On Friday May 18, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan responded to parliamentary questions from Nee Soon MP Lee Bee Wah and NCMP Dennis Tan on whether rail reliability can be reflected in the new fare formula which determines how much commuters pay for public transport. Minister Khaw stated that public transport fares and reliability are two separate matters, and linking the two “could worsen the situation”.
“When a system is very unreliable, in fact that is the time to pump in more resources … and if you punish them through reduced fares, you are withdrawing resources from the operators and you’ll be doing exactly the opposite. The wrong thing. Rail reliability is important but deal with it separately,”
The new public transport fare formula, slated to kick in at the end of this year, doesn’t factor in reliability and service standards. Khaw Boon Wan’s statements were lambasted with some of the harshest criticisms found online.
Right on cue, the MRT system started breaking down, as if to send an ironic rebuttal to Khaw Boon Wan’s message.
1. May 17, Thursday (East West Line)
A minor train delay occurred during the morning rush hour on the East West Line with journey time between Bugis and Aljunied extended, in the direction of Pasir Ris. No official explanation was given by SMRT but there were a few posts of information and complaints from commuters on TATA SMRT Facebook and Twitter pages.
2. May 17, Thursday (North South Line)
The North-South Line was hit by a platform screen door fault during the evening peak hour. At 6pm, SMRT tweeted that commuters should expect additional 15-minute travel time from Ang Mo Kio to Dhoby Ghaut stations towards Marina South Pier. The delay ended up lasting over 2 hours, leaving tens of thousands of commuters stranded and furious.
3. May 18, Friday (East West Line)
Train services on the East-West Line (EWL) were delayed just as the evening peak hour set in. SMRT alerted commuters to the delay, which it attributed to a train fault, at 5.10pm. The transport operator advised commuters to add 20 minutes to their travel time from Boon Lay to Queenstown, towards Pasir Ris.
4. May 19, Saturday (Bukit Panjang LRT)
The Bukit Panjang LRT line broke down due to a track fault between Phoenix and Bukit Panjang Stations. Commuters were forced to exit the LRT carriage and walk on the tracks to the nearest station.
5. & 6. May 21, Monday (East West Line & North South Line)
Train services were disrupted yet again during the morning rush hour on both the East West Line and North South Line. No official explanation was offered by SMRT. Several angry commuters took to Twitter to voice their frustration.
In the immediate days before and after Khaw Boon Wan’s infamous Parliamentary quote, there were a grand total of 6 disruptions on the MRT and LRT. If Minister Khaw Boon Wan is trying to convince Singaporeans that transport fares needn’t factor in reliability, the recent spate of MRT and LRT disruptions aren’t helping.