Sunday, 30 July 2017

MRT gets more reliable despite rise in breakdowns

Passengers board a Singapore Mass Rapid Transit train. Photo: AFP

Official data shows the reliability of Singapore’s metro network has improved threefold in the past two years, but tell that to ordinary commuters in the Lion City and you are likely to get baffled looks. Ask the republic’s public transport officials, however, and they will tell you the public are not trusting the figures because of sloppy journalism.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in July said preliminary data showed trains travelled 393,000km on average before encountering a delay of more than five minutes in the first six months of this year, from an average of 133,000km in 2015.

Singaporean commuters who spoke to This Week in Asia in the Lion City this week said their experience from daily commutes was not in sync with the data. “When you go home at 6pm or 7pm, at the back of your mind you are praying there is not going to be another signalling fault or track fault or train fault or door fault that is going make you late,” said one commuter.

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Hong Kong newspaper SCMP calls our MRT a “laughing stock”

Over the weekend, Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post published two pieces discussing our MRT system. Both circulated quite widely on social media, with the first article totalling over 17,000 shares. In the article, “Southeast Asia specialist” Bhavan Jaipragas talks about how Singapore’s reputation efficiency is literally, going down the tube.

Jaipragas mentions how Singapore’s MRT network, once touted as one of Asia’s best, has been dogged by major breakdowns and delays in recent years. Today it lags behind Hong Kong’s MTR and the Taipei MRT in reliability, he says, despite how the government has since spent hundreds of millions of dollars overhauling the network.

He also talks about the October 7 flood in the underground tunnel near Bishan station that caused a 20-hour disruption and that while transport minister Khaw Boon Wan, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming and SMRT Chief Executive Desmond Kuek apologised, “commuters and observers said their implications that rank-and-file workers bore responsibility raised questions on whether a lack of executive accountability was behind the metro network’s woes.”

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The public scolding that Singapore’s public transport tsars handed down this week to a handful of rail maintenance workers over a large-scale breakdown is raising questions about where the buck stops in the management of the Lion City’s metro network, as rival Asian metropolises like Hong Kong and Taiwan pull ahead with superior train reliability.

In a rare move, transport minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday criticised workers in charge of anti-flood measures at the metro operator SMRT Corp, after an October 7 flood in a underground tunnel near the suburban Bishan station caused a near 20-hour disruption to parts of the rail network. It was one of Singapore’s worst ever rail breakdowns.

A mechanism designed to remove stormwater from the tunnel failed to work because it was poorly maintained. Khaw said the maintenance team had “failed us”, and urged the metro operator to “nail down who [is] responsible”. “I look to SMRT to do what is right … something must happen to the staff,” Khaw said.

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Downtown Line 3 hit by delays on opening day

Commuters reported delays on the Downtown Line 3 on Saturday (Oct 21) just hours after the new line opened its doors to the public.

On Facebook, some commuters posted fotos & said they were "stuck" at various stations including Bedok North station & Mattar station.

 SBS Transit's senior vice-president of corporate communications Tammy Tan told ST that a defective train was withdrawn from service at the Tampines West Station, which caused a delay of about 5 minutes.

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Commuters experience Downtown Line delays on first day of DTL 3 opening

Commuters on the Downtown Line 3 on Saturday, Oct. 21, are reporting delays on the first day the line opens to the public.

The commuters say they are “stuck” at some stations such as Bedok North station and Mattar station.

The Straits Times reported that the delay is due to a train fault, and the defective train was pushed out. One train had stopped at Promenade station and moved only after 20 minutes.

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Downtown Line 3 makes grim debut as commuters experience train delays on opening day

Commuters who were hoping that they would not experience service disruptions on the brand new Downtown Line 3 (DTL3) were sorely disappointed. Several commuters reported experiencing delays on the line that opened to the public today, following a soft launch last week and an official opening ceremony last night.

Commuters who tried out the line during the soft launch also experienced train delays and were eventually instructed to alight trains and board bridging buses that were deployed to assist inconvenienced commuters.

