SMRT suffers drastic drop in profit

Its operating expenses rose due to higher maintenance-related costs

Temasek-owned rail operator SMRT Corp posted a drastic drop in net earnings as it ramps up resources to catch up with repairs and maintenance work.

In its latest group review released yesterday, the group stated that its 2017 after-tax profit stood at $26 million - less than a third of the $81 million it made in 2016, and the lowest in more than two decades.

Revenue fell to $791 million, from $811 million previously, as total passenger-kilometres - a measure of how long commuter trips were - shrank from 8,322 million to 8,271 million.

Operating expenses rose 6.9 per cent to $785 million from $734 million in 2016, due to higher maintenance-related expenses for the ageing network and preparation for operating the Tuas West Extension, said SMRT.

Ridership rose from 756 million to 768 million.

In its review, SMRT said it had aimed to raise rail reliability on its North-South and East-West lines to one delay for each 300,000km by the end of last year - up from 180,400km and 151,400km on the North-South and East-West lines, respectively, as at April last year.

In the report, its chief executive Desmond Kuek said the goal has been achieved and the company was aiming higher now.

"Last year, mean kilometres between failure or MKBF - a reliability indicator used by international metros - improved on the Circle Line to 523,000km, 129 per cent better than in 2016. The North-South and East-West lines achieved 336,000km and 278,000km, improving by 115 per cent and 92 per cent, respectively, compared with the previous year," said Mr Kuek.

Early indications this year are showing "promising results".

"We expect to reach even closer to our goal of one million in MKBF," he added, referring to a network-wide target set by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan for 2020.

That target is dependent on the completion of several asset renewal plans. SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said most of the renewal works will be completed within two years.

"We are pushing ahead to complete most of the renewal works on the North-South and East-West lines by 2020," he said in the review.

"Later this year, we will scale up pre-opening preparations for the Thomson-East Coast Line, which opens progressively from 2019."

The company expects to hire 600 more people before the first stations along the new line open, and 900 more by the time it fully opens in 2024.

The review was the first that the rail operator has published since its transition to the New Rail Financing Framework and its delisting from the Singapore Exchange in 2016.