In the wake of the largest MRT breakdown in Singapore’s history, SMRT’s highest paid CEO Desmond Kuek is still giving excuses for SMRT’s poorest performance to date.

He says that even if SMRT stepped up its maintenance, it would not be able to catch every potential flaw.

“So one solution is to completely renew the system,” he said. Another would be to put in place condition monitoring systems.

Mr Kuek said SMRT was doing all it could to make the network more reliable, but priority had to be given to the third rail, sleepers and signalling system.

“All these are multi-year programmes,” he said. “And all these are being done while new trains are introduced into the system that need to be tested.”

At the same time, SMRT is focusing maintenance efforts on “hot spots” such as the problematic Yew Tee-Kranji stretch.

“All these are conflicting sets of priority in terms of resources, time and manpower,” Mr Kuek noted.

However, some observers have criticized SMRT for not doing enough in its maintenance program. Mr Cedric Foo, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that SMRT should put into place a maintenance regimen rather than rely on sporadic and emergency maintenance checks.

“For example, in aviation, there are very specific checks, namely A, B, C checks… It should become a drill of sorts with strict objective standards to be achieved and regular compliance assurance.”

Mr Foo also pointed out that it was “troubling” that when a relay tripped, it affected the whole network.

“The question on people’s minds is whether the relay can be wired such that the trip is isolated. Whether some ‘redundancy’ can be incorporated?

“Is it possible to fit a diagnostic system so that faults can be identified quickly? There are more questions than answers at this stage, and SMRT needs to do more.”

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