Reliability on Singapore's two oldest MRT lines continues to show improvement with upgrading works past halfway mark
North-South Line as reliable as systems in Hong Kong, Taipei The North-South Line now clocks more than 1.4 million km between delays of more than five minutes PHOTO:ST FILE

With upgrading works more than halfway done on Singapore's two oldest MRT lines, their reliability continues to show improvement, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

The North-South Line now clocks more than 1.4 million km between delays of more than five minutes, putting it on a par with top-performing rail systems such as Hong Kong's MTR and the Taipei Metro, he noted. Meanwhile, the East-West Line has hit 693,000km between delays, up from 408,000km last year.

Giving an update on efforts to renew both lines during a visit to Kranji MRT station, Mr Khaw attributed the better performance of the North-South Line to work having started earlier. Up until 2014, both major lines clocked less than 100,000km between delays, the minister noted. They were also hit by regular service disruptions in recent years, including in 2015 where a power fault crippled services on both lines for more than two hours during the evening peak period, affecting the journeys of about 250,000 commuters.

Three major upgrading works for both lines - on sleepers, third rail and signalling system - have been completed. Work on three other assets - the power system, trains and track circuits - is ongoing.

Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said the renewal of the power system is about 25 per cent complete. He noted that this is a complex exercise as it is done on a "live" line, in a high-voltage environment. While the time for workers to access the tracks is limited, the early closures and late openings of the lines have helped them.

The Land Transport Authority and rail operator SMRT, together with their contractors, have put in more than 900,000 man hours in the upgrading of the power system, a $900 million project which started last October, he added. As part of the power system renewal works, the replacement of the touch voltage protection system with voltage-limiting devices - which limits the impact of power faults - was completed last month.

In 2017, Mr Khaw had set a target for Singapore's rail network of at least one million km between delays. Yesterday, he noted that this was a "demanding target" that only a handful of rail systems worldwide could consistently achieve. Yet, three of the Republic's MRT lines - the Downtown, North East and North-South lines - have already surpassed this target, with the East-West and Circle lines not far behind, he added. Renewal of the core systems on the North-South and East-West lines will be completed only by 2023, but commuters are already enjoying greater reliability on them, he said.

Mr Khaw cautioned that there is "no end point" to rail reliability. "Delivering a reliable train service is a continuous undertaking. It is part and parcel of running a train service, day in, day out," he said. "We have to focus on it, knowing that any minor omission or careless mistake can bring the train service to a stop."

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport deputy chairman Ang Hin Kee said the statistics and comments from commuters attest to the system's improvements.

"Ensuring thorough inspections and timely rectification is critical," added the Ang Mo Kio GRC MP.