Cost me a prata supper plus teh tarik to get the details from an insider in Govt and it is shocking.
By now you would have heard about expose by a HK New Agency that did groundwork in China and Singapore including tracking of defective trains from Bishan Depot to Jurong Port after midnight.
Here are details.
1. Infrastructure and rolling stock belongs to LTA and not SMRT or the other subway operators. LTA placed the contract in 2009 for 22 trains and a further 13 trains in 2011 to the second highest bidder. This consortium was led by Kawasaki who have supplying trains cars to MRT since 1986. The 2009 and 2011 contracts was the first to include a Chinese partner who will do the main build.
2. The first trains from the Chinese builder went on line in May 2011 with the last of the first 22 to be operational by 2012. The remaining 13 would come online in 2013. However issues kept popping up from day 1 when the first trains arrived in May 2011. Within 3 months significant defects including cracked undercarriage, body and the actual integrity of the whole construction was being questioned. This is when the first cover-up began in earnest because the PM apologised to the nation in May 2011 during GE2011 and more bad news was not going to help matters.
3. The shattered windows and exploding batteries were all minor and a smoke screen. SMRT and Temasek refused to be held responsible for the defects and it fell on LTA and Ministry of Transport to resolve it.
4. LTA then came up with their disingenuous plan B to cover up the mess which involved every single one of the trains and no just the 26. They would order more new trains much earlier the usual and do a switch over when the new replacement trains came on line. To give a semblance of normalcy they again awarded contracts to the same consortium but in this case, the main build be done by Kawasaki and the Chinese company do only assembly work.
5. Plan B also involved Kawasaki to do monthly checks on these trains and do onsite rectification ( read as temporary repairs until return of the entire train). This charade began in late 2011 and continued till they were returned which is in 2016. Imagine your Toyota car being inspected every month by Borneo motors to ensure safety. Unheard of? But necessary as they were not sure if it will fall apart or be unsafe. Yes, you heard it right, the manufacturer checking every one of the 35 trains ever month in Singapore for the last few years.
6. So in 2012, LTA accelerated new replacement train procurement programme to do the coverup.
7. Here is the interesting and rather explosive bid – the trains that are returned are to completely stripped and disassembled, parts cannibalised for new body work and bogie (undercarriage) to be assembled. The Chinese company will no longer be in manufacturing but will only assemble parts provided by Kawasaki. Kawasaki will build the body and the bogie plus all the main components. So the entire Contract 151A build has been screwed up – not fit for purpose.
8. Here is the second explosive bit – SMRT Head of Trains Lee Ling Wee without coordinating with LTA yesterday revealed that these returned trains will fixed and sent back to Singapore in 2023. 7 years later!!! LTA’s news release yesterday did not reveal this. Here is the short answer. Remember the accelerated programme in 2012 that was part of the cover-up and with further orders since then to meet demand. Well apparently we no longer need these trains as they will be surplus to stock and will be rusting in the yard if they are returned immediately.
9. The person who told me this even said that Mindef procurement who have their own share of mishaps in purchasing equipment such as ships, tanks, planes etc did not screw as badly as this and did organise coverup of this nature that ran for 5 years in such an organised manner.
10. More striking is the involvement of Japanese company who together with LTA kept this entirely secret for 5 years from Singaporeans. The leak interestingly came from the executives from the Chinese company who apparently never had trains returned from another country and treated the event with great novelty.
Here are the main concerns.
1. Can we trust this Government when they go to this extent to do a cover up.
2. Did Kawasaki pad the numbers in subsequent contacts to cover the cost of rebuilding the trains in contract 151A. Most commercial entities will logically do that when they know they are called to be involved in the coverup.
3. Why were subsequent contracts awarded to the same consortium and thereby directly rewarding them for sub-standard products. I buy a car which turns out to be a lemon and I then buy a second car from the same dealer who gives me a 10% discount. So I have 2 cars when I only need one and I paid for both of them minus the 10% discount for the second. Does this make sense?
4. When you have structural cracks both in the body and the bogie, how can LTA claim that safety is not issue. It is so bad and the integrity of the train build is such an issue that they will be completely stripped and disassembled and both the body and bogie will be manufactured from scratch. Does LTA statement makes sense.
4. Should it not be time that the Auditor General steps in to carry out an thorough investigation on this entire debacle. Should this not be the subject of an independent board of inquiry.