Ambitious Rail Reliability – Desmond Kuek

Wondering what the experts have to say about rail reliability in Singapore? This Straits Times news article quotes SMRT CEO and Group President, Desmond Kuek and National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng. Also quoted is Hong Kong Polytechnic University transport practice professor Lee Kang-Kuen. Read on to know about the prospects for rail reliability in Singapore and how this would impact you as a commuter.

Here’s a summary of what SMRT CEO, Desmond Kuek had to say in the very first Singapore Rail Technology Conference. In the context of Singapore’s MRT:

  1. “The North-South and East-West MRT lines managed 144,000 train-km between disruptions in the first 10 months of this year. This was the best performance for the lines since 2012.”
  2. “The 2018 target of 400,000 train-km between disruptions is an ‘ambitious aspirational target’ for the MRT network here. What this means, is that our trains cumulatively travel no less than 10 times around the Equator, or more than 4,000 times across the length of our North-South and East-West lines, before incurring a single delay of more than five minutes”. Desmond Kuek also added that only a small handful of rail operators internationally have managed to hit such targets consistently.
  3. “SMRT is working hard to achieve the target and is ‘encouraged by the steady progress already made’. This includes upgrading efforts such as the replacement of sleepers and third rails on the North-South and East-West lines, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
  4. “These changes make SMRT better able to provide safe and reliable service, without the burden of heavy and lumpy capital expenditures, and the distractions of meeting short-term earnings expectations.”

SMRT CEO, Mr. Desmond Kuek also mentioned about the delisting of SMRT from the Singapore Exchange earlier this month. Another point was the introduction of the new rail financing framework last month. This transferred ownership of assets such as trains to the Government.

Desmond Kuek quotes about rail reliability targets.

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek on ambitious rail reliability targets.

These pointers indeed show promise for a more reliable and trustworthy commute for the citizens of Singapore.

8 Positive Changes to SMRT – With CEO Desmond Kuek

Took the public transport and reached your destination on time? Meet the man who has been largely instrumental in making this happen – SMRT CEO and Group President, Desmond Kuek.

Wondering what was the impact on Singapore’s public transport after Desmond Kuek took office?

Here’s a compilation of an article featured on The News Paper. This highlights 8 positive changes that have taken place since October 2012, when Desmond Kuek came on board.

  1. More technical staff at work:

    To highlight numbers – SMRT’s team of technicians grew to 2,169 (21% increase). Also, the number of engineers stands at 278 (59% increase). Though the report didn’t explicitly mention benefits of employing more people with better technical knowledge, it sure showed improvements.

  1. Fewer trains withdrawn due to faults:

    Withdrawal rate refers to the percentage of trains withdrawn from service because of faults. This has come down from 3.3 for every 100,000 km operated in 2012 to 1.05 last year. Desmond Kuek said – “This is the lowest in seven years. And we are targeting to go even lower this year.”

  1. Worn-out gear steadily being replaced:

    An ongoing project, this includes replacing wooden sleepers with concrete ones. As of January 2017, re-sleepering is 100% complete on the North-South and East-West Lines.

  1. Replacement of power-supplying third rail:

    Did you know that the main cause of two massive breakdowns in 2011 was identified to be sagging sections of the third rail? Another ongoing project, replacement of 3rd Rail is 71% complete on the North-South and 83% complete on the East-West Lines, as of January 2017.

  1. Shorter intervals for train signalling system:

    With this change in signalling, trains can arrive every 100 seconds. On the other hand, trains can currently arrive every 120 seconds. The re-signalling project is expected to be completed on the NSL in 2017 and on the EWL in 2018.

  1. Overhaul older trains:

    These older trains will be fitted with new motors from Toshiba. These motors are supposed to use 30% less electricity.

  1. A new framework for rail financing:

    The Government will own all operating assets. Of course, this will help allow SMRT to focus on quality of service, without being bogged down by the massive capital expenditure.

  1. Changing commuter behaviour:

    The best example of this is train platform door at Serangoon MRT Station. Affixed with a poster of the cartoon character Move-in Martin, this was a part of a campaign launched to promote thoughtfulness.

From what we see, many measures that are being undertaken to improve Singapore’s transport system are inspired by successful cases abroad. For instance, the CEO, Desmond Kuek mentioned about service ambassadors in Taipei being deployed to block people from boarding when train doors are in the process of closing. This evidently helps in preventing commuters from herding around the train. No doubt, without this, trains would remain at the station longer and hence hold up subsequent trains.

All things considered, what do these changes and work-in-progress measures mean for commuters? A greater likelihood of more comfortable rides. And perhaps a lot more, which will be evident in the near future.

SMRT CEO and Group President Desmond Kuek

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek, standing in front of the new SMRT train at Bishan MRT depot on June 16 2015. For a story on what he has achieved so far after 3 years in SMRT. (Photo: Lim Yaohui for The Straits Times)

A Continued Journey towards Rail Excellence

In the Singapore Rail Technology Conference held on 18 November 2016, Desmond Kuek, CEO of SMRT gave the welcome speech. Speaking of achieving higher rail reliability, he said: “In Parliament in early November 2016, the Minister for Transport reiterated the aim of reaching 400,000 mean-kilometers between failure (MKBF) by 2018. It is an ambitious aspirational target. What this means in more graphic terms is that our trains cumulatively travel no less than 10 times around the equator, or more than 4,000 times across the length of our North-South and East-West Lines, before incurring a single delay of more than 5 minutes.” He stated that this is a prodigious target, and a very few operators across the world have achieved this steadily.

As of October 2016, the North-South and East-West Lines, Singapore’s 29-year-old lines, achieved 144,000 MKBF (Mean Kilometre Between Failure). This, according to Desmond Kuek is a performance that is better than SMRT’s prior recorded history. The newer Circle Line clocked 233,000 MKBF, but has a long way to go to reach 400,000 MKBF.

Desmond Kuek said – “We are working hard to achieve this, and are encouraged by the steady progress already made. Getting to such a level of rail excellence requires multiple and concerted effort by many parties.”

He also outlined six key areas that would take the rail network towards their targets:

  1. Renewing and upgrading the rail network on time
  2. Recovering swiftly from occasional service faults and failures
  3. Setting the right structure and framework in place for rail sustainability
  4. Enhancing the maintenance regime
  5. Developing the engineering professional workforce
  6. Harnessing technology as an enabler and game changer

With these areas of work taking place, we can hope to expect a facelift in Singapore’s rail network in the years to come.