SMRT's new chief takes the train to work

New SMRT chief executive Desmond Kuek took the train to work on his first day. (SMRT photo)

SMRT's new president and chief executive, Desmond Kuek, took the train to work on his first day in the job Monday, the transport operator said.

In a press statement on the same day, the listed company said the 49-year-old former permanent secretary and defence force chief started the day at 7:45 am riding an SMRT train along the Circle Line to Bishan station.

At the station, he met with train staff and service ambassadors, and chatted with commuters who were queuing patiently for the next train.

He then also took the train on the North-South Line to Choa Chu Kang station and spoke to tenants and customers at the Choa Chu Kang Xchange to get their feedback on the amenities and retail services provided by SMRT.

At the bus interchange there, he talked to bus service leaders and interchange staff to thank them for their work and remind them of their role in providing superior public transport service, SMRT said.

After arriving at the company's head office in North Bridge Road, he met with senior management staff for a series of meetings before addressing company executives in a town hall session in the afternoon.

SMRT said Kuek acknowledged that the company faces challenges such as an ageing rail infrastructure, increasing ridership and damaged staff morale, though he also pointed out opportunities for the company.

Outlining his priorities, he said, "My emphasis going forward is to strengthen our operations, engineering and maintenance capabilities; build up our capacity for organisational growth; and instil a strong customer service and safety culture in all our people."

When asked by Yahoo! Singapore how often Kuek intends to take the train or bus to work and how he normally will go to office, an SMRT spokesperson said the new CEO usually drove to work in his previous roles and that he will "commute by public transport as often as needed to get first-hand sensitivity to the ground issues and sentiments in both trains and buses".