SMRT chief rallies staff to emerge 'stronger and better'

Above: SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming meeting SMRT Trains staff during a surprise visit to Ang Mo Kio station yesterday. Below: Last month's flooding of an MRT tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations left a stretch of the North-South Line inoperabl
SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming meeting SMRT Trains staff during a surprise visit to Ang Mo Kio station yesterday.PHOTOS: SMRT/FACEBOOK, LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY
Above: SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming meeting SMRT Trains staff during a surprise visit to Ang Mo Kio station yesterday. Below: Last month's flooding of an MRT tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations left a stretch of the North-South Line inoperabl
Last month's flooding of an MRT tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations left a stretch of the North-South Line inoperable for about 20 hours.PHOTOS: SMRT/FACEBOOK, LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

He urges them to learn from tunnel flooding incident and commit to culture of excellence

SMRT group chief executive Desmond Kuek, in an e-mail to staff yesterday, rallied them to take the lessons from the recent tunnel flooding incident seriously, and to emerge "stronger and better".

"This will be a crucial new beginning for SMRT if we commit ourselves to a culture of discipline and excellence in providing safe, reliable, commuter-focused public transport services that Singaporeans can be proud of," he wrote in the circular titled Resolve To Do What's Right.

The e-mail came a day after the rail operator's work culture and maintenance standards were called into question in a two-hour Parliament session to address last month's MRT tunnel flooding. Mr Kuek, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming and SMRT Trains chief executive Lee Ling Wee attended the session.

In the e-mail, which The Straits Times obtained a copy of, Mr Kuek said that Tuesday - which marked the 30th year of MRT operations - should have been a celebration.

"Instead, we were awash in collective shame because a few of our staff had let us down," he said, alluding to the six employees who failed to maintain flood-prevention measures at Bishan. Mr Kuek said supervisors "assumed that nothing would go wrong just because it hadn't gone wrong before".

The lapse caused a storm water pit to overflow on Oct 7, flooding the tunnel and rendering train services on a stretch of the North-South Line inoperable for about 20 hours until the next day.

Without the values of integrity, ownership and responsibility, wrote Mr Kuek, things can go horribly wrong. "We have not lost if we learn," he added. "It is not the mistake that defines a person or an organisation, but how we learn from it, rising to be stronger and better."

SPEAK OUT AGAINST WRONGDOING

When you see or sense a wrongdoing, make it your duty to step forward to correct or report it. Encourage open communication with your fellow workers. Every day, we uphold trust and open reporting without fear of reprisal from our superiors.

MR DESMOND KUEK, SMRT group chief executive.

He urged staff to resolve to do better in their work habits, attitudes and behaviour, and called on them to step forward to address mistakes.

"When you see or sense a wrongdoing, make it your duty to step forward to correct or report it. Encourage open communication with your fellow workers. Every day, we uphold trust and open reporting without fear of reprisal from our superiors ," he added.

Noting that the company was only as strong as its weakest link, he said: "On this 30th anniversary, let us all, each and every one of us, resolve to do what is right, wherever we are and whatever we are entrusted to do. Take responsibility, walk the talk, own the outcome."

Political observer Eugene Tan said Mr Kuek's message was "timely and needed", given that morale at SMRT is likely to be at an all-time low, after the public outcry and criticism.

"The management led by Mr Kuek will have to walk the talk even more as they deal with the systemic and structural issues accumulated over the years," said the Singapore Management University law don.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Seah met SMRT Trains staff during an unscheduled visit to Ang Mo Kio station. Sharing this on its Facebook page, SMRT said Mr Seah intends to meet staff regularly and would like senior management to do likewise.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2017, with the headline 'SMRT chief rallies staff to emerge 'stronger and better''. Print Edition | Subscribe