Defence engineers to be attached to SMRT to help review maintenance work 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

SINGAPORE - 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 from December, SMRT said in a statement on Thursday (Nov 9).

"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 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.

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 after the incident found that maintenance crew may have falsified work logs for three quarters since last December.

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

In March 2016, 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 said 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 in 2012. Ms Saw was SMRT's previous chief executive.