Rail repair, maintenance: SMRT replies

We refer to the letters by Dr Ho Ting Fei (“S’pore must learn from Hong Kong’s rail operator“) and Mr Aaron Ang Chin Guan (“People make all the difference“; both published on Wednesday).

SMRT Group’s rail maintenance-related expenditure accounted for 41 per cent to 45 per cent of its rail revenue over the last four quarters (Oct 1, 2014 to Sept 30, 2015).






In other words, almost half of every dollar we collect for rail revenue goes to rail maintenance-related expenditure. This refers to rail maintenance staff costs, depreciation of rail assets and other rail maintenance-related operating expenses.

To strengthen our repair and maintenance capability, we have also substantially reinforced our engineering workforce.

Over the last three years, SMRT has grown the number of rail maintenance staff by nearly a quarter (23 per cent). For executive rail engineers alone, the numbers have grown by 70 per cent.

By 2018, SMRT aims to have more than 400 engineers (a 127 per cent increase from 2011) and more than 2,600 technicians (a 50 per cent jump from 2011).

This will complement the enlarged train fleet and help keep our rail lines running smoothly.

SMRT is fully committed to strengthening the level of service and rail reliability, and to meeting the network’s higher capacity needs and operational requirements.

Lee Ling Wee
Managing Director SMRT Trains

The Purple Parade and Mural at Marina South Pier

The Purple Parade is a movement which supports the inclusion and celebrates the abilities of persons with special needs. In support of this event, SMRT has a special PURPLE TRAIN that will help spread awareness of this event. Have you spotted this specially decorated KHI train yet?





On the same day, 23 October, at Marina South Pier the “Singapore Tapestry” was unveiled. This 31 metre long, 2.6 metres tall mural was commissioned by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) as a gift to Singapore for SG50. It will be on permanent display at Marina South Pier.

Unveiling the Tapestry

Unveiling the Singapore Tapestry

Did you know that 20 of our very own SMRT staff were also involved in creating this mural?

Willy Lim and Ivan Ching, both Managers, Train Services were part of the project.

Ivan’s piece shows a train travelling upwards amongst flora and fauna with HDB blocks in the background. He explains that this means SMRT is ever progressing but with care for the surroundings. He even points out the elephant that he put in the lower left corner of the tile.

Willy’s tile represents Singapore progress for the past 50 years. He explains, “On the left you can see the kampung house grow into a HDB block. In the middle are a bus and a train, representing the progress in transport. And finally the tree on the right. You can see a tiny man resting underneath it. That shows that we can take a moment to rest and enjoy what we’ve worked hard for.”


Were you also one of the 20 that took part in the tile making activity? Head over to Marina South Pier and spot your tile. You can even share what your tile means with us!



Exercise Greyhound – A test of emergency preparedness

At around 8:30am, 14th October, Station Manager Muhammad Fadzil bin Mahmood at Tiong Bahru Station received a phone call. He listened carefully to the other party and after hanging up, he picked up his signal set and said, “Exercise Greyhound. Due to train fault, service is not available from both Changi Airport and Pasir Ris to Joo Koon. RIMP is activated. Over.”

SMRT Assistant Station Managers setting up exercise signs at Tiong Bahru

SMRT Assistant Station Managers setting up exercise signs at Tiong Bahru

Exercise Greyhound is an annual emergency preparedness test that involves public transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit. The exercise is organised by Land Transport Authority and often presents challenging scenarios that involve both operators – Scenarios that neither operators want to see happen, but must be prepared for.

This time, Greyhound took place at Tiong Bahru, Outram and Buona Vista stations simulating the loss of service on SMRT’s East-West Line and SBST Transit’s North-East Line. Greyhound tests not only each company’s plans for service recovery but also the ability for both companies to work together.

Pulldown signs on bus services at Tiong Bahru MRT Station

Pulldown signs on free bus services at Tiong Bahru MRT Station

“Exercise Greyhound was a good experience as it puts to actual practice our emergency response plans for a major train disruption scenario. This really builds confidence and proficiency for the station staff, myself included, as this is the first time I am acting as an Incident Officer.” Said Service Operations Manager, Llewellyn Chong. Llewellyn takes care of SMRT Station Operations from Dover to Queenstown and shared that exercises are carried out regularly, albeit not all are on the same scale as Exercise Greyhound, “Some commuters are alarmed when they see the yellow signs. After we explain that services are running as normal and that we are just practicing, many say that it’s a good idea.”

