Trasnport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and SMRT’s top brass – SMRT CEO Desmond Quek and SMRT Corporation and SMRT Trains chairman Seah Moon Ming – finally addressed the tunnel flooding incident that caused a massive North-South Line (NSL) breakdown two weeks ago.
In the country’s first train disruption due to flooding, six stations were shut down – affecting a quarter of a million commuters.
The Minister, Quek and Seah apologised to the public in a press conference yesterday evening.
Khaw blamed the flooding on poor maintenance, explaining that the “anti-flooding system there was poorly maintained” and caused rainwater to accumulate.
The Minister, however, asserted that the flood system is sound:
“The Bishan flooding system was designed for one in a hundred years. So our study, which is still ongoing, is ‘Are you sure that is adequate?’ But for the incident that happened on October 7, it is much more than adequate, nothing to do with these extremes of weathers – it is just poor maintenance.”
Khaw also revealed that LTA and SMRT were due to replace the pumps on the system on 29 Sept but delayed making the changes for more than a week, when the flooding hit on 7 Oct.
“So we are late by a few days. Had they proceeded to replace (the pumps) this thing might not even have happened. But I suppose that is life.”
Adding that the “sad and unnecessary” incident has “pushed back the recovery of public confidence” in the MRT system, he apologised:
“We are all sorry it did… Whatever follow-up action which needs to be done, has already started. Nothing has been covered up.”
Desmond Quek, on the other hand, appeared to blame “deep-seated cultural issues” within SMRT for the service disruptions and noted:
“There has been criticism about SMRT’s work culture. Indeed, many of our major disruptions in the past have been attributed, in some part or all, to human error or failure. We regret that this is so.
“Much progress has been made with the inculcation of a positive work culture in the workforce. But there remain some deep-seated cultural issues within the company that has needed more time than anticipated to root out.”
The CEO who has helmed SMRT for the past five years, and took a $500,000 pay cut last year as SMRT service disruptions grew, added:
“We are determined to get there and encouraged by the progress already made. But for the times that we have not been able to catch the falling balls in time, we are sorry for the inconvenience it has caused you and resolve to learn the lessons and do better. Over the past five years, we have made tremendous progress but also some mistakes.
“Regardless whether our issues are viewed by others as inherited, structural or cultural – we make no excuses. I take full responsibility for all that has happened under my watch as the overall Group Chief Executive.”
Seah Moon Ming bowed and apologised to commuters as well:
“SMRT has failed to prevent this incident from happening. SMRT takes full responsibility for this incident.”
Netizens, however, remain unfazed.
Instead of being assuaged, several netizens ripped apart Khaw, Quek and Seah’s apologies: