Manpower still needed for effective MRT operations

Media Replies 11 Jan 2020 driverless trains

We thank Mr Martin Lee Ming Han for his feedback (“Review need for staff on board driverless trains”, ST, 31 Dec 2019).

We agree with Mr Lee that technology can be harnessed to improve efficiency. To this end, LTA has been actively leveraging technology for railway condition monitoring and asset maintenance. For example, sensors are being installed for the North-South and East-West Lines to detect cable insulation failures early. LTA has also introduced a Rail Enterprise Asset Management System that leverages Big Data to enable predictive maintenance. These improvements help to improve reliability and to manage costs.

Although technology can improve efficiency and reduce the number of frontline staff, some manpower is still needed for effective operations. In this regard, the rail operators have deployed staff to carry out rapid troubleshooting of faults on-site. This enables faster service recovery, minimising delays and inconvenience to commuters. That is also why more of such staff are deployed during peak periods, when trains are the busiest and a single train delay can have a wide reaching impact on commuters. Should the need arise, these staff are also trained to manually drive trains to station platforms so that commuters can disembark safely. Beyond troubleshooting, these staff patrol the trains for security threats and can render assistance to commuters in need.

On Mr Lee’s suggestion to explore sources of non-fare revenue to manage the costs, LTA has outsourced the advertising and retail businesses for the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) in August 2019. This arrangement is expected to bring in over $164 million in concession fees over 16 years. Given the strong market interest, we are considering extending it to other rail lines, buses, bus interchanges, and road and pedestrian infrastructure. These efforts will help to increase non-fare revenue, and contribute to the financial sustainability of our public transport system.


Chua Chong Kheng (Mr)
Deputy Chief Executive (Infrastructure & Development)
Land Transport Authority

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