It is believed that the disruptions on the DTL3 today were caused by a train fault and that the defective train was subsequently pushed out. Several commuters travelling on various stations on the line, including Bedok North and Mattar stations, were affected by this disruption. Some posted that they were delayed for at least 5 minutes while others reported being stuck for about 30 minutes.

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Downtown Line 3 open house marred by train service disruption

Sunday’s (15 October) open house event for the new Downtown Line 3 (DTL3) went slightly off track due to a “train fault” that led to services being disrupted.

At around 12.30pm, a track fault was announced in trains and commuters were requested to disembark at the Ubi station, said media reports.

SBS Transit, which runs the Downtown Line, said in a Facebook post at 1.05pm that there would be “no train service between DT1 Bukit Panjang and DT5 Beauty World Stations” due to a “train fault”. Free bus rides were made available at designated bus stops near the affected stations.

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Khaw Boon Wan says MRT Reliability has Improved by 3 Times since he Took Charge of Transport Ministry
Khaw Boon Wan was appointed Transport Minister in 2015, and he says that since then the reliability of the MRT system has improved by 3 times

Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said this earlier today at the fourth joint forum on infrastructure maintenance organised by SMRT.

He said that while under former Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, Singapore’s MRT trains travelled an average of 133,000km between delays of more than five minutes.

But since the coming of the Khaw, this figure has “happily gone up to nearly 400,000 (393,000) train-km”.

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Khaw Boon Wan sets new rail network reliability target as MRT becomes three times as dependable as in 2015

The MRT system's reliability has improved by 3 times since Mr Khaw Boon Wan moved to the Transport Ministry in 2015, but the minister wants to raise the bar much higher.

Speaking at the 4th joint forum on infrastructure maintenance organised by SMRT on Thursday (Jul 27), the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport said that in 2015 - the year he replaced Mr Lui Tuck Yew at the ministry, Singapore's MRT trains travelled an average of 133,000km between delays of more than 5 minutes.

This is known as mean km between failure (MKBF).

related: Dislodged door caused MRT power trips

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Transport minister Khaw Boon Wan claims MRT more reliable, commentors say otherwise

Speaking at the 4th joint forum on infrastructure maintenance organised by SMRT on Wednesday (Jul 26), the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said that Singapore's MRT is 3 times as dependable as in 2015.

The reason? In 2015, MRT trains travelled an average of 133,000km between delays of more than 5 minutes. Now? It's 393,000km.

Mr Khaw said these are satisfactory outcomes that have exceeded their target of 300,000 mean km between failure (MKBF).

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Rail reliability has improved but Khaw sets new higher standards
Rail reliability has improved but Khaw sets new higher standards

Rail operators have loftier rail reliability standards to live up to by 2020, with Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan setting a new target for rail reliability in 2020 to improve seven times from 2015’s standards.

The new 2020 target is 1 million train-km, measured as mean kilometres between failure (MKBF) or average distance trains can travel before hitting delays of more than 5 minutes.

Speaking at the 4th Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance on Thursday (Jul 27), Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, noted that overall train frequency between delays of more than five minutes have risen from 133,000km in 2015 to nearly 400,000km as of the first half of this year, based on preliminary data which exclude the delays due to testing of the new signalling system. That is an improvement of nearly 3 times.

Wet platforms at Tuas West Extension’s open house
June 28 rush-hour delay on NSL, Tuas West Extension due ‘human error’
Two new bus services to launch with debut of Tuas West Extension
Higher target for rail reliability standards: Khaw Boon Wan
Tuas West Extension opens after six-month delay

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Minister Khaw Boon Wan Says MRT Reliability Has Tripled, Netizens Say He Ownself Praise Ownself
Khaw Boon Wan Praises His Own Results

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is at it again. He’s gone and praised the MRT’s reliability, but this time he’s gone further — he’s also praised his own results.

