Rail transport in Singapore mainly consists of an urban rail transit system that includes Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rapid Transit (LRT). They are operated by two public transport operators including SMRT Trains (SMRT Corporation) and SBS Transit. A report by consulting firm McKinsey found that Singapore has created the best-in-class urban transportation system in the world. Its transport system is accessible, efficient, convenient, sustainable, and affordable. More than 80% of Singaporeans said they are satisfied with the overall public transport situation.
The satisfaction regarding the public transportation system (including MRT and LRT) among citizens of Singapore is a result of joint efforts of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), rail operators, suppliers, and other agencies. Satisfaction comes from rail accessibility, convenience, affordability, and reliability. To improve rail reliability, LTA and operators have worked together and achieved the 2020 target for Mean Kilometre Between Failure (MKBF). MKBF is the distance travelled by train before it causes a delay of more than five minutes.
There are six MRT lines that are operational including North South Line, East West Line, Circle Line, Thomson-East Coast Line, North East Line, and Downtown Line. LTA has set a target of 1 million train-km before any service delay. In 2019, the MRT system surpassed this target and covered 1.08 million train-km between delays of more than five minutes. The North East Line covered 2,065,000 train-km and North-South Line clocked 1,102,000 train-km. After the renewal of rail assets on the East-West Line, its MKBF has increased to 700,000 train-km in early 2019 from 400,000 train-km in 2018. To further improve rail reliability in the coming years, LTA and operators are taking some steps that are mentioned below:
- To lower the burden on existing MRT lines and improve accessibility to all Singaporean citizens, the government will invest $S 60bn to upgrade and expand its rail network from 230km to 360km by 2030.
- The government is planning to invest S$100 million to build simulation facilities on all train lines over a period of five years.
- The Land Transport Authority (LTA) awarded S$ 639.5 million contract to GS Engineering and Construction Corp for the construction of an Integrated Train Testing Centre (ITTC). This centre will oversee maintenance, testing, and renewal works of rail lines.
- LTA helped to install condition monitoring instruments on the North-South and East-West Lines and Automatic Track Inspection system for the Downtown Line (DTL).
- SMRT is working closely with LTA and rail contractors to renew and upgrade the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). This is the biggest modernisation project in the world as the Lines will be upgraded and renewed for the first time since they were built in the 1980s.
- SMRT is installing new signalling systems in the NSEWL as well as re-signalling the lines to improve train services. It will allow trains to run at shorter intervals.
- Under the Third Rail replacement project, SMRT replaced the old Third Rails with new ones and helped to improve the reliability of the rail electricity system.
- SMRT upgraded old trains and brought six new C151B trains for the NSEWL. To improve rail reliability and customer safety, SMRT has established a Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC) and SMRT Trains Engineering Programme (STEP).
- SMRT Trains’ Rail Operations Centre (ROC) will expand its capabilities to oversee bus operations, safety, security, service communications, and commuter services.
- SMRT leverages complex data for Signal & Communications control systems to improve train operations, rail reliability, and deliver better customer services.
- The SMRT Buses division maintains a high level of operational readiness to support train services.
- SMRT has started two programmes – SMRT Train Engineer Professionalisation Programme and the Engineering Maintenance Manager Career Scheme to enhance employee competency, which in turn, will improve rail reliability and service performance.
On the SMRT Trains’ rail reliability performance, SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong said, “SMRT Trains has achieved 1 million Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) for all our Train Lines and we are now amongst the best performing metros in the world.” SMRT CEO also commented, “Our deepest appreciation goes to Minister Khaw Boon Wan for his visionary leadership and unwavering support to SMRT. We worked as One Team to surpass rail reliability targets.”
LTA, the Transport of Ministry, rail contractors, and train operators like SMRT are working together to enhance the performance of MRT and LRT lines by offering the best services to commuters, improving their satisfaction level, and increasing the MKBF score. They are planning to invest in predictive maintenance, automation technology, and rail line expansion to make Singapore’s rail transport the best public transportation network in the world.
About the Author
Su is the chief strategy officer at a leading company in Singapore. She has studied rail engineering and has an interest in Singapore’s public transportation system. She often writes her opinion on the performance of MRT, LRT, SMRT, bus services, taxi business, and more.