SMRT revealed today that a staff team responsible for maintaining a pump system at the Bishan depot falsified paperwork that work was being carried out, when no maintenance work was conducted for the system for nearly a year.
SMRT found that the team, which was supposed to conduct maintenance works for the pump system every three months, had not done any work since December last year. The transport operator has since suspended the manager and staff members in the maintenance team, pending further investigations.
This revelation was made as SMRT released the preliminary findings of its investigation into a major service breakdown on 7 Oct, when Bishan MRT station was flooded due to a heavy downpour causing services on the North-South Line to be shut down for over 20 hours.
SMRT reportedly discovered the lapse when the probe showed that there were no track access approvals granted for the maintenance of the pumps in December 2016, March 2017 and June 2017 – dates when the crew claimed and recorded that they had conducted maintenance.
Pump records also showed that the pumps were also not activated on the dates that the crew claimed to have done work. According to SMRT, pump activation “would have been required as part of the maintenance procedure had the work been actually done.”
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) added that it was “deeply concerned” by SMRT’s findings. Asserting that it will “independently evaluate SMRT’s investigation findings on the suspected falsification of maintenance records,” it said:
“LTA is carrying out a full investigation into the incident and will make its recommendation on the penalties to the LTA Board in due time.”
LTA stressed that rail operating licence breaches are viewed seriously, including breaches related to the maintenance of the rail operating assets.
SMRT further commented that changes to the management and maintenance team may be made if warranted, adding:
“We are determined to correct these weak links swiftly and decisively and are implementing a series of measures to do so.”
SMRT Corporation chairman Seah Moon Ming further asserted:
“SMRT has zero tolerance for failures in supervision and diligence over maintenance tasks. We do not condone any acts of dishonesty and dereliction of responsibility, whether by management or staff. All who are accountable will be disciplined sternly, regardless of rank and position. Accordingly, the relevant Management chain of command in SMRT must be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) will “ensure that any disciplinary action taken by SMRT against its workers would follow due process, and is fair and appropriate.”
The Union’s executive secretary and Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Melvin Yong said:
“As SMRT takes steps to investigate the incident and implement corrective measures with regard to rail maintenance, NTWU urges SMRT to put training for its workers as one of its top-most priorities.”
As investigations are ongoing, a joint readiness inspection team will also be set up together with the LTA to supplement SMRT’s audit system. The team will report independently to a SMRT Board’s audit and risk committee and to the LTA and SMRT joint board technical committee.
Third-party experts will be roped in to increase quality control monitoring of preventive maintenance activities and conduct a system-wide inspection of critical systems, as well.
Besides this, training is also expected to be conducted to create a higher work responsibility ethic within front line staff groups.