TL;DR – Hello, please sort out the MRT system first.
So this is what happened. On 23 October, LTA announced that Singapore’s car growth rate will be cut to zero. It is all part of the plan to steer Singapore towards being a car-lite society.
Yes, we agree, there are very good reasons to do it. We have land constraints. As it stands, 12% of Singapore’s land area is already taken up by roads. Given that there are competing demand for space, we really should try not to use more land for roads.
But in order for Singaporeans to be comfortable with not owning a car, we need to be sure that the public transport is reliable and convenient. Is that the case now?
Train disruptions here, there, everywhere.
Oh, and nearly everyday too.
Let’s look at what happened the days immediately after LTA’s announcement.
- On 24 October, a software fault on the East-West Line’s signalling system resulted in delays and crowded platforms during the morning rush-hour.
- On 25 October, train services on parts of the North-South Line going in the direction of the city had to travel at a slower speed for about five hours. The problem started at about 5am and was only resolved at about 10am.
- On 27 October, there was another track fault on the North-South Line, adding another 20 minutes to the travel time of commuters travelling from Ang Mo Kio to Bishan.
Then there were the spate of delays that happened before LTA’s announcement. On the opening day of the
Downtime Downtown Line 3, a defective train resulted in delays. And of course, who can forget the 20-hour long disruption caused when tunnels along the North-South Line flooded.
It’s as if some divine power is expressing displeasure at LTA’s plans to cut car growth to zero.
Fix MRT first, then talk
So, how can LTA expect Singaporeans not to be upset about the announcement to cut car growth to zero? You want to cut car growth, fix the MRT system first. Don’t make it feel like train delays are going to be the norm. Give us some viable, reliable alternatives to owning cars.
And if we need to slaughter some sacred cows to achieve that, then let’s slaughter them. And by that we mean if our local train operators aren’t up to the task, then get some foreign train operators in. After all, we already have foreign companies operating some bus services in Singapore.
Should bring in foreign talent
So why not trains? Why can’t we get an operator who has a far better track record to take over the management and operation of our train system? Which operator to get? How about Hong Kong’s MTR? The number of kilometers between major delays for our MRT system is 140,000. The main passenger lines of Hong Kong’s MTR have seen such glitches only after 5.6 million kilometres this year.
That’s right. The track record of Hong Kong’s MTR is 40 times better than Singapore’s.
Yes, recently an MTR train derail when it approached a depot. But it happened at 1.10am. No one was hurt. And service wasn’t disrupted.
So perhaps we should consider getting Hong Kong’s MTR to run and operate our train systems. Or at least have SMRT and SBS Transit replace their senior management in charge of rail operations with some of the experienced and competent people from Hong Kong’s MTR. Perhaps then we can get some real improvement. And then LTA can, with a straight face, tell Singaporeans not to worry about to car growth being cut to zero.
And our MRT needs no longer be a laughing stock.