SINGAPORE: Train commuters can expect shorter wait times, particularly during peak periods, from later this year, with new measures announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday (Jan 15).
Waiting times are expected to be reduced with the deployment of new trains from the second half of 2015 and the completion of re-signalling works on the North-South Line (NSL) and the East-West Line (EWL) in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
Trains should also come more frequently during rush hour as LTA further tightens the Operating Performance Standards (OPS) for train frequencies during morning, evening and shoulder peak periods for the North-South and East-West Line, North-East Line and Circle Line. This will be introduced progressively from 2016.
“Tightened Operating Performance Standards should lead to shorter wait times, increased reliability and better journeys,” said LTA’s chief executive, Mr Chew Men Leong, at a press conference.
“New trains will be put into service from the second half of 2015 onwards, and the expanded train fleets will allow train trips to eventually increase by an estimated 8 per cent. During peak periods, peak capacity is estimated to increase by about 25 per cent for rising travel demand,” LTA said.
Under new standards, passengers should see trains arriving faster. Commuters Channel NewsAsia spoke to welcomed the move.
Said one commuter: “The trains can be so crowded – I have to squeeze in. In future, if the trains arrive faster, I won’t have to.”
Another commuter hoped the measures would kick in sooner: “If you can implement it sooner, it would be better.”
A third commuter said: “At Somerset, Orchard, there will be a lot of people waiting for trains. Dhoby Ghaut is quite crowded and City Hall as well. If the trains come faster, or have a higher frequency, then we do not have to wait as long. The platform won’t be as crowded, because, obviously, who wants to wait?”
MORE TRAINS OUT ON THE TRACK
LTA also intends to introduce a new fleet availability standard to ensure train operators maximise the number of trains available in their expanded fleets for passenger service during peak periods. This will include train availability standards of no less than 90 per cent for the morning peak period.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had said last November that LTA is reviewing the MRT OPS to further tighten headways requirement during peak periods and to reduce incidents of service degradation.
TRACKING SEVERE INCIDENTS
LTA also plans to further tighten the Frequency of Occurrence standard in relation to “severe service degradation”, which it defined as incidents persisting for more than 60 minutes. This could include times when trains are available but running at slower speeds, or longer stretches between trains for prolonged periods which might result in longer journey times for commuters.
This standard is different from train disruptions which, LTA officials pointed out, referred to incidents when there are no trains arriving at stations for more than 30 minutes.
“Operators will thus be held to higher service standards with the tracking of more incidents that inconvenience commuters,” it said.
Asked how often these “severe service degradation” incidents must occur before operators are censured, LTA’s deputy chief executive, Mr Chua Chong Kheng, said at the sidelines of the briefing that “it depends on a case-by-case basis”.
LTA said it has started consulting the operators to implement the tightened standards in stages.
HIGHER SECURITY STANDARDS
The agency also intends to introduce new standards to enhance the security of the MRT network, in particular the reliability of operators’ Video Surveillance Systems (VSS) for stations, trains and depots.
Said Mr Chew: “Video surveillance systems as well as the perimeter fencing as well as lighting within the depot, all that will ensure that equipment relating to security will be at its highest operational state, ensuring that we can have good security around key depots and installations which are part of our train system.”
This is separate from an existing Code of Practice which sets out security standards for MRT systems as of Jan 1, 2014.
Asked what is the expected availability operators should maintain for the VSS, LTA officials said it should “be as high as can be achieved”, without elaborating.
TIGHTENED OPS ‘CONSISTENT’ WITH SMRT’S FOCUS
In a press release on Thursday, Mr Lee Ling Wee, managing director for SMRT Trains, said LTA’s statement on improving rails services in Singapore is “consistent” with the company’s focus on robust operational and maintenance regimes, and efforts to deliver “safe, reliable and customer-centric services to all commuters”.
“SMRT will work towards meeting the new Operational Standards set by LTA, while efforts are underway to renew an ageing rail infrastructure and to cater to much higher passenger loads,” Mr Lee stated.
He noted the transport operator has made “good progress” in the past year, particularly in sleeper replacement works on the NSL. These efforts will continue over the next few years with sleeper replacement works on the EWL.
SBS TRANSIT ‘WORKING CLOSELY WITH LTA’ ON PROPOSED CHANGES
In response to media queries, SBS Transit said it is “working closely with the LTA on the proposed changes”.
“We always have, and will continue, to work hard at improving our level of service to commuters,” said its spokesperson.
JOINT EFFORT BY LTA, PUBLIC TRANSPORT OPERATORS TO RESULT IN BETTER TRANSPORT SYSTEM: LUI
In a Facebook post, the Transport Minister said he asked the LTA to review the OPS in 2013, so commuters can experience shorter waiting times for trains.
Mr Lui added that this further tightening is planned “in anticipation of the completion of the re-sleepering and re-signalling works” and the arrival of more trains. He also noted that Public Transport Operators (PTOs) will be held to higher service standards – these include lifts and escalators in train stations.
“I know that this joint effort by LTA and the PTOs will result in a better transport system in the coming years,” he said.