Buses are activated as an alternative mode of transport when train services are affected. During disruptions, two types of bus services may be made available. Bus bridging services will mirror the affected train service route and bring commuters from train station to train station. Free bus services may also be activated. This refers free rides on the regular bus services, regardless of operator, that usually call at the designated bus stop.

SMRT bus bridging exercise

SMRT President and Group CEO Desmond Kuek, who was also on site during the exercise was pleased to see the team working well together for the exercise. “Emergency preparedness exercises such as Greyhound allow us to test our contingency plans on a regular basis with a number of agencies. At SMRT, we run similar exercises to test the readiness of operations and maintenance staff. Each staff member at each station, for instance, is tested at least once in three months. We also run exercises to test our more senior management staff, who are in charge of the Emergency Response Team, with challenging scenarios.

Today’s exercise tests SMRT’s contingency plans for service recovery, in the event of a disruption. For example, how quickly Station Staff and the Crisis Support Team members can put up directional signage at the stations and guide commuters to bus stops that support free bus services and the special trunk services.”

Permanent Way- A Rail Challenge

Every night our colleagues at Permanent Way (P-Way) race against time to conduct maintenance on our tracks. They only have about three-and-a-half hours to finish their tasks each night before the trains start running again. Our track experts took time off their busy schedule to give us insights into their job which is essential for safe rail journeys.






Line Maintenance North Zone

Assistant Engineer, Noor Effendi Bin Sahari and Technical Officer, Muhammad Johaini Bin Abdul Aziz are part of the Line Maintenance Team for the North Zone. They help with the maintenance of tracks that run from Kranji to Orchard MRT station. They do both preventive and corrective maintenance works. Some of these works includes high speed ramp replacement, turn-out bearers replacement and third rail insulator cleaning.

Johaini Bin Abdul Aziz

Technical Officer, Muhammad Johaini Bin Abdul Aziz

Noor Effendi Bin Sahari

Assistant Engineer, Noor Effendi Bin Sahari

Emergency Response Unit
Assistant Engineer, Ullas Rajan, and his team are ever-ready to rectify faults on our tracks. If the track needs to be urgently accessed to in the day, he and his team will be deployed to the site. They also perform other duties such as noise monitoring of the track. Armed with their equipment, they station themselves at the walkway to ensure that the noise level meets NEA’s standards.

Ullas Rajan

Assistant Engineer, Ullas Rajan

Maintenance and Engineering

With a torchlight and an iPad the patrolling teams walk on the tracks every night looking for defects. The unit is 17 strong and patrols are conducted in teams of two’s or three’s. It takes them four days to cover the entire network due to the limited track access time. From loose fasteners, broken crossing nose bolt to a loose third rail claw, the teams look out for a myriad of defects. They take photos of the defect and also indicate the area with a marker. If there’s a major defect, they will immediately inform the Night Duty Officer.

Rasan Puviarasan Thatchavamoorthi

Senior Assistant Engineer, Rasan Puviarasan Thatchavamoorthi

Track Renewal
Our track renewal team is responsible for renewing tracks with defects or with extensive wear and tear. On a good night, the team can replace up to three rails. Tracks are replaced for various reasons, including when there are hairline cracks, corrugation, or if the track makes unusual noises.

Chan Pat Yuen

Senior Technical Officer, Chan Pat Yuen

Technical Support
Documents are often brought on site for ease of reference but the original documents are often too big to be read easily. The technical support team redraws these documents to A4 so they can be easily read on track. The technical support team also goes on the track to measure the gauge. They use a track trolley to check the gauge of the track. The trolley has in built sensors and our colleagues push it along the track and it collects information. This information will then be downloaded on to a computer and it presents data on Excel charts.

Steve Koh Yong Seng

Technical Officer, Steve Koh Yong Seng