SMRT confirms Neo Kian Hong will replace outgoing CEO Desmond Kuek, drawing mixed reactions online


SMRT’s confirmation that ex-General Neo Kian Hong will succeed outgoing CEO Desmond Kuek has drawn mixed reactions from netizens. The transport operator confirmed heated speculation that Kuek is stepping down from the post he has held for nearly six years today and confirmed that his successor, 54-year-old permanent secretary Neo, will join the organisation from 1 Aug 2018.

In a statement today, SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming revealed that Neo was chosen following a global search. Around 20 candidates were reportedly considered. Asserting that the board is “confident that he will be able to lead SMRT towards achieving operation excellence,” Seah said:

“On behalf of the board, I welcome Kian Hong as the next group CEO of SMRT. The board was impressed with Kian Hong’s appreciation of interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as his vision and experience in leveraging new technologies for public service.
“I have had the opportunity to work alongside Kian Hong during the Sars crisis and witnessed his sense of mission, hands-on approach to problem-solving and decisive leadership.”

Neo, who is leaving 35 years in the Administrative Service to join SMRT, said in the statement:

“I am conscious that there will be challenges ahead. I know the public expects safe and reliable train services. I will work very hard to meet their expectations. I also recognise that successive generations of board, management and staff have worked very hard to deliver a good system. I will do my best to build on their foundation, and work with the SMRT team at all levels, as well as with Land Transport Authority, to continue to deliver, and improve on, a reliable and sustainable system.”

Seah further thanked Kuek for his contributions to the organisation. Noting that Kuek had “intensified recruitment and upskilling to deepen the engineering and operational capabilities of the SMRT team, and initiated rigorous training programmes to reinforce the service and safety culture of the company,” Seah added:

“The board would also like to express its appreciation to Desmond for his deep commitment and significant contributions to strengthen SMRT’s overall capabilities over the last six years…Desmond had set in motion many initiatives to deliver a more robust service, including the multi-year renewal and upgrading of rail assets.”

On his part, Kuek did not give an indication on what his plans are after leaving SMRT. He only said that has been his privilege to serve alongside the dedicated SMRT team and that it has been a privilege to have led the organisation during a critical time of system renewal and organisational transformation.

Kuek’s tenure at SMRT was marked by various controversies – from the deaths of two trainees who were struck by an oncoming train, to the unprecedented flooding of an MRT tunnel and a collision between two trains that injured over 30 individuals, besides countless train service breakdowns.

Desmond Kuek leaves SMRT to the man who replaced him as chief of defence force after earning close to $10 million in 5.5 years

Netizens have expressed that replacing an ex-General with another may not make much a difference to correct the “deep-seated issues” within SMRT and wondered why SMRT turned to another ex-General after a supposedly global search:

Others noted that Neo is known to be a “ruthless” and “fierce” ex-General and have opined that his working style may be what SMRT needs:



  1. B.C. Yen, President cum acting chairman of Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation

    Education: Master of Civil Engineering
    University of Texas, USA
    Experience: – Consultant, China Engineering Consultants, Inc.
    – Senior Advisor, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp.
    – Vice President, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp.
    – President, Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp.
    – Chairman and President, Metro Consulting Service, Ltd.
    – Vice President, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp.
    – Director, Operations Department, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp.
    – Director, Preparatory Office, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp.
    – Principal Engineer, Department of Rapid Transit Systems, Taipei City Government
    – Principal Engineer and Section Chief, Department of Rapid Transit Systems, Taipei City Government
    – Associate Engineer, Department of Public Works, Taipei City Government

    • Ya-fen HUANG, Acting Director of Human Resources Division of Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation

      Education: Master’s degree in Transportation Engineering of Civil Engineering Department
      Tamkang University
      Experience: – Deputy Director of Human Resources Division
      – Deputy Director of Planning Division
      – Engineer of Planning Division
      – Manager of Planning Division
      – Manager of Planning Department
      – Associate Engineer of Planning Department
      – Assistant Engineer of Planning Department
      – Junior Engineer of Planning Department
      Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation

