‘MRT Reliability tripled since I took over’ – Transport Minister’s “ownself praise ownself” comments roasted by irate commuters

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Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has come under fire for his comments about the MRT system at a forum on infrastructure management yesterday.

In his speech, Khaw praised himself, saying that MRT reliability has improved by three times since he took over from his predecessor, Lui Tuck Yew, and that all five MRT lines have improved.

He shared that trains have travelled an average of 393,000 train-kilometres before a delay of more than five minutes in the first half of this year as opposed to travelling an average of 133,000 train-kilometres between delays in 2015 when Lui was heading the ministry. The minister said, “versus what we (had) inherited two years ago, I think this may be a C-plus. Next year, we should go for B. The following year, certainly before election, must be (an) A.”

He also asserted that the number of major delays exceeding 30 minutes has decreased from 10 in the first half of 2016 to 3 in the first half of 2017.

However, this data DOES NOT INCLUDE delays due to re-signalling works on the North-South Line.

Persistent train breakdowns have plagued the North-South Line and, as a result, affected services on the other MRT lines throughout the year. Here are updates on SMRT’s own twitter page announcing delays:

It must be noted that this does not include the other delays that SMRT has failed to report on their twitter page – such as the 4 day silence between 3-6 June 2017 when commuters faced agonising breakdowns due to signalling issues that crippled the North-South Line.

In spite of this, Khaw asserted that re-signalling works went smoother than “what we feared” and that the works are expected to be stabilised by the end of 2017.

He also boasted that he wants trains to travel 1 million train-kilometres before a delay of more than five minutes from the original target of 800,000 train-kilometres before a delay, set last year. The target has risen since the Taiperi Metro – against which our local system is benchmarked – was able to achieve 1 million train-kilometres before a delay in 2016.

Khaw cited this goal and the statistics above to conclude that MRT reliability has improved. However, several questions remain unanswered:

Why is reliability measured by distance travelled between faults? Why doesn’t the length of delays and time taken to recover from breakdowns taken into consideration?

Can the greater distance travelled be solely indicative of the reliability of the system? Or is it a result of other reasons such as new stations being added to train lines and more trains being added to the existing train fleet?

 

While these questions are yet to be addressed, irate commuters have gone online to roast the Minister over his comments:

In his remarks at the forum yesterday, the minister also took issue with the media’s coverage of re-signalling works and the problems commuters face as a result. Opining that the media has “magnified the problem unfairly,” he said, “Even the main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on… frightening readers.”

He added that such works are very complex but that the media “think it’s so easy… like holding a pen and writing a few articles, and 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 quipped.

 

One commuter, sales and marketing manager Ashley Wu, responded: “It’s not as if the press has been reporting things that are not happening. Interviewing people about how the breakdowns are affecting their daily lives is not being sensational.”

Academic Hawyee Auyong from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy added: “The experience of many commuters recently is disruption on almost a daily basis. If press coverage doesn’t match everyday experience, then the press loses credibility.”