SMRT jumps to defend its beleaguered CEO, to the dismay of commuters


Taking offense at a HardwareZone forum thread that has been circulating online, SMRT posted a vehement denial of the supposedly unsubstantiated remarks in the forum thread and fiercely defended its Chief Executive Officer Desmond Quek on Facebook yesterday evening.

The forum thread that SMRT was rebutting claimed that the transport operator’s night shift staff in charge of maintenance of tracks at SMRT have been cut to one-third of its original strength over the years.

The forum thread alleged that former CEO Saw Phaik Hwa cut 25 percent of the crew and that Kuek slashed the number of staff by another 50 percent.

SMRT branded the thread “obviously fake!” and clarified that the number of night-shift maintenance staff has almost “DOUBLED” under Quek’s leadership:

“Some of you may have seen this online report on SMRT (extract in the image).
“This is obviously fake! How would SMRT have been able to complete the change out of all the power rails and 188,000 sleepers if staff count had indeed been cut so drastically?
“Contrary to what is purported, under SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek’s tenure, the Permanent Way (PWAY) team that looks after our track and track-side infrastructure almost DOUBLED. It grew from 206 staff to 395 staff from 31 December 2010 till 30 September this year.
“The number of night shift workers also increased by 65% with more permanent night shift staff added to the North-South and East-West Lines in the same period.
“The number of personnel carrying out maintenance work is even more when one adds external contract workers who augment the permanent staff on the tracks.”

SMRT subsequently posted that staff at Jurong Crew Point were encouraged by the CEO’s visit yesterday in a seemingly unrelated post:

Many of our staff at the Jurong Crew Point were encouraged by SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek when he visited them today. His…

Posted by SMRT on Thursday, 16 November 2017


Netizens responding to SMRT’s post defending Quek were unimpressed by the group’s efforts to debunk the unsubstantiated claims.

Many also called out the unprofessional tone of the post and unsympathetically noted that the transport operator is so quick to call out fake news but so slow to solve rail issues:

Chee Hong Lee: What kind of unprofessional tone is this? Did some junior Comms dept staff post this without clearing Mgmt? Simply unacceptable…

KL Yeo: OK OK. We are mislead by fakes news. I trust you. Now, show us the results since you claim Kuek has almost doubled the team!

Paul Liu: The SMRT Corporate Communications head & entire dept should be replaced with better Corp Comms head, staff & PR company!

Already got train collision & NSL + EWL frequent train faults this week, and you are still harsh in pointing out fake news. Focus on doing what is most important, that is to apologise sincerely for the inconvenience caused, reassure the public that SMRT will properly fix the trains & infrastructure & get them back functioning well on track!

Zulkifli Mamat: Why so defensive? If its true, haul that thread starter to court ah.
This kind of tone set as a public transport provider posting on Public status is truly unprofessional asking for a demand of support. Please do your job providing services to the masses 1st.that what your being paid for. no one paid for asking breakdowns nor this petty claim of “fake news”. Need to stir it up pls make a police report regards to this claim. Make your Public Transport workable as a priority. Not this Petty childish so call fake news diversion.

Christopher Lim: Your tone as an organization is highly unprofessional. Your response brings disrepute to the thousands of ground staff working hard. If you cannot do the job of professionally responding to the media, you should step down, just like how anyone unable to fulfill the professional standards within your organization should step down.

Since the transport minister likes to cite Japanese companies and culture as examples, take a page from them and learn from their precision, execution and humility in the face of error.

Reginald Ashton: have the time to refute fake news but no time to provide timely updates on your own train service? clearly your priorities are extremely skewed.

fake article or not, it doesnt improve your already bad situation. but what do you care? a few months down the road, fares will still increase, problems will still arise&people in SG still will have no choice but to suck it up&use your crappy service.

Shawn Ng: @SMRT first you obfuscate each train delay / breakdown by omitting keywords like 20minutes “between each station”, if you do decide to report the delay at all.

Now it seems your social media comms team is acting defensively, feisty and all.

On top of all the heads that need to roll, please include the head of your comms team who indirectly approved this post.

I can assure you, this will be the start of a major#shitstorm.

Chee Eng: This line “This is obviously fake!” is very unprofessional of an official page. SMRT media team throwing tantrum?

Eleanor Tan: While it’s heartening to know that this news is inaccurate, the tone taken by your corporate communications department, even in a social media post which may be seen to be less formal, comes across as defensive, unprofessional and inappropriate. The tone echoes that of Donald Trump on Twitter, surely not a flattering comparison.

The public’s response to the frequent and numerous issues that have been surfacing for some time now is certainly not unexpected, nor is it disproportionate or unjustified, given the level of inconvenience experienced, and the scale of what has happened.

One hopes that you might apply your fervour to addressing these problems and regaining the trust of your commuters, rather than to safeguarding your reputation with mere words and empty assurances.

Some, like noted blogger Mr Brown, also expressed surprise that such an “unprofessional” post was really posted by SMRT’s official Facebook page managers:

I had to check if this was the real SMRT account. And then I read it again. Checked again. Yup. The Real SMRT account. Wah lau eh, the tone.

Posted by KinMun Theodore Lee on Thursday, 16 November 2017

Read more hilarious comments here.


  1. 蛇鼠一窝…hopeless bunch …already no words to describe them…Singapore already famous tbroughout t world on its rail network..lets celebrate like our minister always do.

    • Over the last 5 years under DK, who is paid 50% more and had every chance to improve it, breakdowns become more frequent and serious. So blame previous CEO? Good try.

  2. With the culture of 1 man working with 5 men watching the man work, you need to increase the work by 500% not 50%. Since butterfly man and useless kwek cited culture problems.

  3. You mean this is how SMRT Corp Comm handle social and mass media? Less than good English? Looks like not just engineering but the whole organisation is a total mess.

  4. I still remember if doing guard duty and u fell asleep tomorrow morning get ready smart four for “Hentak Kaki” to accept the offence of guiltiness and next the old DB will be the next home sweet home. I wonder will this BG will hentak kaki ?? Comment pls

  5. Water pump incident is a good example how jobs were carried out. Anyway the facts are the trains are working. The tracks are faulty. The signals can’t communicate. So what even it’s tens of thousands men hour work

    • Each station is awarded to different contractor . Some China some japan some local some European . At the end each station has different pump machines under different brand . Now the currentEngineers may not be familiar with some many different brand of pump machines and under emergencies they get loss when one pump does not work

  6. At the moment I would actually be less surprised if it instead turned out that it was Mr. Quek who had grabbed control of the FB page long enough to post an unfiltered… ah, ‘opinion’.

  7. This Ceo should be sack n get better man to lead. What our founding mentor LKY said incompetent n useless chief must be sacked. Why is he still thick skin to stay .

  8. SMRT is at 3rd stage fighting back mode now if you’ve been tracking the news and see their behaviors evolved See the psychological similarities below

    1st stage: accepting all the blames (eg. SMRT poor culture and neglected maintenance , H. Clinton & US Democrats realized attack Trump campaign backfired, etc).

    2nd: In self denial mode (eg. SMRT senior mgt no where to be found and stop giving breakdown updates, H.Clinton walk in the woods and gone into hiding).

    3rd stage: SMRT Fight back (eg. Start to fight fake news, H. Clinton Wrote a book to justify why she lost and Democrats constant attack on Trump office for anything and everything)

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