    • Tai-liang YANG, Director of Industrial Safety Division of Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation

      Education: Master’s degree in Civil Engineering
      National Taiwan University
      Experience: – Director of Train Operations Division
      – Director of Station Operations Division
      – Deputy Director of Medium Capacity Transport Division
      – Deputy Director of Operations Department
      – Manager of Operations Department
      – Deputy Manager of Operations Department
      – Associate Engineer of Operations Division, Preparatory Office
      Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation
      – Assistant Engineer, Department of Rapid Transit Systems
      Taipei City Government

    • B.C. Yen | President
      Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation | Taiwan
      B.C. Yen, President, Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation
      B.C. Yen holds an MA in civil engineering from the University of Texas and a BA in civil engineering from National Cheng Kung University. With over 40 years’ experience in the transportation industry, he is one of a few transportation professionals in Taiwan to have held executive positions both at the Taipei and Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporations, as well as the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation.

      Having served as Director and Vice President of the Taipei Metro, and later as Chairman and President of the Metro Consulting Service Ltd., Yen’s work spans across the planning, design, construction, testing, and operations stages of metro systems, as well as expert consultation thereof. With this rich practical experience and expertise in railway system operations and transportation network analysis, Yen has been serving as President of the Taipei Metro since 2015 until present.

      World Metro Rail Congress Day 1 @ 14:30
      Taipei Metro: Raising the bar in urban rail reliability and frequency– How Taipei Metro plans to improve MKBF by 2020 to make it one of the most reliable networks in the world today
      Setting high targets and standards to create operational excellence
      Maintaining a high level of service and reliability while balancing new projects and extensions
      The future – What is the highest possible level Taipei can achieve?
      B.C. Yen, President, Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation


  2. We need a head who has the relevant knowledge so that people below him cannot bluff him technically as well as the whole business and the operation processes.

    Garang for what use! . Short and initial period works only.. . People can bluff you for long a period of time!

    We, the workers, know too well about this basic of being a head!

    When people below you bluff you all the way. You don’t even stand a chance to be garang coz you have been bluffed that everything is “in order” and that you “happy and smile” everyday.. … You know what I mean…

  3. Parachuting so it seems….. to Gong-Phuah it’s simply the Scums’ ploy all along….. as the Cuntry cannot do without a CDF but also cannot let them beCum very Powderful like in Thailand….. so these Paper Gens must be taken off relatively quickly (approx 2 years) and sweetened with “power but without military control” & money which will otherwise be impossible to get anywhere else.

  4. Result will be the same as Long as you put paper general into any organisation. They just cannot perform becos they are not train in that field. Simple as that. It is like bringing a donkey to Kranji and expect the donkey to win against the racing horse.

  5. It’s a Catch 22! If finally this paper general as even a moducum of success, netizens will point out that even “dead clocks” tell correct time twice a day. If he fails, they’ll yell “I told you so!”. Given the predicament, the best we can hope for is he doesn’t make a bad thing worse!

  6. Getting a fierce and ruthless person is not applicable in today’s context. The candidate must have new initiatives that when implemented can work for the benefit of the staff and commuters. Working together as a team to solve real issues is critical to the Everyday function of the train system. We cannot have a candidate who is fierce and ruthless. Employees will tell you off. You so smart, do it yourself.

  7. SMRT is not the the army. Who cares about his so call ruthless. If people can’t work with you no matter how ruthless you are it’s people that makes the system work. Or maybe you think you can do it yourself. Bad choice. Let see how Long you will last.

  8. Fierce LAN… If ask these asshole to go war,i think he will MIA first. In SG i don’t believe in any best of the best or what elite. To me they are all just like NCC or scouts. And those gurkha are all traitors to their own country.shame on them to come here to make money and take SG as their home.

  9. Fierce n ruthless ah? Go back to military la… this is 2018, u manage by being fierce n ruthless? Haha. Perhaps news article should dress him up better. Maybe words like structured to replace fierce n focused to replace ruthless better right LOL