Critical services cannot be outsourced

I read Mr Tony Lim Thiam Poh's suggestion (Outsource train maintenance to third-party firm; Nov 20) with interest.

A country's train lines are akin to a body's blood vessels; cut off or contaminate the flow, and the body is doomed.The slightest disruption in train services affects thousands. How, then, did such an important service fall into such a state of disarray?

Good maintenance starts with a sense of civic responsibility. Those in charge must be aware of the gravity of their task.

Outsourcing maintenance lengthens the distance between the maintenance crew and train operation project managers. Such an arrangement could cultivate or encourage bad attitudes, such as pushing responsibility to someone else. Outsourcing also suggests that the maintenance crew is replaceable. Such a mindset is damaging, as it creates an environment where the most critical tasks are performed by people who have low morale or who may not be appropriately compensated.

No agency in charge of a critical service should be be a "managing board" that manages third parties. Maintenance and engineering expertise must be kept within the core of the institution.

It would also be good if our universities could set up classes to increase expertise on tracks and trains. Programmes that encourage youngsters to take up the mantle of caring for our core services - transport, water and city planning - are also in order.

Samantha Wong Shin Nee (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2017, with the headline 'Critical services cannot be outsourced'. Print Edition | Subscribe