Overall rail reliability improves, but serious delays increase: LTA

Overall rail reliability improves, but serious delays increase: LTA

In 2016, trains travelled an average 174,000 train-kilometres between delays of less than five minutes, up 30 per cent from 133,000 train-km in 2015.

SINGAPORE: Overall rail reliability improved last year compared to 2015, but the number of serious delays also rose, according to statistics released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) released on Thursday (Jan 12).

In 2016, trains travelled an average 174,000 train-kilometres between delays of more than five minutes, up 30 per cent from 133,000 train-km in 2015. However, the performance still fell short of the Government’s 2016 target of travelling an average 200,000 train-km between delays.

The number of delays lasting more than 30 minutes has also gone up over the last four years. According to LTA, there were 16 such disruptions in 2016, up from 15 in 2015, 10 in 2014 and seven in 2013.

Five of those serious delays last year happened on the East-West Line, while four were on the North-South Line.

MRT train delays

(Infographic: Rafael Estrada Calvar; source: LTA)

It was a similar situation for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) network. There were 18 delays which lasted more than 30 minutes last year, of which 10 were on the Sengkang-Punggol LRT. This is an increase from the 15 disruptions in 2015, and four in 2014.

"I think more work needs to be focused on this front," said Permanent Secretary for Transport Pang Kin Keong at the opening of this year's Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance.

The best performer last year was the Downtown Line, which achieved 260,000 train-km, while the worst performing was the East-West Line, which saw its trains travel 145,000 train-km last year, down from 162,000 train-km in 2015.

MRT breakdown frequency

(Infographic: Rafael Estrada Calvar; source: LTA)

In May last year, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan set rail operators a goal for trains to travel an average of 400,000 train-km, between incidents of more than five minutes. This target was for 2018 and the aim was to double the numbers to 800,000 train-km by 2020.

An interim target of 200,000 train-km was set for 2016, and Mr Pang noted that all lines managed to surpass this mark in one or more quarters last year.

He added that a few of the lines - for example the North-East line - have gone beyond the 300,000 train-km mark in some quarters.

"It gives me a small measure of confidence that if we are able to inject more consistency and sustainability into our efforts, the target of 400,000 train-km by 2018 is well within reach," said Mr Pang.


More than S$4 billion is expected to be spent by the Government to renew, upgrade and expand Singapore's existing rail assets in the next five years.

This is on top of the S$20 billion that will be used on new rail lines in the same period.

LTA said it will call a tender soon to replace 66 of Singapore's oldest trains, which belong to its first-generation fleet.

They serve the North-South and East-West lines and were bought when Singapore's first MRT line opened in 1987.

The Government is also sourcing for new trains, power rail, signalling system and other critical components to replace the Bukit Panjang LRT's first-generation assets.

In the next few years, LTA will work with rail operators to expand its suite of condition monitoring tools, Mr Pang added.

These include new generation automatic track inspection systems, which will be put to use when Downtown Line 3 begins operations later this year.

But Mr Pang noted that local knowledge and expertise in rail technology also needs to be strengthened.

He cited the recent Circle Line incident, where it took many agencies to determine the reason behind the loss of signalling communications in August and September, and again in November.

"It may seem logical that as a buyer, we would depend on the supplier or manufacturer of a component or system to resolve problems, but this will not be enough if we aspire to achieve world-leading standards," said Mr Pang.

"We need to complement the support provided by the system manufacturers, with our own technical expertise, and the knowledge we bring of the local operating conditions."

The rail engineering sector here is expected to grow from 8,500 jobs today to 14,500 by 2030.

Source: CNA/am