SMRT sacks eight over falsification of records in wake of tunnel flooding

13 employees held responsible in wake of tunnel flooding; three of them, including V-P, disciplined; two others quit

An unprecedented flooding of train tunnels crippled a large section of the North-South Line on Oct 7 and 8, 2017. PHOTO: ST READER

Rail operator SMRT has sacked eight staff and disciplined three others after a probe into falsification of maintenance records for an anti-flooding system in the wake of an unprecedented tunnel flooding incident last month.

A total of 13 employees - several holding senior managerial posts - have been held responsible, the company said yesterday.

Other than the eight who have been dismissed, two resigned while three others were subject to undisclosed disciplinary actions.

Those sacked comprised those in the work team who had falsified pump maintenance records, and the managers and senior executive who were in charge of ensuring that pump maintenance was duly carried out during the period.

They are made up of one senior executive, two managers and five technical staff.

The two men who quit did so soon after the train tunnel flooding, which crippled a large section of the North-South Line on Oct 7 and 8. The incident affected more than a quarter of a million commuters.

Investigations found that vice-president Tay Tien Seng and senior manager Ivan Kok had failed to exercise sufficient supervision during the period when the falsification of the pump maintenance records occurred.

"As they are no longer with the company, SMRT reserves its right to pursue legal action against them as may be appropriate," the company said.

Although investigators have not found out why the pumps and related switches failed - individual components were in proper working order immediately after the incident - they concluded that the crew tasked with maintaining the system had not done so for nearly a year.

The system is supposed to be serviced once every quarter.

SMRT said three other management staff, including a vice-president, have been disciplined "according to our internal disciplinary framework for failing to exercise the due care and diligence expected of them in relation to the maintenance of the pumps".

The Straits Times understands that the vice-president is Mr Ng Tek Poo, who has been demoted.

The other two are believed to be members of senior management.

In response to SMRT's actions, the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) said yesterday that it "does not condone any action or inaction by workers that could cause harm to fellow workers and commuters or damage the operations of our public transport system".

Its executive secretary Melvin Yong said: "NTWU will support disciplinary actions executed by SMRT that are fairly and consistently applied to all workers concerned.

"On our part, NTWU is in contact with affected union members. We will assist them to find alternative employment and, where necessary, provide financial assistance."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline SMRT sacks eight over falsification of records in wake of tunnel flooding. Subscribe