LTA Tightens Rail Regulatory Framework to Enhance Rail Service Reliability

News Releases 10 Jan 2013 regulatory framework

          As part of overall efforts to improve rail service reliability, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has strengthened the Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) regulatory framework in four key areas: (i) Maintenance of Rail Assets; (ii) Incident Management; (iii) Operating Performance Standards (OPS) and (iv) Penalty Framework.

i)       Maintenance of Rail Assets: Operators to Comply with Preventive Maintenance Measures

2.       To improve service reliability, early detection of potential problems and timely corrective actions are critical. A formal process has been implemented requiring operators to track and report indicators such as Mean Kilometres Between Failures resulting in train withdrawals. Other indicators relating to the reliability of operating assets (e.g. Mean Stop Between Failures for signalling system) and maintenance of the third rail system (e.g. incidents of dropped claws, misaligned third rail) are also tracked. In addition, operators are now required to submit weekly listing of faults detected through their routine maintenance. The corresponding severity classification, rectification plan and specific timelines are also to be reported. This will allow LTA to have greater oversight on whether timely and appropriate actions are taken.

3.        LTA and SMRT are also appointing an expert to conduct an independent assessment of operators’ maintenance regime. The independent expert review will assess if the maintenance regime is appropriate and adequate for an ageing RTS network, and is expected to be completed by mid-2013. Moving forward, this independent review will be carried out every three years, so that operators’ maintenance regime are responsive to changing maintenance needs as the system ages.

4.        LTA will also enhance the Codes of Practices to impose more prescriptive maintenance requirements on rail operators. Industry best practices on repair and maintenance of rail infrastructure will be included. In addition to existing requirements for rail infrastructure, maintenance requirements will also be prescribed for Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) systems, e.g. trains and signalling systems. Rail operators will also be required to maintain a Competency Management System1  to ensure adequate staff competency on maintenance. See Annex A for further details. LTA’s review of the Codes of Practices is expected to be finalised by 1Q2013.

ii)       Incident Management: Maintaining Operator’s Readiness and New Requirements to Assist Affected Passengers

5.       To enhance the readiness of operators, a framework on joint LTA-Operator table-top and ground deployment exercises has been developed. In particular, LTA has introduced a three-year Ground Deployment Exercise cycle, requiring operators to conduct component exercises in the first two years2, with a physical deployment in the third. Since September last year, LTA has also been conducting surprise checks at MRT stations to assess the readiness of the RTS Operators’ frontline staff to deal with extended train service disruptions.

6.       LTA will also update the Code of Practice on incident management to include lessons learnt from past major incidents. The ground deployment exercise conducted on 22 November 2012, simulating a train service disruption on the East-West Line, has also provided useful learning points. For instance, we are now in discussion with operators to arrange for alternative transport services such as free travel on regular bus services for disruptions lasting less than an hour. This will be on top of bus bridging and free boarding of regular bus services currently required for disruptions expected to last 60 minutes or more. We will also mandate that customer service hotlines be made available throughout any service disruption, including outside normal operating hours.

7.       For better response and coordination between LTA and the operators, LTA has also worked with operators to establish a common incident management framework, with a command structure that is well equipped to handle large scale disruptions. The framework will include, among others, requirements such as information dissemination, provision of alternative transport services, and guidelines on station manning requirements and customer service teams. 

8.       LTA has also successfully completed a trial on train service disruption information posters to guide commuters to alternative bus services at City Hall and Chinatown MRT stations. We are now working towards system-wide implementation of these posters.

iii)      New Operating Performance Standards (OPS): Better Reflect Commuters' Experience

9.       As announced by the Minister for Transport, LTA is exploring moving towards shorter train headways to reduce waiting time for commuters. We are aiming to bring down maximum headways outside the peak periods to no more than 5 minutes, except for periods where there is extremely low ridership. LTA is still studying and will announce details when finalised. We envisage that shorter waiting times can be achieved in the near term for the North-South and the East-West Lines with the existing train fleet.  For the North-East and Circle Lines, we expect to be able to do so when new trains arrive in 2015. These improvements will complement the longer-term system upgrade and expansion in 2016 – 2018 that will allow operators to run trains more frequently during peak periods.

10.     LTA will also tighten standards on train disruptions and delay. These standards will continue to be measured on a weekly basis to ensure consistent day-to-day performance. LTA intends to tighten the OPS such that financial penalties will be imposed if train disruptions lasting more than 30 minutes occur more than once in any four-week period. LTA will also introduce new OPS to penalise excessive occurrences of shorter train delays (e.g. greater than five minutes) which also inconvenience commuters.

11.     The OPS review takes a commuter-centric perspective, and is in line with LTA’s increased regulatory emphasis on preventive maintenance for rail reliability. This is in addition to the efforts of the LTA-SMRT Joint Team to improve reliability for our existing lines. At present, the LTA-SMRT Joint Team’s targeted measures have resulted in train withdrawal rates improving from 3.2 (per 100,000 km) in 2011 to about 2.6 for the second half of the year. We are on track to reduce withdrawal rates by 30% from 2011 levels to reach 2.1 by end 2013. LTA will be engaging the operators, and targets to finalise the OPS through the necessary licensing modifications by mid-2013.

iv)       Penalty Framework: Reflective of Significant Impact to Commuters and Emphasis on Service Reliability

12.      LTA is reviewing the current maximum penalty of $1 million for each train incident and regulatory non-compliance occurrence, and intends to peg the quantum to a percentage of operators’ annual fare revenue from the affected MRT line. This is in order for the maximum penalty to be sufficiently commensurate with its emphasis on ensuring a safe and reliable MRT system, and we aim to complete the required legislative changes later this year. LTA is also revising the penalty framework to place greater emphasis on service reliability.  Penalties for non-compliance of OPS and Codes of Practices will be further adjusted to enhance deterrence.


13.      In line with the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on the North-South Line train service disruptions in December 2011, LTA will continue to strengthen the RTS regulatory framework. With these changes, commuters can expect better overall rail network reliability and better incident management should a train service disruption happen.

1 Competency Management System refers to a structured process to ensure that staff employed have the skill, expertise and capabilities necessary to perform their job well. The system shall also cover the training and development of staff.

2 The component exercise will test the critical components of their Rail Incident Management Plan such as bus bridging and free bus services plans.

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