SMRT to keep delays to one a month

It aims to achieve this 'bold target' by 2020

Rail operator SMRT Corporation is aiming for no more than one delay a month by 2020 - at least three times better than its performance today.

At its annual review yesterday, chief executive Desmond Kuek called this "a bold target" that "only a handful" of the world's metros can match.

"Our goal is to reduce any delay to less than five minutes, and in the worst, ensure that it does not last longer than 30 minutes," he said. "It is these major incidents, lasting longer than 30 minutes, that we must strenuously avoid."

Last year, SMRT had nine such incidents, excluding those related to a project to change-out the signalling system - which determines how closely trains can travel to each other.

If signalling faults were included, there were 13 such long delays on the North-South, East-West and Circle lines - lines operated by SMRT. This was one more than what the lines chalked up in 2016.

If delays of more than five minutes were included, signalling-related delays totalled more than 140 last year, going by a chart provided by the newly privatised operator. Signalling-related delays formed the bulk of delays on its lines last year.

Mr Kuek said however, that incidents related to the resignalling project were "temporal", and were thus excluded in its reliability count.

In response to questions on when signalling-related delays would be included in the count, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said they should be included from end-June, when the new signalling system is completely operational on both the North-South and East-West lines.

Mr Seah said the early closure and late opening (ECLO) of the two lines since late last year had provided SMRT "nearly three times the engineering hours for maintenance, inspection and renewal works". He also said ECLO would need to continue for at least the rest of this year.

As at end-February this year, SMRT said the North-South Line clocked 447,000km between delays, while the East-West Line posted 289,000km, and the Circle Line 564,000km.

Mr Kuek said: "With the completion of key projects and stabilising of the new signalling system, we have seen positive results in rail reliability.

"While this is encouraging, there is more we can do to drive reliability even higher."