International Business & Economy LTA says train defects "not safety-critical" but ex-HK CEO says QC of...

LTA says train defects “not safety-critical” but ex-HK CEO says QC of entire manufacturing process under suspicion

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

After news broke in social media that SMRT was secretly shipping its defective trains back to China for repairs (https://theindependent.sg.sg/smrt-secretly-shipping-35-prc-made-trains-back-to-china-for-repairs), LTA quickly issued a statement, attempting to reassure the public.

LTA now says that the defects, found on the train body, “are not safety-critical and do not affect the train’s systems or performance” (https://www.facebook.com/WeKeepYourWorldMoving).

“Trains on the rail network are extensively tested to ensure the safety and reliability of the train. Every train also undergoes a comprehensive regime of static and dynamic testing as well as interface testing to ensure its structural and operational integrity. After the testing is completed, the trains are delivered to Singapore for further testing before they are placed for passenger service,” it added.

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Ironically, the news was first broke by a Hong Kong online news media, FactWire (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/07/05/mainland-manufacturer-mtr-secretly-recalls-35-trains-singapore-due-cracks).

A mainland source had told FactWire that SMRT was “secretly shipping defective trains back to mainland China for replacement and repair”. FactWire got wind that the faulty trains were stored at SMRT’s Bishan Depot and sent its reporters to investigate. On 12 June after1am, FactWire reporters then saw trains wrapped in green covering being moved out of Bishan Depot. The reporters trailed the convoy all the way to Jurong Port, where the trains were subsequently shipped back to the Chinese manufacturer, CSR Sifang, based in Qingdao.

Ex-HK CEO questions the entire manufacturing process of CSR Sifang

FactWire took the opportunity to interview former Hong Kong’s Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation acting CEO Samuel Lai Man-hay about his views on the defective Chinese-made trains.

Mr Lai said, “It is very unusual for cracks to appear in new components, and you don’t know how much pressure it can withstand after that, because running puts a lot of pressure on the train’s car body.”

“If [the incidents] are true, aside from cracks, battery explosions also reflect that the product may have quality issues. The quality control of the entire manufacturing process comes under suspicion, causing people to lose confidence in the product,” he added. The incidents are now found to be true as confirmed by LTA.

In other words, what Mr Lai is saying is that the so-called “not safety-critical” body defects of these Chinese-made trains used by SMRT, could be a reflection of poor quality control of the entire manufacturing process of CSR Sifang.

Mr Lai joined Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation in 1983 till 2006. He had 23 years of experience in the railway industry in Hong Kong. Certainly he would know what he is talking about.

On the other hand, LTA is run by former Navy Chief, RADM (NS) Chew Men Leong. RADM (NS) Chew only joined LTA in 2014, less than 2 years. And SMRT is run by former Chief of Defence Force, LG (NS) Desmond Kuek. LG (NS) Kuek joined SMRT in 2012, less than 4 years.

Other problems with Chinese-made trains

Indeed, the Chinese-made trains were seen to have other problems too in addition to having the “not safety-critical” body defects.

For example, in 2012, the media first reported that a glass panel inside the MRT train suddenly shattered by itself for no reasons. SMRT said it would investigate the cause (http://www2.tnp.sg/content/glass-panel-shatters-mrt-train).

Three years later in 2015, the same incident happened again on another train (http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/glass-side-panel-on-smrt-train-shatters-no-one-injured). SMRT again said it would investigate. Luckily, no one was injured in both incidents and it was not known what SMRT had concluded from its “investigations”.

So, in spite of LTA’s assurance that every train “undergoes a comprehensive regime of static and dynamic testing as well as interface testing”, incidents after incidents continue to happen in these Chinese-made trains.

One can only conclude that perhaps the former Hong Kong’s Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation CEO is right about the poor quality control of the entire manufacturing process of CSR Sifang.

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