The NEL clocked an average of 955,000 train-km between delays, putting it on a par in terms of reliability with the networks in Hong Kong and Taipei.
NEL leads the way as rail reliability improves SMRT's North South Line achieved 1.44 million train-km between delays, making it the second-best performer PHOTO:ST FILE

Singapore's MRT network continued to improve in the first half, with SBS Transit's North East Line (NEL) leading the way with a record four million train-km between delays - double its figure in the first quarter.

On the whole, the rail network clocked an average of 955,000 train-km between delays - up from 786,000 train-km in the first quarter and 690,000 train-km for the whole of last year. This puts it on a par in terms of reliability with the networks in Hong Kong and Taipei, and close to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan's 2020 target of one million train-km between delays.

The figures were released by the Land Transport Authority yesterday and were based on a 12-month moving average.

SMRT's North South Line was the second-best performer, with 1.44 million train-km, up slightly from 1.1 million train-km in the first three months. The performance of Singapore's oldest line, which had three of its six major assets renewed, exceeded that of the newest line, the Downtown Line (DTL). Operated by SBS Transit, the DTL clocked 1.15 million train-km between glitches.

This was followed by SMRT's two other lines: The East West Line with 693,000 train-km and Circle Line with 606,000 train-km.

The LRT network also showed improvement, clocking 130,000 car-km between delays, up from 115,000 car-km in the first quarter. The Sengkang-Punggol LRT posted 353,000 car-km (up from 216,000 car-km), while the Bukit Panjang LRT managed 66,000 car-km (up from 60,000 car-km). 

Meanwhile, there were fewer major disruptions (those longer than 30 minutes) on the entire rail network, with three recorded in the second quarter - down from five in the first three months. For the whole of last year, there were 20 major delays.

Mr. Jimmy Chua, 35, an author and a regular NEL user, said the line has been more reliable than before. But he added that it would be good if early closures could be suspended on days of major events. One of the maintenance days coincided with Manchester United playing against Inter Milan here (on 20 July)," he said. "Many soccer fans had to take bridging bus services."

Mr. Ng Guan Hong, 49, an Engineer, acknowledged that the network has improved, but is concerned about possible higher fares arising from the improvements - as Mr. Khaw had hinted.

Mr. Khaw told Parliament early last month that with rail operators posting losses and the Government subsidising more than 30% of public transport operations, the fare formula, due for a review in 2023, needs to reflect the higher cost of running the MRT.

But Mr. Ng said a fare hike would be akin to "paying a mechanic, who fails to repair your car, more to fix it" because it was past issues which caused the rail system to have problems in the first place.

Singapore University of Social Sciences Transport Economist Walter Theseira said the operators had put up a good performance. "Perhaps we can now look into more holistic measures of reliability that take into account total impact on commuters, such as commuter minutes lost."