Irate residents query manufacturer about lift breakdowns

Interior of the Sigma lift at Block 17B, Circuit Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

The pent-up frustration of having to grapple with frequent lift breakdowns over the past six years erupted in an hour-long session yesterday between residents of Bishan's Natura Loft and the lift manufacturer's representative.

They pelted Sigma's general manager Adreana Goh and their MP Josephine Teo with questions.

Some queried Sigma's commitment to fixing the nine problematic lifts. A few asked whether there was an issue with the lift design in the first place, and if replacements were due. One resident added that the company should check its call logs as he had called its hotline 20 times, in vain, to complain about the lifts.

The exchange took place at the premium Design, Build and Sell Scheme development yesterday where Mrs Teo, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, met 150 residents.

Also present were representatives from the Housing Board and the town council.

But many questions were directed at Ms Goh, who said: "Please accept my sincerest apologies for all the inconveniences caused. We are committed to fixing all the issues at Natura Loft."

She said her company, which belongs to the United Technologies group, has ample experience and specialists, and is confident that it will be able to improve the lifts.

Sigma made headlines in January when HDB revealed it was barred from tendering for its contracts due to late installations and poor performance. Natura Loft's developer Qingjian Realty had picked Sigma when it was still on HDB's list of approved lift manufacturers.

Mrs Teo also said the performance of the lifts serving the three 40-storey Natura Loft blocks was unacceptable. With 5.2 breakdowns per lift per year, it fared worse than other estates in the GRC with similar high-speed lifts.

"We want to bring this number down to four breakdowns per lift per year, which is on par with the rest of the lifts in the GRC. I believe it can be done," said Mrs Teo.

Each time there is a breakdown, the lift can take over a week to repair. One lift at Block 275 has been decommissioned since February.

Mrs Teo said a stricter maintenance regime and more preventative steps will be taken. This includes extra servicing and changing lift parts before the end of their cycle.

"This will cost us more, but it is worth it if it helps with the problem," said Mrs Teo, who is also Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.

She also hopes to set up an in-house lift supervisory team for Natura Loft, though she admitted this will be difficult due to a shortfall of qualified lift technicians.

But she said the data does not suggest that the Sigma lifts need replacing right away as the breakdown rate was not of "an order of magnitude of difference" from the average lift.

Ng Jun Sen

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline Irate residents query manufacturer about lift breakdowns. Subscribe