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Speech by Minister Khaw Boon Wan at Visit to Power System Renewal Project

05 Jul 2019 Speeches

Friends and Colleagues,

1.     We are renewing the entire North-South and East-West Lines.This is a massive capital-intensive and also time-consuming effort. It took us many years. It involves 6 core asset groups: sleepers, third rail, signalling system, power system, trains and track circuits.

2.     We are more than halfway through. We have completed the first 3 asset groups; 3 more to go – the remaining 3 including this power system.The event this afternoon allows me to give you a brief progress report on power renewal.

3.     Works started last October. That is a few months ago. Since then, LTA, SMRT and their contractors have put in more than 900,000 man hours across 15 concurrent work fronts.Renewing the power system is a complex exercise, as it is done on a “live” line, when the line is still running, in a dangerous high voltage environment.The team must also compete for limited precious track access time with other maintenance works and upgrading works.Thankfully, commuters allow us to have ECLO: Early Closures and Late Openings.So far, we have completed more than one quarter of the works.Not bad, but still a lot of work lies ahead.

4.     In parallel, we are also making progress renewing the trains and track circuits.By around 2023, we would have completely renewed the North-South and East-West Lines’ core systems.But we do not have to wait till 2023 to benefit from this renewal. In fact, commuters have already experienced the enhanced reliability of the North-South and East-West Lines.You may remember that up till 2014, the MKBF of both the North-South and East-West Lines could not exceed 100,000 train-km.As the old assets got replaced and upgraded, the East-West Line’s MKBF has gone up, first to more than 400,000 train-km last year and now nearly 700,000 train-km.The North-South Line has done even better because its renewal started earlier.Its MKBF has exceeded my target of 1 million, in fact 1.4 million train-km, making it as reliable as top metros like the Taipei Metro and Hong Kong MTR.

5.     The other operator, SBS Transit has also put in tremendous efforts to make our train services the pride of Singaporeans. Today, I want to thank both operators, SMRT and SBST, and LTA and all your staff and also your equipment manufacturers for putting in all their resources to make our MRT service more reliable.But you know, our job is not yet done.

6.     Indeed, our job can never be done, as there is no end point. For as long as we run a service, we have to make sure it is reliable. Ensuring reliability is a continuous undertaking.It is part and parcel of running a train service, day in day out, 24/7.We have to focus on it always, knowing that any minor omission or careless mistake can simply bring the train service to a stop.The MKBF measurement is an objective verifiable test.The target we set for ourselves, 1 million MKBF, is a demanding target.Among the global community of metros, you can count your fingers, only a handful can consistently deliver 1 million MKBF.DTL, NEL and NSL have now crossed this target.The others are not too far behind.

7.     We can all be proud of what we have achieved so far.But we must never become complacent because even among the top metros, delays can still sometimes happen, as you observed in Hong Kong not too long ago. So even though we have crossed the 1 million target, if you are not careful, we can always slip and go backwards. But now we know how to achieve it. So the science is there and the efforts required, we are all fully aware. As long as we have this team working together between LTA, MOT, the operators as well as our contractors, there’s no reason why we cannot maintain this standard of ensuring 1 million MKBF so that the disruptions to commuters can be minimised. But remember, no metro can run MKBF of infinity, in other words, never have any kind of delays. Because, from an engineering point of view, anything is possible but it means very high costs. For example, trains can be replaced every 30 years, but if you want to replace them every 20 years, that’s very costly. If you want, you can replace them every 15 years. Then the likelihood of it failing will be very low but the cost to commuters will be very high.

8.     These are some of the trade-offs that we have to make on your behalf, so I hope commuters can be patient and understanding. You know that we will do our best to make sure that it is a safe service, safe for our staff, safe for our commuters, and as reliable as it can be, so that your journeys may not be disrupted too much.

9.     On this occasion, let me once again thank all of you for putting in all your efforts, and to our commuters for your patience and your understanding. Thank you very much.