Working at SMRT: More than Just a Day Job

 Principal Engineer, Wayne Chen

– Wayne Chen, Principal Engineer, Permanent Way

After seven years at a statutory board, I made the move to SMRT Trains in 2015 with the hope of contributing more to the rail industry. What attracted me to the company, was the fact that SMRT has many brownfield projects to work on, whereas it was all about introducing new systems where I was at.

I need to be in the depot early every weekday morning to attend our daily Permanent Way morning meetings at 8am. These meetings start early as the night engineering teams from around the country would update the day teams on maintenance done on our tracks and issues encountered during the wee hours before. The rest of the day is spent working with the day teams investigating root causes behind various issues, finding long-term fixes, and working to optimise our maintenance processes. I usually leave the depot in the evening for dinner with the wife and children.

Sometimes, that is not the end of my work day.

Once I’ve tucked my children in at 10pm, I head back to the depot to spend the night with the engineers and technicians working the night shifts. This is not just about working on the maintenance of our tracks to keep it safe and fit for operations. It is also about being there with my team to show them we are in this together. We are #OneSMRT.

The team thinks that I am there to motivate them. In reality, I rely on them for motivation. The passion they possess and the pride they take in their work keep me focused on the goal. Many of my colleagues have clocked 30 years on the job. Their work ethic and the ownership they have over the job is simply quite mind-blowing.

We are determined to provide Singaporeans with better journeys every day. This is not your usual office job. It is definitely worth it when I know my team and I have contributed in ensuring our commuters get to their destinations safely and comfortably.

#LetsPressOn #SMRTogether

Wayne Chen is a principal engineer at SMRT Trains. He performs engineering analysis and trending assessments to improve the reliability of rail track components and equipment for the North-South and East-West Lines.

SMRT CEO: Standing Together As One

Staff Memo by President and Group Chief Executive Officer Mr Desmond Kuek

Dear fellow colleagues,

Much has been said about SMRT – in the news, on social media, at family dinners. Whether or not the remarks are fair and balanced, we take them all in our stride. There is always room to learn and do better. That’s our SMRT spirit; we are always striving for excellence.

We have much work to do. Each day, our trains travel altogether nearly twice around the equator. Most days, they do so without a single delay lasting more than five minutes. On those occasions when operations are disrupted, our service teams put aside whatever they are doing and rush on scene to attend to our commuters. After midnight, when commuters are asleep, we are still working – checking, repairing and ensuring that the trains and tracks are in good order to start service again at the break of dawn.

Thank you for putting in your best effort – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is hard work, often unnoticed, but you do it with passion and purpose. More than three million passengers ride on our trains and buses daily. Many of them are most appreciative of all that we do. They stand behind us.

Singaporeans depend on us daily for a safe, reliable and comfortable journey. We must not let them down. Let’s show everyone that we still stand tall and proud, committed to our cause. We belong to a great company, built over 30 years and serving the vital mission of moving people, enhancing their lives.

We are well on our way to achieving all our goals, especially the one million in mean kilometres between failure (MKBF). When we do, and we will, it will be because of you – each and every one of you.

Together, we stand as one SMRT family. #SMRTogether

Desmond Kuek

SMRT CEO: Resolve to Do what’s Right

Staff Memo by President and Group Chief Executive Officer Mr Desmond Kuek

Dear colleagues,

7 November should have been a celebration of 30 years of MRT operations. Instead, we were awash in collective shame because a few of our staff had let us down. They did not do what they were entrusted to. Their supervisors assumed that nothing would go wrong just because it hadn’t gone wrong before. Possibly they thought no one would notice, or care. Maybe it was always deemed to be someone else’s problem.

Integrity. Ownership. Responsibility. We want these to be seated deep inside each one of us.

Without these, things can go horribly wrong. As it did. We had worked so hard to come this far, but when some of us fail to do what’s right or do the right thing, we have nothing more to say but apologise to the nation. Chairman, CE Trains and I did so on behalf of our SMRT family.

We must take the lessons seriously. We have not lost if we learn. It is not the mistake that defines a person or an organisation, but how we learn from it, rising to be stronger and better. We must, and we will.

Our SMRT journey continues. This will be a crucial new beginning for SMRT if we commit ourselves to a culture of discipline and excellence in providing safe, reliable, commuter-focused public transport services that Singaporeans can be proud of.

Together we have made great progress on many fronts across the company. Let’s resolve to do even better with our work habits, attitudes and behaviour. When you see or sense a wrongdoing, make it your duty to step forward to correct or report it. Encourage open communication with your fellow workers. Every day, we uphold trust and open reporting without fear of reprisal from our superiors. Managers and supervisors must be responsible for the performance of their teams. Every team must be accountable for the actions of each member.

We are only as strong as our weakest link; don’t leave anyone behind. Infuse everyone with the strongest sense of pride and professionalism by showing them that what they do each day matters to our achieving our shared mission.

I know that many of you already do. Thank you for leading by your example. On this 30th anniversary, let us all, each and every one of us, resolve to do what’s right, wherever we are and whatever we are entrusted to do. Take responsibility, walk the talk, own the outcome.

Every one of us counts, and when we each do our part, we will fulfill our vision every day – moving people, enhancing the lives of everyone who journeys with us.

Let’s press on. We will get there.

Desmond Kuek

Radio Giveaways’ Winners

Thank you for taking part in our online quiz last week.

Here are the answers:


  1. Mr Ong Teng Cheong, then-Deputy Prime Minister, was the guest of honour when MRT operations began on 7 Nov 1987.
  2. 188,000 many wooden sleepers were replaced on the North-South and East-West Lines.


