Photo of Khaw Boon Wan from Yahoo

Speaking at a public forum today (May 11), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed that he needed to spend S$900 million on upgrading of the power system for the two existing North-South and East-West lines. The PAP Minister has previously stated that the power system will need to be upgrade due to train frequency demand from an increased population. Singapore’s current population is 5.75 million, a 20% increase from 15 years ago. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong however wants to increase the population to 6.9 million, according to his Population White Paper.

The ex-Malaysian Transport Minister who have no successor said that the government would also reduce operating hours if the project is behind schedule:

“An extensive project to renew the power supply system of the North-South and East-West MRT lines will cost nearly S$900 million and take five years to complete after work begins later this year. If necessary, the authorities and train operator will extend engineering hours to complete the power system renewal more quickly…It is a laborious task that cannot be rushed. Many things can go wrong if we are not careful. If the renewal is not well-executed, it can have a widespread impact on passenger service. It’s as simple as that – No power, no train…The temporary mobile substations must be set up before the existing power supply equipment can be removed. The new power supply system can then be installed and reconfigured after that, among other steps. All these tasks must be completed satisfactorily before passenger service resumes the next morning, which is why early closures and late openings are so valuable. Since certain MRT lines have begun implementing earlier closing and later opening hours, it has provided the engineers and maintenance crew with extended engineering hours to do their job properly, which is essential for ageing MRT lines.”

Singapore rail reliability has been worsening in recent years, but the government has been publishing fake statistics to mislead commuters’ on the actual state of service reliability.

Earlier in March, outgoing SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek declared that project-related disruptions are not considered as “breakdown” and hence has no impact on the rail reliability measurement, mean train km between failure (MKBF).

The incumbent SMRT CEO is a former army general who has no experience managing a railway company. Desmond Kuek, the former Chief of Defence Force, was told to resign after he screwed up SMRT over 7 years and sold the company to the government after it was found that SMRT needed to pay over S$1 billion for railway upgrading and maintenance. The bill is now paid for by taxpayers, while a new contracting model ensures that SMRT and SBS Transit’s profits are protected.

The Singapore government protects the profits of the two Temasek Holdings-owned companies by raising train fares through the Public Transport Council.