At a joint forum organized by SMRT earlier Thursday (July 27), The Straits Times reported Mr Khaw as saying that that the MRT system’s reliability has improved by three times since he took over from his predecessor Lui Tuck Yew. Of course, the minister had impressive figures to back up his statement. To an ordinary Singaporean affected by the numerous train service disruptions in the past months, it probably comes as a surprise that this is somehow an improvement in reliability.

Mr Khaw was quoted by the Straits Times as saying that in 2015, incidentally the year that he replaced Mr Lui as transport minister, Singapore’s MRT trains travelled an average of 133,000km between delays of more than 5 minutes.

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Three times? More like three times the waiting time lor!!!

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Khaw Boon Wan takes issue with press coverage of MRT resignalling project
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he did not like the way the press has been covering the resignalling project "because they've magnified the problem unfairly" FOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

In his off-the-cuff remarks, Mr Khaw said resignalling was "a very complex" task. But the media, he said, "think it's so easy ... like holding a pen and writing a few articles, & get the signalling done".

"I wish it was so simple. If it were so simple, they don't need us. We can ask the reporter to run the train system," he said to laughter in the audience.

In response, The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said: "We are aware of the complexities involved in the resignalling process even as normal operations have to continue. We have reported on that, but we also have to report on the difficulties that crop up along the way, & the impact they have on commuters facing disruptions."

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Khaw Boon Wan Slams Straits Times Reporters For Actually Reporting The Truth

Khaw Boon Wan Criticizes Mainstream Media For Doing Their Job.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan must surely win the 2017 Star Awards for best comedy performer after delivering yet another jaw-dropping performance.

During the same press conference on Thursday (July 27) where he boasted that MRT reliability had tripled under his efforts, Mr Khaw lambasted the media for their coverage of the numerous MRT breakdowns.

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Transport Minister’s wrong signal vs Main Media’s “only” commuter, Ashley Wu
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan is an angry man

Apparently, he was so upset with the press for their “unfair magnification of the problems” arising from SMRT’s ongoing resignalling project, that he said, “Even the main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on… frightening readers… If it were so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporter to run the train system.”

Naturally, The Straits Times (ST), which prides itself as the main media in Singapore, finds Minister’s remarks difficult to swallow. Its editor issued a response on the same day in defence.

While this was going on, one service of the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Train was down due to a train fault. And a train service delay during morning rush hours had just happened on Tuesday (25 July).

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Frequent MRT disruptions a concern: experts
Frequent MRT disruptions a concern: experts

Transport experts have raised concerns over the frequent delays caused by faults in the rail network, with nine occurring this month alone. Yesterday's breakdown in services was the 9th this month. Here are the others, with 2 on July 20:
  • JULY 24 - A door obstruction at Newton station causes delays on the North-South Line during evening peak hours.
  • JULY 20 - Temporary clamps that came loose near Choa Chu Kang station on the North-South Line cause delays of about 10 minutes at 5.30pm. A signalling fault later causes trains to stop in between stations for more than 15 minutes on the Circle Line around 10pm.
  • JULY 19 - A train fault near Newton station affects service on the North-South Line.
  • JULY 12 - A train fault and a track circuit fault cause delays of about two hours in the morning on the east-bound stretch from Joo Koon to Clementi stations.
  • JULY 10 - A signalling fault causes delays between Queenstown and Bugis stations from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
  • JULY 7 - A train fault causes a 30-minute morning delay between Woodlands and Jurong East stations.
  • JULY 5 - A train fault causes a 30 minute evening delay on the East-West Line.

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How can MRT reliability improved 3 times, when there are so many breakdowns

Ownself exclude ownself? It was noted by Mr Khaw that the MKBF "has happily gone up to nearly 400,000 (393,000) train-km” in the first half of this year (2017) based on preliminary data, and had also excluded delays arising from the testing of a new signalling system on the North-South line.

