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Speech by SMRT President & Group CEO Mr Desmond Kuek at the SMRT Technology Media Brief 2018

16 March 2018


Good morning and welcome to our media briefing on how SMRT is harnessing technology to bring our commuters better journeys.


Our MRT system is a complex system of systems. Our network encompasses 105 stations, with 145 km of tracks running across the entire country.  Some are underground, and some are on viaducts subjected to weather conditions that can impact performance. When the Thomson-East-Coast Line opens progressively from 2019, our network will expand by another 30%, with 31 new stations and 43 more km.

As a measure of the scale, there are nearly 300 rail sub-systems, each with its own nexus of components. The number of active line items in our inventory ranges in the hundreds of thousands. Rail systems are classified under different engineering domains: Signalling & Communications, Power, Train (or Rolling Stock), Track (or Permanent Way), and other supporting functions in building and facilities infrastructure as well as platform screen doors, lifts and escalators. These systems do not stand alone, and their effects are often intertwined. Separately and collectively, any single fault could cause a system impact that would undermine rail service and commuter experience.

Our stock of 186 trains on the NSEWL spans 6 generations, with different configurations. They are at different stages of life cycle – some brand new and others more than 30 years old.  On the Circle Line, the 64 trains are driverless. The trains run for 19 hours each day, leaving only a few hours each night for maintenance and rectification of faults that surfaced on the trains and tracks.

Each train that is launched is carefully synchronized and controlled through a signalling system that acts as a central nervous system. Altogether, they carry more than 2 million passengers, covering a cumulative distance of nearly twice around the equator every day. We do this on most days without a single delay lasting more than 5 minutes. When there is any such >5 minute disruption to service, it is counted against the performance indicator of Mean Kilometers travelled between Failure (or MKBF).  Last year, we exceeded the MKBF targets set, and if we keep up our efforts, we are optimistic that we will achieve 1 million in MKBF even sooner.  This is testimony to the relentless efforts by our Trains teams in SMRT and LTA to improve rail reliability. I shall share more later this month when we update on rail performance.

We can still do more.  To attain and sustain better reliability, availability, maintainability, safety and security than today, we are working closely with LTA to must make best use of sensor technologies and data analysis to monitor in real-time the state of health of each critical system, sub-system and component. The aim is to predict and prevent failure, and should a fault occur, to respond and recover swiftly so that impact to commuters is minimized. 


To this end, SMRT has been developing a Digitalisation Programme underpinned by 6 key elements: Connect, Sense, Discover, Decide, Respond and Control.

For example, to maximise engineering hours, we are developing a Track Access Management System with Smart Information Technology to simplify, automate and optimise the track booking and allocation process to provide better control of our maintenance activities.

To better manage train operations, we are implementing the Train Track Condition Monitoring System that allow us to sense and monitor the conditions of our train and track systems across the entire network in real time. We are exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically sift through track inspection image data for enhanced productivity.

To assist decision-making in operations, we are putting in place a Predictive Decision Support System that provides analysis for all our assets on a single platform. The old saying is that "prevention is better than cure", but we believe that prediction is even better. Using predictive analytics, we will prognosticate different aspects of our engineering system, extrapolate into the future and prescribe appropriate intervention ahead of an event.

Apart from enhancing robustness in our engineering systems, we are also employing Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT) for crowd sensing on our station platforms to provide commuters with timely and accurate journey time information, easily accessed on their mobile devices.


Last year, we formed a Future Systems Office, with dedicated resources to explore such technology exploitation removed from the pressures of current operations.

Our Rail Digitalisation efforts will culminate in a next generation Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC 3.0) that will significantly improve train operations.  It will be sited right here, integrated with our Operations Control Centres.  We look forward to showing you this Integrated Control Centre at the end of the year.

To accelerate our technology initiatives, SMRT has built a strong network of partnerships with other technology houses. We set up the SMRT-NTU Smart Urban Rail Corporate Laboratory 2 years ago, co-funded by the NRF, NTU and SMRT. Last month, we established the Urban Mobility Innovation Centre with A*STAR. We have also inked important collaborations with McLaren and UKRRIN (UK Rail Research and Innovation Network).

The adoption of these technologies will enable our people to work smarter, more productively and effectively. We are preparing our people to be future–ready, as operating and maintaining such a complex system of systems calls for deep rail engineering knowledge and multi-disciplinary competencies across mechanical, electrical, electronic, and civil engineering; as well as material, data and human sciences. Through such innovations in our people, systems and technology, we aim ultimately, to deliver safer, more reliable and comfortable journeys for our commuters.