SMRT to deploy drivers to once-driverless MRT lines to improve reliability

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SMRT has announced that it will be putting drivers on board all driverless trains on the Circle Line – soon.

It had started putting drivers on Circle Line trains in the second half of last year, and aims to finish implementing this practice to all trains on the line soon.

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Bishan Circle Line station

Following NE Line Example

Singapore’s only other driverless train line, the North-East Line (NEL), which is managed by SBS Transit, had begun the practice some time ago.

When the NE line was first opened in 2003, it drew global attention as the first driverless heavy-rail system in the world.

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Northeast Line trains at a depot. Source

SBS Transit spokesman Tammy Tan said in an interview with the Straits Times that to improve reliability, it had initially manned NEL trains during peak hours and every other train.

However, in recent years, he said that “we reviewed the arrangements and now we have someone on board every train throughout operational hours”.

The NE line clocked almost 1 million kilometres between technical faults last year as the most reliable line in Singapore.

This figure showed that the NE line was more than twice as reliable as the Circle Line last year, which itself far exceeds the reliability of the NS line.

Improved Train Reliability

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan set a network-wide target of 1 million km between problems by 2020.

This is more than double our current standards.

To put the figure in perspective, Hong Kong’s MTR system achieved an average 600,000km between breakdowns, and Taiwan’s Taipei Metro achieved 800,000km without breakdowns last year.


However, SMRT is notedly trying to improve its standards in recent times, after huge public discontent on recurrent train breakdowns.

Government funding for transport has also increased dramatically, as such:

It has also been trying to rebrand itself, both by announcing its change to more efficient work practices, as well as making some cosmetic changes to its image:

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