Give engineers more support

Recent coverage of the systemic issues with our rail system seems to have given an unflattering picture of the engineering landscape in Singapore.

What happened to our rail system? There are three fundamental issues.

First, the driving force of the organisation that runs our rail system is not one based on engineering know-how but one that is based on financial returns and profit, as Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, indicated ("'Let Govt manage public transport'"; Oct 30).

The driving force is the key determinant of the choices management makes with regard to attracting, retaining and developing talent.

Second, without an understanding of, and agreement upon, that driving force, management will have a difficult time creating a culture that will allow its engineers to do a good job.

SMRT currently has 288 engineers ("SMRT to roll out fast-response team to tackle disruptions"; March 7). Surely some among them are good engineers.

Finally, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan would have been better served if he had appointed Mr Tan Gee Paw as the executive chairman of SMRT, instead of just the rail transformation adviser ("'Rat catchers' needed to ease rail woes: Khaw"; Oct 27).

Putting Mr Tan in that position in SMRT would have given him executive powers to make changes and also lend his weight to support engineers in the organisation.

It takes executive support for engineers to go beyond codes of practice to catch the "rats" that lurk in the system .

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2015, with the headline 'Give engineers more support'. Print Edition | Subscribe