The MRT Saga : Until The Khaw Comes Home

Cows Walking

By: B Goode

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has urged the two train operators in Singapore to copypasta Taipei Metro’s maintenance regime to ensure improved reliability.

If we wanted a lip-service, we would have gone to this guy:


The thing is that, you cannot just copy a small part of something and expect it to work fully. It is akin to saying that you need only a boob job to look like Amy Yip. You will need to emulate the whole package.

And there exists an immense flaw within the Singapore’s transport model that no amount of copypasting can help. It is something that is unique to Singapore. It is the `dual ownership’ of the system.

The infrastructure belongs to the government under the purview of the LTA. But the operations of the system belong to not one, but two private companies.

Let me give a simple example of how wonky this model is.

Train operations are owned by SMRT and SBSTransit. But trains require power to operate and the power cables belong to the government. So if there was a service disruption due to a cable fault, whose problem was that?

If you extrapolated the above example to other parts of the system, you’d then notice the conundrum. And since it would inevitably involve costs, and because this is Singapore where the word `sustainability’ has become the by-word for pseudo success, it would result in cumbersome argument between the government and the two private operators as to who should bear the costs.

The government, as we all know, is stingy, and the private operators’ main aim is to maximise profits. And with both owners reluctant to fork out the money, the system suffers.

So unless the government had the will to revamp the whole transport model, any talks of service improvement would just be baloney.

I have a few suggestions on how to improve our transport system:

  1. Have only one owner and that will have to be the government. And this will have to involve the rescinding of the service contracts that the government had given to the two operators.
  2. Since most of the problems were from the NSEL, suspend the operations of the two lines totally for as long as needed so that a thorough health checks could be conducted and whatever faults rectified. This could be done after the completion of the two parallel lines one of which is the Thomson Line.
  3. In the meantime, stop train operations earlier, say at 10 pm to allow the maintenance crew more time to do their work. By 10pm, most trains are not crowded. Buses should be deployed during these hours instead.
  4. Put someone with the experience and expertise in running successful transport companies at the helm and not some gene…nevermind. I am not going there.

The above points might seem preposterous, but they were no more preposterous than having the same old problems besetting the MRT systems practically every single day.







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1 Response to The MRT Saga : Until The Khaw Comes Home

  1. Kenneth says:

    Haha, are u sure after 10pm the trains are not crowded? I think the govt should own and operate the trains. At least that way, when things go wrong and when fares increase, we know exactly who is at fault.

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