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Speech by SMRT Chairman Mr Seah Moon Ming at the SMRT Annual Group Review

28 March 2018

Members of the media, thank you all for joining us here today.  We look forward to sharing with you our annual report card.

Let me introduce two of my key board members, Lee Fook Sun, Chairman of our Audit and Risk Committee, which oversees our system of internal controls and enterprise risk management, and Tan Ek Kia, Chairman of our Board Safety and Security Committee that oversees all safety and security policies and frameworks.

As you know, work is on-going to renew and upgrade the ageing  North-South and East-West Lines. This is a very complex multi-year engineering project carried out jointly by SMRT and LTA, to renew a rail network while the trains are running. Nearly half of the train systems on the North-South and East-West Lines, such as the trains, power supply, track circuits, communication systems and platform screen doors, are more than 30 years old.  And nearly half of the system components and parts are obsolete or nearing end-of-life.  We have five generations of 186 trains deployed on these MRT lines. Each of these five train models have different designs and technical characteristics, adding further demands to the maintenance effort and logistics support.  We are working closely with LTA to streamline the fleet type so that going forward, we are able to provide better engineering and logistics support to Operations & Maintenance of the rail system. This will in turn lead to better reliability and more assured train performance.

On the renewal and upgrading work, we are making steady progress and have successfully completed replacing wooden sleepers with more durable concrete sleepers, and in replacing some 200km of power rail on the NSEWL. Current work is to complete the new CBTC signalling system.  We will soon begin to renew the power cables and station power systems.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank commuters and our friends in the media for your patience, understanding and support.

Desmond and I will share with you a bit more --- on where we are today and what we are going to do in 2018.

I will highlight our initiatives to strengthen capabilities in three key areas: Management, Maintenance and Operations. Desmond will then speak on the realisation of various key initiatives and our results so far.


In the area of Management capabilities, we have established important new appointments and roles such as the Chief Operations Officer, Chief Maintenance Officers, Chief Spokesperson and Chief Commuter Engagement Officer. They will focus on specific key functions, aimed at providing safe, reliable and commuter-centric journeys to the public.

To give staff a sense of ownership and to improve their workplace, we have introduced Toyota’s “Kaizen” programme company-wide in February. This is part of our drive to reinforce corporate culture with ownership and accountability, as well as to raise productivity by encouraging every member of SMRT’s workforce of about 10,500 staff to do their part to improve work processes continuously.

We have also formed a Joint Readiness Inspection Team this year, led by Dr Richard Kwok. This team has begun to tighten supervision and inspection throughout SMRT. In time, this will result in higher standards and will see rail operations and maintenance teams produce superior performance. In short, we want fewer train defects and less downtime, which will lead to more reliable journeys for commuters.


Our push for ever better maintenance has been persistent. One aspect of this is the Early Closure, Late Opening (ECLO) of the North-South and East-West Lines stations. These revisions to MRT operating hours have provided nearly three times the engineering hours for maintenance, inspection and renewal works on MRT tracks, stations and in our train depots. ECLO has also allowed us to repair track defects. We have seen more than 1,000 staff from SMRT deployed at closed stretches of the MRT network to maximise track access. ECLO requires us to run shuttle bus services. Such services have been deployed smoothly, thanks to strong support from MOT, LTA and other PTOs.

We are fully committed to improving RAMSS – Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, Safety and Security. We want to ensure that all MRT assets are properly maintained, renewed and upgraded throughout their entire life cycle so as to achieve punctuality and high availability of MRT services for our commuters.

We have also outsourced maintenance functions for Building and Facilities assets such as lifts, air-con chillers and ventilation fans. We draw upon OEM support to carry out maintenance work at multiple locations at the same time, with SMRT staff focusing on supervisory and inspection roles.

We are also building in-country train mid-life upgrade capability, including electronic card repair & upgrade capability to renew train and system components at mid-life.

We are fully committed to introducing better work flow and processes, as well as a safe conducive work environment and facilities for our maintenance staff. Bishan Depot, our oldest and largest train depot, will be developed into a Rail Maintenance Hub with core rail engineering functions located there.


Bishan will be complemented by Kim Chuan Depot, where our Circle Line Operations Control Centre is located. The new Operations Control Centre for the North-South and East-West Lines is now undergoing intensive testing at Kim Chuan Depot, which will soon become our Rail Operations Hub. We expect this railway command centre to turn operational by end 2018.

We are fast-tracking the renewal and replacement programmes for the North-South and East-West Lines so that commuters can have seamless journeys as soon as feasible. We aim to provide commuters with shorter waiting time, faster and more comfortable train journeys as we introduce new trains to the network and upgrade the signalling and power supply systems. Our goal is to achieve this substantially by 2020. Some tail-end replacement and renewal works may continue thereafter.

Our frontline staff such as Train Captains and Station Managers will be trained and empowered to rectify simple faults, so we can have faster incident recovery that gets our trains moving, safely and quickly.

As we gear up for more intensive rail operations, we will need a larger, better-trained and committed workforce. We want to add 200 more rail engineers and 1,000 more operations and maintenance staff in the coming years. At the same time, we are nurturing our workforce through skills upgrading and value inculcation by SMRT Institute. We have also engaged five senior engineers from the Defence Science & Technology Agency to review life cycle management of our rail assets.

As we improve our MRT network, SMRT will step up efforts to engage the community and residents in neighbourhoods served by our MRT stations, many of whom are commuters who rely on our trains to travel around Singapore. We want to provide great service and make the network even more accessible to all commuters, as we believe the MRT network belongs to everyone in Singapore.

I hope you will find today’s briefing useful. Thank you.