The minister noted that all five lines had improved, with the star performer being the North-East line, which clocked nearly 1 million (978,000) train-km between failures. “This is a satisfactory outcome, against our targets of 300,000 MKBF this year, 400,000 MKBF next year and 800,000 train-km by 2020,” Mr Khaw said, adding that he set these targets last year against the best-in-class Taipei Metro, which clocked 800,000 MKBF.

But by excluding the “delays arising from the testing of a new signalling system, we have conveniently evaded all the frequent and extensive delays that have happened recently. Does the Taipei Metro exclude delays due to certain reasons like what we are now doing in Singapore?

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Commuters feeling frustrated after recent train delays

Commuters affected by yesterday's shutdown of the North-South Line (NSL) had feared the worst when they were greeted by the sight of packed free bus services & long taxi lines during rush-hour traffic.

So it was a relief to many when train services resumed about 10 minutes later, albeit at reduced speeds. Normal service resumed only at about 7.20pm, more than 2 hours after the line came to a standstill.

But with the shutdown coming on the back of Tuesday's delays on the North-South & East-West lines during the morning peak hours, commuters are feeling increasingly frustrated.

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Petition started to get SMRT into Guinness Book of World Records for longest breakdown

Singapore recently saw a spate of breakdowns, and delays, due to signal faults.
This has lead to a few disgruntled commuters setting up this petition.

421 signatures as of the time of this writing. Their goal is to reach 1,000 signatures.

You can find the petition here.

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SMRT ordered to check all service maintenance doors after disruptions
SMRT ordered to check all service maintenance doors after disruptions

At 11.30am, train services between Queenstown & Bugis MRT stations on the East-West Line were halted for 30 minutes as traction power had to be switched off to enable engineers to access the tracks safely to fix the problem.

Normal train service resumed progressively after the door was removed at noon.

Yesterday's incident was the 9th reported delay affecting the train system this month, leaving transport experts concerned about the recent spate of faults.

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LTA orders system-wide checks after loose door causes train delays
LTA orders system-wide checks after loose door causes train delays

A “loosened service maintenance door” caused power faults and widespread delays on the rail network on Tuesday  (Jul 25), as SMRT briefly shut services between Queenstown & Bugis stations for urgent repairs. The disruption led the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to direct the operator to carry out system-wide checks.

The 11.30am shutdown in services, lasting 30 minutes, came hours after the power faults & a separate track circuit problem snarled the rush-hour morning commute on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL).

In a statement, the LTA said the cause of the “intermittent traction power tripping” on the NSEWL “was traced to a loosened service maintenance door next to the tracks in the tunnel near Tiong Bahru MRT Station along the East-West Line”. The faulty door has since been removed. The SMRT had earlier referred to a “loose panel” as the cause of the power faults.

Track circuit fault causes delays on East-West Line
Train fault causes 40-minute delay on SMRT East-West Line
Traction power trip behind hour-long service disruption, blackouts on EWL & NSL
Crowds expected at North-South, East-West Lines due to 'intermittent power fault'
Power fault causes rush-hour delay on East-West Line

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Loose door causes delays, shutdown between Queenstown and Bugis MRT stations

A loose door in the tunnel near Tiong Bahru MRT station caused power trips & delays for MRT commuters for more than 7 hours on Tuesday (Jul 25), and led to a brief shutdown of eight stations.

The delays started at around 6am on the North-South and East-West Lines, & at 11.30am, train service was shut down between Queenstown and Bugis stations for 30 minutes for "urgent repair works".

The cause of the power trip was traced to a loosened service maintenance door next to the tracks in the tunnel near Tiong Bahru MRT station, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

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Platform doors at Botanic Gardens MRT station malfunction, causing 7-hour disruption

A malfunction in the platform screen doors at Botanic Gardens MRT station resulted in trains bypassing the station and a seven-hour disruption on Wed (May 3).

Downtown Line operator SBS Transit said the doors malfunctioned at 5.45am due to a signalling-related fault, & could not open automatically.

