SMRT flooding incident: Maintenance team signed off on work that was not done; staff suspended

A malfunction in the water pumping system at Bishan MRT station caused rainwater to collect in the MRT tunnel, resulting in train service disruption on Oct 7 and 8.
A malfunction in the water pumping system at Bishan MRT station caused rainwater to collect in the MRT tunnel, resulting in train service disruption on Oct 7 and 8. PHOTO: ST READER

SINGAPORE - Preliminary investigations by train operator SMRT have found that a maintenance team in charge of a pump system, which eventually failed and caused a massive 20-hour disruption, signed off on work that they had not done. 

The manager and staff responsible for the maintenance of the Bishan pump system have been suspended and are assisting in investigations, said SMRT in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 31) evening. 

Records for quarterly maintenance works for December 2016, as well as in March and June this year were submitted but investigations found that track access approvals were not issued for these dates. 

"Further pump records for the same dates show that the pumps were not activated on the stated maintenance dates, which would have been required as part of the maintenance procedure had the work been actually done," said the rail operator in a statement to the media.

The manager and staff responsible for the maintenance of the Bishan pump system have been suspended and are assisting in investigations, said SMRT, adding that it will be working with the union to ensure "due process is followed".

SMRT said the investigation team will be submitting its report soon, adding that it would introduce measures to correct "weak links swiftly and decisively".

These measures include making appropriate changes to the management and maintenance team, as well as setting up a joint readiness inspection team that will supplement reports to SMRT's own audit system and also independently report to the SMRT Board's Audit and Risk Committee.

 
 

In addition, the team will also work with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to report to a LTA/SMRT Joint Board Technical Committee.

 

"This will ensure that maintenance and asset renewal are independently audited and monitored in a systematic manner," said the rail operator, adding that it will also engage third-party experts to step up quality control surveillance of all preventive maintenance activities as well as conduct a system-wide inspection of critical systems.

It is also increasing training to create "higher work responsibility and excellent culture within front line peer groups".

"SMRT has zero tolerance for failures in supervision and diligence over maintenance tasks. We do not condone any acts of dishonesty and dereliction of responsibility, whether by management or staff," said SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming.

He added: "All who are accountable will be disciplined sternly, regardless of rank and position. Accordingly, the relevant management chain of command in SMRT must be held accountable."

SMRT's statement:

Our investigation team will be completing and submitting its report soon. From preliminary reports, it appears that prescribed quarterly maintenance works for Dec 2016, March 2017 and June 2017 were not conducted as prescribed in our manual.

The maintenance records were signed off and submitted. However, our investigation reveals that there were no track access approvals issued for preventive maintenance of the Bishan portal sump pumps for these dates. Further pump records for the same dates show that the pumps were not activated on the stated maintenance dates, which would have been required as part of the maintenance procedure had the work been actually done.

The manager and staff responsible for the maintenance of the Bishan portal sump pump system have been suspended and are assisting in these investigations. We will be working with the union to ensure due process is followed.

Integrity and responsibility by our managers and supervisors are key, and constitute part of our core values. We are determined to correct these weak links swiftly and decisively and are implementing a series of measures to do so. These include:

a. Making appropriate changes to the management and maintenance team, where warranted;

b. Setting up a joint readiness inspection team that will supplement report to SMRT’s own audit system and which will independently report to a SMRT Board’s audit and risk committee. In addition, this joint readiness inspection team will together with LTA, report to the LTA/SMRT Joint Board Technical Committee. This will ensure that maintenance and asset renewal are independently audited and monitored in a systematic manner;

c. Engaging third-party subject matter experts to step up quality control surveillance of all preventive maintenance activities and conduct a system-wide inspection of critical systems. This will ensure that maintenance works are carried out in accordance with our specified standards; and

d. Intensifying training to establish a higher work responsibility and excellent culture within front line peer groups.

Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation and SMRT Trains, said: “As the new board chairman, I am here to work with the SMRT board and management to comprehensively identify and solve problems, as well as upgrade our train service systems, processes and people, so as to deliver safe, reliable and comfortable travel for our commuters.

"SMRT has zero tolerance for failures in supervision and diligence over maintenance tasks. We do not condone any acts of dishonesty and dereliction of responsibility, whether by management or staff. All who are accountable will be disciplined sternly, regardless of rank and position. Accordingly, the relevant management chain of command in SMRT must be held accountable.

"We expect all SMRT employees to carry out their daily work responsibly and with high integrity, to serve Singapore and our commuters better. Every SMRT staff must share this vision and collectively work towards regaining public trust and confidence.”