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Has rail transport really improved?

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It is the question that has dogged one too many of us.

Just why do the trains that we rely on for our daily commute keep breaking down?

The Land Transport in a seismic tabulation of data said it has improved. But just what is the gauge of measuring reliability?

It said in 2016,  trains travelled an average 174,000 train-kilometres between delays of more than five minutes, up 30 per cent from 133,000 train-km in 2015. However, the performance still fell short of the Government’s 2016 target of travelling an average 200,000 train-km between delays.

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So there we have it. It is not a full and complete recovery in real terms. Reliability still has not met the expectations the public seek of it. The number of delays lasting more than 30 minutes has also gone up over the last four years, the LTA said, were 16 such disruptions in 2016, up from 15 in 2015, 10 in 2014 and seven in 2013.

“I think more work needs to be focused on this front,” said Permanent Secretary for Transport Pang Kin Keong at the opening of this year’s Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance, and he is spot-on right that more just work needs to be done.

At the heart of the issue is if Singapore is using and buying top-flight trains from nations with a putative of having state of the art locomotives say of, from Germany, France or the legendary  and trail-blazing American, AMTRAK?

The government has pledged billions more aimed at upgrading rail transport and raising its reliability which it should for what is at stake is the trust it needs to foster and foster immediately, on the back of fare increases it has levied over the years.

What is perhaps critical is that local knowledge and expertise in rail technology needs to be strengthened, something Pang duly acknowledged.

And that would mean going the entire hog of heading all the way back to the drawing board. It means if the trains we have are essentially the ones that can meet our needs or that importantly, if they are all about the value each time one of us board it for the commute we just need to make.

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