Outsource train maintenance to third-party firm

The Ministry of Transport should consider a structural change to the business and management model of SMRT.

The maintenance of SMRT trains and infrastructure should be delinked from SMRT and outsourced to a third-party company. SMRT can continue to run and manage the operations of the train services.

Making this change will clearly demonstrate strong political will to quickly and effectively correct the troubling systemic problems of SMRT.

This structural change will remove all "cultural baggage" and also provide a fresh start for the newly appointed company (Revelation raises serious questions about maintenance culture; Nov 1).

A tender can be called by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), inviting foreign rail specialist companies but with the condition that they must bid as a joint venture with local companies and transfer their knowledge after a certain number of years.

The appointed maintenance company will be directly responsible and answerable to the SMRT maintenance control and liaison office.

The LTA will continue with its current role.

Effectively, the suggested structural change will likely create a three-party check and balance situation. SMRT will focus on operations and not be distracted by maintenance issues. The maintenance company, being totally unrelated to SMRT, will have very clear performance requirements and objectives. They will be responsible to SMRT on their maintenance obligations.

The LTA will be the independent authority mandating policies and auditing performance.

Tony Lim Thiam Poh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2017, with the headline 'Outsource train maintenance to third-party firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe