Speaking at a rail engineering forum today (May 30), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Singapore must learn from the train network system in Taipei after coming back from Taiwan on a “study trip”. According to the Minister, the Singapore government is paying for SMRT and SBS employees to be attached to the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation for maintenance training.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s latest solution to Singapore’s unreliable public transport is to “copy Taipei”.  said SMRT and SBS should just “copy” Taiwan’s train network and not “re-invent the wheel”. The Minister also added that SMRT and SBS should not be “guessing decision making”:

“Maybe the German usage and our usage is different. Who knows? Maybe temperature is a factor too, we are in the topics, with lightning even. So what is prescribed may be right that every three years (we should) do this, but maybe in our case, it should be two and a half years – or certain parts maybe they say three years, actually we can hold it for one more year to four years and save millions of dollars.

So we cannot be guessing all these decision making. You have to go back to the data, look at it and say, ‘Yes, I think now I have the confidence to extend the life of these parts by six months’, or ‘No, I think sorry Board, I need more budget because we need to replace this, we are in the tropics; we are different.”

Also at the forum, the government-controlled union, National Transport Workers’ Union, parroted the Minister saying it fully agrees with Mr Khaw’s vision, but stressed it is important that operators continue to motivate workers towards a common goal

Despite having the same train system, Taipei’s train network clocked a reliability standard (800,000km distance travelled per delay) more than 6 times Singapore’s 130,000km distance travelled per delay. Singapore’s train breakdown frequency is now as often as every fortnight. However, unlike Taiwan, SMRT and SBS Transit cut costs on maintenance and choose to rely on the Singapore government for funding.

Compared to his last few comments on public transport, Minister Khaw has since stopped drawing references to train networks in Europe. Although the Transport Minister is now more reserved on his claims, he still refuses to address the problem of over-profiting by SMRT and SBS Transit, or explain why maintenance funding must be paid for by Singapore taxes. There is also no comment from the Minister on the deaths of 2 SMRT maintenance staffs and a recent electrical injury of a rail contractor.

Just last month, SBS Transit made S$40.3 million profit in the first 3 months of 2016, while SMRT made S$138.5 million in its most recent financial year.

Related article:
SBS Transit made S$40.3 million profit from public transport in a single quarter