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“Someone must have been sleeping on the job” – Expert who helped convince LKY to build MRT network says signalling system was to be upgraded in 2002




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Transportation expert Bruno Wildermuth has revealed in a recent interview with The Straits Times that the MRT signalling system was due to be replaced after 15 years. Apparently, the system was supposed to have completed upgrading by 2002 but will now only finish upgrading this year – 16 years too late.

The Straits Times journalist, Irene Tham, wrote in an article published over the weekend:

“He was also critical of the frequent train service disruptions in recent years due to signalling faults.
“”When we were designing the MRT system. we stated that the signalling systems were meant to be replaced after 15 years,” he said.
“But the upgrading of the signalling system, initially slated to be completed by 2002, only got off the ground in 2016 and will now be completed by the middle of this year (2018). “Someone must have been sleeping on the job,” he said.”

Wildermuth, a Swiss National and Singapore Permanent Resident who has been here since the early 1970s, has been credited as an integral figure who convinced the authorities to build the MRT network in Singapore.

As the government was exploring the feasibility of an MRT system, Wildermuth landed in Singapore in 1972 and pushed the government to adopt the unconventional system.

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Amid intense opposition from politicians like then-Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee and then-Trade and Industry Minister Tony Tan, the transport planner advocated that the government build the island-wide public transportation system – with the support of then-Minister for Communications Ong Teng Cheong who went on to become the nation’s first popular elected President.


Wildermuth teamed up with Ong – an architect by trade who had been studying the viability of an MRT network since 1967 – and fought against the all-bus transit system that was proposed by high-fliers of the government at the time.

In what was perhaps a turning point in convincing the Government to go ahead with the MRT system, Wildermuth participated in a televised debate about the public transport system, as Ong’s representative. He was pitted against Goh Keng Swee’s Harvard professors in the debate that was presided over by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In 1982 the government decided to go ahead with the MRT network. Two years later, Wildermuth took a position with the MRT Corporation and helped build 67 kilometers of the train line – ahead of schedule and under budget.


In 1988, Wildermuth was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) for his contributions to the country’s public transport system. A year later, the expert joined TransitLink where he set up the world’s first integrated ticketing system in Singapore, which led to the creation of the stored-value transport card.

Last year, the National Integration Council – recognised Wildermuth’s contributions through an animated video:

This is not the first time Wildermuth has spoken up about the recent state of Singapore’s public transport system. In the wake of the the massive train service breakdown in 2015, Wildermuth called on the authorities to initiate an independent assessment of the state of the rail network.

Wildermuth has also criticised other local systems, such as service fees that are levied for card payments as factors that hinder Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiatives. In the same Straits Times interview, that has been trending online, he said, “Someone must have the political will to solve this problem once and for all.”



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