SMRT: SORRY WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT CAUSED THE BREAKDOWN

LTA issued a statement yesterday (9 Jul) giving an update of their investigations into the cause of the massive train disruptions on Tuesday evening (7 Jul).

The disruptions affected some 250,000 commuters at all 54 MRT stations on both the North-South Line and East-West Line, with many commuters taking their frustrations online, scolding SMRT – which runs both lines – and Desmond Kuek its CEO (‘Massive disruptions on 2 main MRT lines‘).

LTA said that train services on both lines continue to operate on schedule at “normal headways” yesterday.

It described how LTA and SMRT engineers continued to check for the cause of the disruption:

LTA and SMRT engineers have conducted a second round of system checks last night (8 Jul), including visual checks on all trains.

Insulation testing between the cables and third rail, to ensure that the test components of the power supply equipment are in good working order, was also carried out.

In addition, data loggers monitoring the running rail voltage have also been installed at specific points on the lines, which experienced power trips.

But they couldn’t figure out what caused the breakdown in services.

“Despite carrying out a comprehensive second round of checks, we have yet to definitively identify the root cause of the disruption,” LTA said.

LTA said it will engage independent consultants, specialising in transit power systems, to look into the entire power supply infrastructure and trackside installations.

“The assessment may start as soon as this month once the experts are onboard. In the meantime, LTA and SMRT will continue checks on the system,” it said.

Commuters are advised to check for travel updates before starting their trip, in case of service disruptions again, it added.

SMRT a real SAF old boys’ club?

The $2.3 million-a-year SMRT President and CEO, LG (NS) Desmond Kuek

Meanwhile, netizens are condemning the former Chief of Defence Force, LG (NS) Desmond Kuek, who is now SMRT CEO for turning the beleaguered company into an “SAF old boys’ club”.

Many are of the view that SMRT’s management is stuffed with former army officers who are ill-equipped to run a multi-modal transport company.

Even former director of ISD, Yoong Siew Wah, noted (‘From disaster to disaster at SMRT‘), “He (Desmond Kuek) was an army general whose whole life experience had been in getting the army yes men to be in strict discipline. So what expertise could he have in running a complex SMRT which requires technological knowledge to run smoothly without disruption?”

“To add to his antics he brought in his army cronies to pack the management which could not but have led to the frequent breakdowns,” Mr Yoong added.

TRE looked through past news articles and found that there were indeed mentions of LG (NS) Kuek hiring former SAF officers to help him run SMRT.

In 2012, in one of his first tweaks to his management team, LG (NS) Kuek hired 2 or 3 senior SAF officers to take up key appointments [Link]. Colonel Gerard Koh, who joined as SMRT Director of Human Resources, was the head of national service affairs in SAF. Another senior officer, an SAF logistics specialist, was appointed to the SMRT bus division.

Then in 2013, the head of RSAF’s air-engineering and logistics department, Lee Ling Wee, was appointed Executive Vice-President of Trains [Link]. Mr Lee was said to have 25 years of experience in engineering and maintenance of combat air planes. He now maintains trains and rails. He was the 6th person with a military background to join LG (NS) Kuek. While in RSAF, Mr Lee held the rank of Military Expert 8 – equivalent to a Brigadier-General.

Perhaps LG (NS) Kuek thought that if his ME8 Lee could fix sophisticated F-16 fighter planes, maintaining trains and rails would be a piece of cake for him. That might explain why LG (NS) Kuek hired ME8 Lee to be his EVP of trains.

It’s not known if LG (NS) Kuek intends to bring in more senior SAF officers to assist him, since they can’t determine the root of the massive disruptions on Tuesday.

Perhaps a Rear Admiral from the Navy this time might help?

What do you think?

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