Singapore—While Khaw Boon Wan, the country’s Transport Minister, admitted on October 14, Monday, that maintenance had not been the priority of rail operators in year past, he also warned against future overspending.
Mr Khaw also voiced the need to be cautious about regulatory capture, which occurs when the regulator advances the interests of the regulated.
In this instance, the regulator is the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
In his remarks at the 8th Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance at the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA), the Transport Minister said, “A regulator working closely with the industry to advance consumer welfare is good. But a regulator getting too comfortable with the industry, neglecting consumer welfare, will be crossing a red line.”
Mr Khaw also focused on the need for cost efficiency in his speech, saying, “A reliable rail service requires substantial investments, both in capital expenditure for timely renewal of ageing assets, and in operating expenditure to fund operations and maintenance (O&M) adequately.”
He added that when he became Transport Minister in 2015, he recognized the need for a unified approach in tackling rail issues, and quickly put the “unambiguous One Transport culture” into practice.
This, he said, has been vital to turning around the country’s troubled rail network system, improving it by leaps and bounds since 2012.
Its reliability today is at one million train-km between delays.
He added, ”Whether it is MOT (Ministry of Transport), LTA, SMRT, SBST (SBS Transit) or the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), we share a common goal of delivering a reliable, safe and affordable rail service.
We play different roles and report to different employers, but our common customer is the Singapore commuter.”
Mr Khaw also said that the problem of underinvestment “in our recent past history when some operators got distracted” in operations and maintenance has already been corrected.
“We have corrected this but going forward, we can get distracted again or we may even go overboard and ‘gold-plate’ O&M at the expense of commuters who, at the end of the day, have to fund the operation.”
Therefore, he stressed the need for sound judgment in the matter.
“Regular benchmarking against foreign operators will provide a useful reality check. Don’t be arrogant. What happened could happen again.”
The Transport Minister also announced that Enterprise Singapore had set up a Technical Committee on Railway Systems, the Straits Times (ST) reports.
”They are working with the rail operators to formulate Singapore Rail O&M standards to raise the reliability, safety, and productivity of railway systems, as well as building the capabilities and expertise of our local enterprises to service the railway sector in Singapore and potentially the region.
This will profile Singapore rail engineering and insert ourselves into the global rail industry in a meaningful way.”
The LTA shared announcements that had been made at the event on its Facebook page,
“#PowerUp We will soon have two new signalling simulation centres for the Downtown Line and Thomson-East Coast Line to test our signalling systems more rigorously and to train our engineers and operators!
Announced at the 8th Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance (JFIM) held this morning, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan commended all stakeholders in the rail industry for collectively exceeding the target of the one million Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) mark. ?
Over the last few years, we have stepped up maintenance of various rail infrastructure and systems as well as expanded rail capacity. We are also building up local expertise and growing the engineering community to cross-learn from one another! ?
Even though rail reliability has improved, we will remain on course to transform Singapore’s rail sector. Together, we’ll ensure our rail system continues to be safe and reliable for all! ?”