SMRT’s “teething issues” after thirty years

an incomplete list of train breakdowns


One would have thought that after thirty years of train operations, we’ll know a thing or two about running trains. Apparently not, we need a panel of experts from around the world to tell us that our problems mirror those from around the world. There is a big difference here, SMRT CEO is paid millions of dollars while the other guys from around the world are only paid a fraction of what Desmond Kuek makes.

The new signalling system due to be implemented by end November this year has been under testing since March. This has caused much delays during peak hours.

Train Delays, Commuters Khaw-Beh-Khaw-Boo

In an apparent attempt to normalise the situation and manage commuter expectations, SMRT’s advisory board member Prof Clive Roberts said that we have only three and a half hours between revenue services; having more downtime would help with the testing. He also added that we do not have redundant or parallel lines so that we can shut-down an entire line for a week of testing.

Another board member, Professor Lee Kang-kuen, who has been involved in Hong Kong’s MTR, also noted that the metro did not shut its lines when it carried out similar signalling works.

One of our regular readers, Jarius Lau has written to us and said that out of the three essential transport services, train, bus and taxies, the train service is the least complex and that the current problems can be resolved by upgrading the infrastructure.

But what seems to be lacking in the current narrative is the utter neglect of infrastructure during the tenure of Saw Paik Hwa, when there was a shift in their strategy to focus on monetising the retail space around the MRT station, which led to the current state of affairs.

To reframe it as a “teething” problem is not accurate and it seems like the personnel concerned are sweeping issues under the rug.

Didn’t our Minister Chan Chun Sing famously say that we have “predictive maintenance?” Are we supposed to be more advanced than the rest of the world with this predictive thingy?

The only thing we can foretell these days, is that there will be a another breakdown soon, maybe this week!



  1. Just as i have said…. We have the only multi-million dollar, biggest babies with the longest teething period in the whole wide world.
    Another world record and feather in the cap for us!!

  2. Precisely. Machines like these doesn’t take 20 years to break down. They’d start breaking down just after a few years of running.

    We had nearly 20 years of problem free ridership. This means that for a good amount of time, they were actually being properly taken care of.

    The current problem is obviously due to systemic neglect and complacency over the years leading up to the first breakdowns.

    The real investigation should be on the decisions made by the Board of Directors and LTA for 10 years before the 1st breakdowns. But obviously that’s not going to happen isn’t it.

  3. Someone should be held accountable for this fiasco. Saw should the number culprit and the paper general who is unable to solve the problems, should be replaced.

  4. Oh, we conveniently put the blame on China made trains. Say, what about the tracks and the signals. Was China contracted to build the tracks and/or supply the signals? Was not the EWL built by the Japanese? And we pointedly say the Bukit Panjang LRT was built as an “after thought.” You know, political pressure, a constituency like no other. Yesterday, he was a Top General, today, a Shipping Magnet, tomorrow, a Media Czar. Or, from Minister of Health, to Minister of National Development, now Minister of Transport. Will this be the root of our rot? The fastest way to be noticed is make changes and show results. Be counted. SPH CEO, cuts head count, a two-edged sword. Minister of Transport, but what if the alternatives are a no, no? Transport, buses and trains, go public? Only incrementals! That’s one challenge facing our ministers today.

  5. SMRT is a gone case. Middle aged people all corrupted by the past management that only cares about profit, only looking to claim credit and shift blame. I say its time to just close the organisation, earmark all those late 30s early 40s in middle management or senior technician positions to never be able to work for public services again.

    But then again, its not just SMRT i think. Its the entire generation of the 70s. All gone case – too lazy compared to the previous generation, yet not educated and creative enough to compete with the next generation. Theres no hope so long as that generation holds important positions.

  6. All these still does not take away the much much greater benefits that Singaporeans, residents and visitors derive from the fact that we have an mrt that’s not only working well but still expanding to provide greater conveniences to all!!! Imagine having a solely bus system delayed and clogged up by heavy road traffic! This was what Dr Goh advocated versus the mrt championed by LKY and Ong Teng Cheong.

Comments are closed.