure) doubled, tripled, and so on, but I still face breakdowns, delays, this and that’,” he said.
Mr Khaw noted that new projects were being “superimposed” on the mission to increase reliability on existing rail networks.
“Life, of course, would be simpler if we just can do one thing at a time … but we don’t have that luxury of time,” he said, adding that both missions carried different benchmarks.
On rail reliability, Mr Khaw said the MKBF was a very good standard measurement used globally. “If you want to be fair and objective in studying and measuring what we’ve been doing (over) the last two years, it’s first important that we recognise there are separate missions, separate projects, separate teams … and we should judge the projects in that manner,” he said.
In the first half of this year, Singapore’s MRT network recorded an overall MKBF of 393,000 train-km before hitting delays of more than five minutes. This was better than the Government’s target of 300,000 train-km for the year, and more than double the 174,000 train-km recorded last year.
While progress has been made, Mr Khaw acknowledged that Singapore was “not there” yet. In July, he raised the MKBF target from 800,000 train-km to one million train-km by 2020.
There is a similar “disconnect” in on-going efforts to get a new signalling system going on the North-South Line, he added.
In Parliament on Monday, Mr Khaw had compared Singapore’s experience with the London Underground’s — where its new system took a year to stabilise — and said the team working on the project here thought it had done “much, much better” than originally thought.
“Let’s use the correct method to judge,” he urged yesterday, though he was quick to add: “This is not shrugging off the frustrations or unhappiness of the commuters. Nobody wants to deliberately cause a delay.” KENNETH CHENG