Khaw on MRT flooding: ‘Some black sheep’ in every big organisation - report

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Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has again slammed the failure of a group of SMRT staff to prevent last month’s MRT tunnel flooding, saying there are “some black sheep” in every large organisation, according to a report by The Straits Times.

Speaking at an appreciation day event for public transport workers on Tuesday (14 November), Khaw said, “October 7 was not a proud moment for SMRT. A small group of SMRT workers had negated the good work of the other SMRT workers and brought disrepute to other transport workers.

“They have also tarnished the reputation of Singapore and Singaporeans.”

The ST report quoted Khaw as saying he hoped that the 7 October flooding incident would serve as a turning point for the train operator to transform its corporate culture. Khaw urged SMRT workers to be fully committed to improve the reliability of train services.

“This requires an all-out effort. This requires everyone in SMRT to play their part, from the CEO down to the rank and file,” Khaw said.

Khaw’s comments come after a series of disruptions on the North-South Line (NSL) and the East-West Line (EWL) over the past week.

Last Friday (10 November), services were halted between Bugis and Tanah Merah train stations from 11:40pm after SMRT experienced two train faults on the East-West Line (EWL).

Prior to that, SMRT experienced two disruptions on the morning on 6 November and 9 November on the NSL, with many affected commuters complaining about the failure by the operator to give timely updates.

The 7 October flooding incident at Bishan, which caused operations to be halted on the NSL for about 20 hours and affected some 250,000 people,  triggered a chain of events that revealed a “poor work culture” at SMRT.

On 16 October, the senior management of SMRT apologised at a media conference for one of the worst disruptions in the company’s history.

Khaw also issued a Ministerial Statement in Parliament on 7 November and addressed questions from MPs on the incident, including on the alleged falsification of maintenance records.

Khaw revealed then that SMRT was undertaking remedial steps in the wake of the flooding incident. These include the reorganisation of the unit overseeing the maintenance of the flood protection system and the maintenance frequency of the system, procuring more emergency equipment such as portable pumps, and inviting experts from Taipei Metro to thoroughly review SMRT’s operations.

SMRT announced last Thursday that five engineers from the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) will spend up to six months with SMRT Trains to support its train maintenance regime.

Six members of SMRT’s maintenance staff will face disciplinary action for their part in the flooding incident. Seven other managerial staff, including two Vice-President level executives, will face a further inquiry and have been suspended.