"Staff had to manually operate the doors whenever a train arrived at the station and this took some time which caused a delay to train services," a spokesperson said.

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Massive delay along North-South Line during morning rush hour

Commuters rushing for school and work on the North-South line (NSL) were met with an unexpected delay in their morning commute as they tried to assess the situation without any announcement by train operator SMRT.

SMRT only made an announcement of the delay at 9.10, more than two hours or more since the delay occurred. Stating that the cause of the delay as signalling fault and asked commuters to cater for additional 20 minutes of travelling time.

SMRT had earlier cautioned commuters on 26 May to cater for additional travelling time as its engineers resolve teething issues on the new signalling system for the NSL from 29 May.

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Train disruption on two major MRT lines — more delays expected as checks continue
More delays expected as checks continue

Train disruptions yesterday that affected tens of thousands of commuters on the way home during the evening peak hours were blamed on a fault in the new signalling system being put through its paces.

Train operator SMRT & the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the system is expected to "take a few more months to fully stabilise".

The North-South MRT line (NSL) went down after 5pm. While SMRT engineers were able to get the line up again within 10 minutes or so, trains were moving slower - by as much as 30 minutes & causing crowding at several stations.

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North-South Line hit by delays again due to signalling fault

The North-South MRT line has been hit with a glitch on Friday (Jun 2), the 2nd day in a row this has happened.

On its Facebook page, SMRT said: “Due to a signalling fault, North-South Line (NSL) train services in both directions between Kranji & Admiralty stations have been running at a slower speed since 5:05pm.

“NSL commuters are advised to add about 30 minutes to their journey. Free bus & bus bridging services are available between Choa Chu Kang and Yishun.

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MRT's East West Line hit by track fault; delays expected

The East West Line of the MRT was hit by a delay due to a track fault on Wednesday morning (30 August), according to SMRT’s Twitter at 8.13am.

Commuters were initially advised to add 10 minutes of train travel time from Jurong East to Redhill stations, with that delay subsequently extending to 15 minutes.

According to SMRT, train service is still available.

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SMRT flooding incident: Maintenance team signed off on work that was not done; staff suspended
A malfunction in the water pumping system at Bishan MRT station caused rainwater to collect in the MRT tunnel, resulting in train service disruption on Oct 7 & 8. FOTO: ST READER

Preliminary investigations by train operator SMRT have found that a maintenance team in charge of a pump system, which eventually failed and caused a massive 20-hr disruption, signed off on work that they had not done.

The manager & staff responsible for the maintenance of the Bishan pump system have been suspended & are assisting in investigations, said SMRT in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 31) evening.

Records for quarterly maintenance works for December 2016, as well as in March & June this year were submitted but investigations found that track access approvals were not issued for these dates.

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MRT tunnel flooding: Pump maintenance work not carried out on 3 occasions

Maintenance works for the Bishan portal sump pump system were not properly carried out since December last year, SMRT investigations into a train tunnel flooding incident have found.

Preliminary investigations show that quarterly maintenance works for Dec 2016, March & June this year were not conducted as prescribed in SMRT's manual, the train operator said in a news release on Tuesday (Oct 31).

Maintenance records were duly signed off & submitted. However, SMRT's investigation showed that there were no track access approvals issued for preventive maintenance of the Bishan portal sump pumps for the maintenance dates.

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Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable
Credit: SGAG

Under mounting pressure over transport inefficiencies and lack of transparency, former army general Chew Men Leong resigned from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on August 6. His 22-month-long tenure as CEO was the shortest in the history of Singapore’s civil service.

“[In the coming months] I will be making a change of career over to the private sector,” commented Chew Men Leong on his decision, but it is believed that his departure from LTA had been sped up by frequent MRT failures and public dissatisfaction with increasing fares.

The failing system - Since gaining independence in 1965, Singapore has undergone a rapid urbanisation. The island city-state’s total area measures only 274 square miles and it is currently inhabited by 5,7 million people, making it one of the most densely populated territories in the world.

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