The claim by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday that the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system’s “reliability has improved by three times” has been met with incredulity. Many are questioning if his assertion is true, or whether the calculation used to make the claim is reasonable.
Mr Khaw, who was speaking at the fourth joint forum on infrastructure maintenance organised by SMRT, said that since he took over from Lui Tuck Yew as Transport Minister in 2015, trains here travelled an average of 400,000 train-km without being disrupted.
In 2015, it was 133,000 train-km, he said.
However, the number excludes train delays caused, for example, by the testings of the new signalling system on the North-South line since May.
Naturally, many expressing their opinion online are questioning Mr Khaw’s claims.
Some asked why periods of delays are being excluded from the calculation, and whether the computation included new expansion of the rail system which would artificially buff up the numbers.
The reaction of the public is understandable as this is not the first time that the authorities have made such bombastic claims which is not the lived experienced of commuters on a daily basis.
In the past month and more, train breakdowns have been the norm, occurring on a regular basis. These have affected hundreds of thousands of commuters, including during peak hours.
The latest claim by Khaw mirrors that a year ago, in April 2016. Then, as now, the commuting public was experiencing breakdowns and disruptions on frequently.
Yet, in April 2016, the LTA claimed that in fact reliability had improved despite a “rise in major breakdowns”.
It revealed then that there were 14 major breakdowns (disruptions which last for more than 30 minutes) on the MRT system – a 40 per cent increase from the previous year – while major breakdowns on the LRT system had quadrupled to 15.
Still, the LTA claimed that “the rail system was more reliable than it has been since 2011.”
Whatever the authorities may claim, the fact of the matter is that the daily lived experienced of commuters are a far cry from what the authorities say.
The ongoing signal tests are expected to take a few more months, perhaps until November. While the LTA said it was “confident” that the new signalling system will improve reliability further, this is yet to be seen – given that each time the authorities resolve one issue, several more crops up.
Perhaps the satirical website, New Nation, said it best last year:
“One Singaporean, Didi Pai, said having daily breakdowns will prepare commuters mentally so they know they can count on the train to predictably malfunction: “Yes, I agree with LTA as I can definitely feel MRT reliability improving. I can now expect the MRT system to break down every day instead of second-guessing when it will happen next.””