SINGAPORE: SMRT Trains has recently entered into a collaboration with Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC), the operator of the Taipei Metro.
This partnership marks the first time SMRT Trains has joined forces with another rail operator to enhance their professional connections.
According to a press statement issued by SMRT on Tuesday (3 Oct), under the wide-ranging agreement, SMRT and TRTC will share know-how and best practices in operations and maintenance.
Both rail operators will partake in activities that would enhance their operations, maintenance and engineering capabilities, use of data analytics and emerging technologies, safety and security performance including cyber security, service excellence and commuter experience.
Both rail operators will exchange insights and experience in the promotion of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) related programmes, as well as the promotion of city tourism and marketing through commercial collaborations.
Taipei Metro has been recognized in the past as a benchmark for Singapore’s rail reliability standards, particularly after the series of major MRT breakdowns in July 2015 prompted the Singaporean government to raise service levels.
Lam Sheau Kai, President of SMRT Trains, emphasized that this collaboration will involve the exchange of best practices and the utilization of technology to improve rail reliability, all while ensuring financial and environmental sustainability.
Additionally, the two operators will exchange insights on ensuring the safety of commuters, staff, and subcontractors.
SMRT and TRTC also plan to learn from each other in areas such as enhancing cyber security to prevent service disruptions and implementing environmental, social, and corporate governance-related programs.
Both operators aim to enhance the commuting experience for passengers and promote tourism in their respective cities through this partnership.
Regarding rail reliability, SMRT Trains recorded 9.9 million and 12.2 million train car-kilometers between delays of more than five minutes across the North-South and East-West lines in 2022.
In contrast, TRTC achieved significantly better performance, with 16 million train car-kilometers between delays in 2022, based on the latest available figures.
The agreement was formally signed by SMRT Trains Chairman Seah Moon Ming and TRTC Chairman Chao Shiao-lien, with SMRT Trains President Lam and TRTC Vice-President Yang Chin-heng as witnesses.
SMRT Group Chief Executive Ngien Hoon Ping was also in attendance at the event, which took place in Singapore.
Mr Chao said: “The 30 over years of strong friendship between TRTC and SMRT started in 1990, when TRTC sent some of our employees to Singapore for training, from which we acquired valuable operational expertise. ”
“It brings me great pleasure to announce our continued commitment to enhance our collaboration through this Sister Metro Agreement.”
It’s worth mentioning that SMRT’s competitor, SBS Transit, had previously established a partnership with TRTC and its subsidiary, Metro Consulting Service, in 2018 to strengthen its engineering and maintenance capabilities.
SMRT’s most severe breakdown in 2015
On July 7, 2015, Singapore’s mass rapid transit (MRT) system came to a literal standstill when both the North-South Line and East-West Line suffered a breakdown.
This incident left over 250,000 commuters stranded for more than two hours, all due to a contaminated electrical component resulting from a tunnel leak.
During that year, Singapore’s entire rail network, including the LRT network, experienced an average of 2.5 disruptions per month between January and June.
The most severe breakdown ultimately led to the resignation of then-Minister for Transport, Lui Tuck Yew, just two months later.
Other SMRT’s serious breakdowns including:
April 25, 2016: A power trip at a network substation led to the failure of the western sector of the North-South and East-West lines, portions of the Circle Line, and the Bukit Panjang LRT system. The trip was suspected to result from cable works on the East-West Line’s Tuas West Extension.
In 2017, SMRT experienced three major breakdown incidents on June 28, July 12, and August 17. These disruptions were primarily attributed to faults in the newly-installed signalling system, causing significant service interruptions and delays for commuters.
September 19, 2018: During rush hour, a track point fault disrupted East-West Line services between Jurong East and Clementi MRT stations, causing significant delays of up to 40 minutes for thousands of commuters.
October 9, 2019: A signalling fault at Sengkang Station delayed North-East Line (NEL) services by approximately 20 minutes. Commuters experienced more than 15-minute delays, with SBS Transit initially tweeting about a 10-minute additional travel time before updating it multiple times.
October 14, 2020: A power fault resulted in the shutdown of train services on sections of the North-South and East-West MRT Lines, significantly impacting the evening rush-hour commute. The breakdown was attributed to a faulty power cable, marking one of the most serious power-related incidents in recent years.
In 2022, there were seven major breakdowns (lasting over half an hour), more than double the three incidents in 2021 and the second-highest figure in the past five years.
February 22, 2023: A train fault near Yishun station caused delays of up to 25 minutes for commuters travelling on the North-South Line (NSL) between Woodlands and Ang Mo Kio MRT stations. SMRT attributed the train fault to a signalling issue that triggered a safety precaution, immobilizing the train.
2022 sees a surge in Major MRT disruptions despite overall rail reliability Improvement
In 2022, the number of significant MRT disruptions, each lasting over 30 minutes, increased by more than double compared to 2021, despite an overall decrease in the frequency of delays.
The rail reliability data published by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in March this year, indicates that the mean kilometres before failure (MKBF) – an engineering metric for reliability – improved from 1.994 million train-kilometres in 2021 to 2.09 million train-kilometers in 2022.
In practical terms, this means that there was an occurrence of a disruption lasting more than five minutes for every 2.09 million kilometers travelled by Singapore’s MRT trains throughout the year.
Steep fare hike in 2023
Last month, the Public Transport Council (PTC) announced an increase in public transport fares for adults who pay by card starting from December 23. The cost of bus and train rides is set to rise by 7%, resulting in adult card fares increasing by 10 cents for journeys up to 4.2km and 11 cents for longer rides.
Concessionary fares for seniors, students, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers who pay by card will also see an increase of four cents for shorter journeys and five cents for longer ones.
Approximately two million commuters, constituting half of Singapore’s population, fall into this category.
This fare hike for 2023 is the steepest since the 2019 increase of 7% and marks the highest recorded increase of 11 cents.
Notably, In a parliamentary session on October 3, Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat rejected proposals from Members of Parliament (MPs) to eliminate or freeze future public transport fare hikes.
He deemed these suggestions as “no sound” and “populist,” expressing concerns about their impact on the long-term reliability and financial sustainability of Singapore’s public transport system.
Minister Chee made these statements in response to proposals put forward by the Workers’ Party (WP) MP for Sengkang GRC, Louis Chua, and PAP MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, Mr Don Wee.
Mr Chee argued that such proposals might widen the existing funding gap for buses and trains, ultimately increasing the financial burden on taxpayers in the future.
“If the deferred fare amount is ‘expunged’, as Mr Louis Chua proposed, or if fares are frozen for future years as Mr Don Wee suggested, it does not mean that these costs of running the public transport system will simply disappear into thin air,” said Mr Chee.
“I would like to ask Mr Chua and Mr Wee to clarify whether they are proposing for the operators to absorb this cost, or for taxpayers to bear a larger cost burden to provide higher government subsidies on a permanent basis?”
“If it is the latter, they should elaborate how such a move will be funded every year and whether they are proposing for Singaporeans to pay additional taxes to do so? I hope that is not what they have in mind.”
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