Khaw provides details of errant maintenance team

SMRT staff seen inside Braddell MRT on Oct 7, 2017 near the control station which showed that there was no MRT service on the NSL between Bishan and Toa Payoh.
SMRT staff seen inside Braddell MRT on Oct 7, 2017 near the control station which showed that there was no MRT service on the NSL between Bishan and Toa Payoh. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The six SMRT staff who may have falsified maintenance records for the anti-flood system at Bishan have been with the company for as long as 28 years to just over a year.

In Parliament yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan gave more details on the errant employees whom he held responsible for the flooded MRT tunnels on Oct 7 that affected 250,000 commuters.

The six members of the team comprise a manager, an engineering supervisor and four crew members.

Three have been with SMRT for more than 20 years, including one for over 28 years. One has been with SMRT for a little over a year, and the remaining two for six and eight years.

Four are Singaporeans and two are foreigners, and "all the racial grounds are represented among the six", Mr Khaw later told MPs.

He had stern words for them: "This is not Singaporean culture. We are known positively everywhere we go... there is a certain trademark to Singaporeans. We are honest, we deliver what you promise. And yet to have a bunch of people seemingly doing very funny things, it is very odd."

The engineering supervisor and four crew members were directly responsible for maintaining the pumps and other facilities in 15 stations from Sembawang to Dhoby Ghaut, while the manager was in charge of supervising and ensuring the work was done.

They had submitted maintenance records on three occasions from last December to June, but investigations found they were not granted track access on the stated dates and the pumps were not activated. All six are suspended and helping with investigations.

Mr Khaw gave details of six other managerial staff who were suspended along with vice-president of maintenance Ng Tek Poo, who was in charge of maintenance and systems. They comprise his predecessor Tay Tien Seng, a vice-president who oversaw the unit in charge of maintaining the pump systems before May; a chief engineer; a deputy director; and three managers.

The "amnesty" exercise ended last Friday, and those who came forward were from SMRT's building and facilities department. They oversee areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation as well as flood and fire protection measures at stations.

SMRT did not find any evidence of falsification or wilful dereliction of duties in the departments responsible for train maintenance, signalling and communications, tracks and track-side equipment.

A massive internal audit is now being held in SMRT to unearth other instances of breaches.

While faulting that team for the flooding on Oct 7, Mr Khaw also had praise for some SMRT staff who "did the right thing and handled a difficult situation well". He said train captain Choo Ah Heng was alert and reported the flooding that day. SMRT chief controller Tan Kwong Chye opted to detrain commuters and cut off traction power to the affected tracks soon after the first reports of flooding, while train service controller Tan Ming Hui "single-handedly managed" that incident and another at Marina South Pier.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the amnesty period for SMRT employees was suggested by the union, when what he said was SMRT had declared the amnesty. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Khaw provides details of errant maintenance team'. Subscribe