SMRT enlists help of DSTA to review its processes

The lack of maintenance led to the failure of a pump system and the flooding of the train tunnel, causing a massive 20-hour disruption on the North-South Line on Oct 7.
The lack of maintenance led to the failure of a pump system and the flooding of the train tunnel, causing a massive 20-hour disruption on the North-South Line on Oct 7.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SCDF

It will also bring in experts from Taipei Metro to help review its maintenance operations

Embattled rail operator SMRT has called for reinforcement from the defence sector to help review its maintenance work processes in the wake of serious lapses.

A team of five engineers from the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) will be attached to SMRT Trains for six months starting next month, SMRT said in a statement yesterday.

DSTA was the agency which helped SMRT resolve a signalling-related glitch which bedevilled the Circle Line for months last year.

"With its competency in delivering capabilities for Singapore's defence and security, DSTA engineers have developed the know-how to manage complex engineering projects from concept to deployment, through to mid-life upgrades and replacement," the SMRT statement read.

They will review and recommend improvements to SMRT's "operations and support capability, covering organisation and policies, processes and procedures, and competency and training".

The Temasek-owned company, led by former chief of defence force Desmond Kuek and a selection of former military senior officers, will also have experts from Taipei Metro on board to help fix its woes.

"The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp will be sending a team to work with SMRT Trains to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review to examine the way we operate and maintain the MRT network," SMRT added.

RELEVANT KNOW-HOW

With its competency in delivering capabilities for Singapore's defence and security, DSTA engineers have developed the know-how to manage complex engineering projects from concept to deployment, through to mid-life upgrades and replacement.

SMRT STATEMENT

SMRT has been beset with problems related to staff not adhering to standard operating procedures in recent years.

On Oct 7, MRT tunnels between Bishan and Braddell stations were flooded during a downpour, crippling a large section of the North-South Line for some 20 hours.

Investigations later found a maintenance crew may have falsified work logs for three quarters since December.

A fire also broke out on the same day. It was traced to a stray metal bolt that was left behind after work that was done years before.

Last year, two trainee technicians were knocked down and killed by a train near Pasir Ris station.

During a court hearing over the tragic fatalities in September, the Ministry of Manpower revealed a damning finding - SMRT employees had not been complying with operating procedures pertaining to track access from as early as 2002.

The frequency of these safety breaches had escalated from 2007, the ministry found.

Mr Kuek and his team took over from retailer Saw Phaik Hwa and her team in 2012. Ms Saw was SMRT's previous chief executive. She was appointed SMRT chief executive in December 2002.

SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said yesterday: "SMRT needs to critically review its operations and support, and maintenance policies, manuals and procedures."

Commenting on SMRT's repeated move to get external help, National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said: "DSTA engineers, due to their job nature, are experienced in critical and precision engineering projects. With their engineering expertise and experience, I think they are in a good position... and can play active and positive roles in helping railway engineering to see blind spots, and to elevate the required engineering knowledge to a new level."

Singapore University of Social Sciences senior lecturer Park Byung Joon, who specialises in urban transport, said: "Nothing wrong with having an ad hoc consulting. But I wish SMRT would go through more fundamental organisational transformation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'SMRT enlists help of DSTA to review its processes'. Print Edition | Subscribe