Khaw slams media coverage of train delays as ‘unfair’

SINGAPORE — Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday (July 27) hit out at the mainstream media’s coverage of recent MRT train delays linked to the trial of the new signalling system on the North South Line (NSL), saying it has “magnified the problem unfairly”.

Mr Khaw was halfway through delivering a prepared speech on the reliability of Singapore’s rail networks at a forum on infrastructure maintenance when he spoke off the cuff: “I don’t like the media reporting … Even our main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on … frightening figures, headlines.”

He added: “But I thought they were being unfair to the teams … working their guts out on this re-signalling project. They think it’s so easy, you know, like holding a pen and writing a few articles and get the signalling done. I wish it was so simple. If it was so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporters to run the train system.”

The new signalling system, which promises speedier rides on the NSL and new four-station Tuas West Extension, was scheduled to be rolled out at the end of last year.

But in October last year, the authorities said commuters would have to wait until the first quarter of this year. 

Earlier this month, SMRT Trains’ chief executive officer Lee Ling Wee said the testing could go on until May next year, although it could wrap up earlier if all goes well. 

Testing of the new signalling system began in March, starting during off-peak hours before full-day trials began on May 28.

A number of faults and delays have arisen of late. Towards the end of last month, for example, commuters faced train delays for four consecutive days. 

The Land Transport Authority and SMRT have reminded commuters to expect delays due to tests being conducted on the new signalling system.

Commuters who spoke to TODAY disagreed with Mr Khaw, and said the reports they have read reflected the situation on the ground.

Mr Haikal Latiff, 26, an undergraduate at the Nanyang Technological University, said: “The media is basically reflecting the sentiments of regular train commuters.” 

Researcher Danielle Hong, who takes the train to her workplace at Clarke Quay, said that updates provided by the media have helped commuters such as herself to plan their commute.

“I don’t think the media has (exaggerated) recent train delays and breakdowns. If anything, these real-time updates help me to plan my commute,” said the 30-year-old.

National University of Singapore transport analyst Lee Der-Horng reiterated that mainstream media coverage of the recent train delays was an accurate reflection of the situation, and it played a role in getting train operators to come forward and explain to the public the causes of those delays. 

“The media cannot be so blind that when the re-signalling work causes delays, they’re not reported. I think (in that case) the public would be furious,” said Prof Lee.

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