We would like to congratulate the following winners:

Lee Lin Hsu

Nur Razak

Nurafian Zulkifli

Ong You Yuan

Tong Yew Fai


We will get in touch shortly. Thank you.

SMRT: Moving Stories

 SMRT: 30 Years

In 2017, SMRT celebrates 30 years of MRT operations.

Delivering a world-class transport service that is safe, reliable and customer-centric is at the heart of what we do.

As Singapore’s iconic train operator, we carry more than two million passengers on our train network daily. Throughout our 30 years of service, we have connected communities and transformed the way people live, work and play.

As we embark on our next leg, your journey matters. We look forward to the boundless opportunities to continue serving you and delivering safe and reliable travel experiences.

Our colleagues work tirelessly round the clock. Here are some of their stories.


“When the government first started recruiting for MRTC, I was young and raring for a challenge, so I went for the interview. They asked me whether I saw myself as a ‘railway man’. At that time, I was just a young engineer and did not understand the full implications of this question. Now, after 30 years in the industry, I can now say that I am.”

Vincent Tan, Senior Vice President, Corporate Services & Rail Operations


“I recall conducting a survey at Toa Payoh where I had to observe the traffic flow of people around the area. This helped to determine where to site the exits for the Toa Payoh MRT station.”

Chua Lee Na, Senior Planning Officer


“I had the honour of being selected to be the train operator of the first train to carry the VIPs and passengers from Toa Payoh to Yio Chu Kang MRT station.”

Hoong Mau Sui, Passenger Train Operator



Win an exclusive SMRT Trains Thumbdrive!

Question: Who was the Guest of Honour when MRT operations began on 7 November 1987?

Email your name and answer to by 24 September 2017.


Five winners will be picked from this week’s online giveaway.
Answers and winners will be published on this blog by 29 September 2017.
All winners will be contacted via email.


SMRT: Working For You

 30Years Anniversary Logo

In 2017, SMRT celebrates 30 years of MRT operations.

Delivering a world-class transport service that is safe, reliable and customer-centric is at the heart of what we do.

As Singapore’s iconic train operator, we carry more than two million passengers on our train network daily. Throughout our 30 years of service, we have connected communities and transformed the way people live, work and play.

As we embark on our next leg, your journey matters. We look forward to the boundless opportunities to continue serving you and delivering safe and reliable travel experiences.


Improving Reliability

Our renewal works on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) will ensure fewer train breakdowns, smoother rides and shorter waits.

Rail Renewal A
Rail Renewal B

Please refer to the Trains Operations Review 2017  for more information.



Win an exclusive SMRT Trains Thumbdrive!

Question: How many wooden sleepers on the NSEWL were replaced?

Email your name and answer to by 24 September 2017.

Five winners will be picked from this week’s online giveaway.
Answers and winners will be published on this blog by 29 September 2017.
All winners will be contacted via email.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

SMRT: 30 Years of Giving


At SMRT, we believe in having a positive impact on the communities we serve. With island-wide operations, we are committed to conducting our business in an economically, socially and environmentally–friendly manner that balances the interests of our stakeholders.

SMRT’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy ensures greater affinity between our CSR programmes and our vision of Moving People, Enhancing Lives. Our CSR objectives are to support sustainable development at SMRT, while giving back to society and building a fair and inclusive community. CSR at SMRT is defined by three fundamental principles relating to philanthropy, volunteerism, advocacy and operational practices.

These principles are encapsulated in our three pillars of:

Enabling mobility

Empowering through arts and education

Encouraging environmental sustainability

In August 2017, SMRT unveiled a $30 million Gift of Mobility Fund to benefit elderly and commuters with disabilities. Efforts include the sponsorship of specially equipped vehicles that can carry wheelchairs, and inclusive playgrounds configured for children with different needs, enabling all to mingle in a play setting that fosters diversity. SMRT will partner the Community Chest to channel the fund towards supporting those in need and enabling the social service sector.

The Gift of Mobility Fund will broaden and deepen SMRT’s collaboration with Community Chest to lend a helping hand to the public with mobility needs. Social service organisations can tap on this fund to explore partnership opportunities to improve mobility and inclusivity in Singapore.

In the last 30 years, SMRT has been actively involved in projects that enhance the lives of Singaporeans through greater mobility within and outside its public transport network. The Gift of Mobility Fund will enable SMRT to make more substantial contributions to mobility causes and extend its reach to an even larger segment of society, in particular the elderly and commuters with disabilities.

SMRT President and Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Desmond Kuek said: “Over the past 30 years, we have grown a strong tradition in SMRT of giving back to the community whom we serve.  Looking ahead, we will take our corporate social responsibility to a whole new level, with focus on inclusiveness and accessibility. Starting this year, we will set up a Gift of Mobility Fund of $30 million in cash and contributions in kind, and working together with our partners and beneficiaries, aim to reach out to better support those in our society with special mobility needs. This is in line with our vision of Moving People, Enhancing Lives.  Being at the fore of commuter service, we are committed to providing safe, reliable and comfortable rides for the more than one billion passenger journeys on our trains, buses and taxis each year.  And we want to also extend that service to include that one more elderly or special-needs person who might need a bit more care and support on their travel journey.”



Win an exclusive SMRT Trains Thumbdrive!

Please list two initiatives under SMRT’s Gift of Mobility programme.

Email your name and answers to by 24 September 2017.


Five winners will be picked from this week’s online giveaway.
Answers and winners will be published on this blog by 29 September 2017.
All winners will be contacted via email.

Bridging the Reliability Expectation Gap

In transit systems from London to Sydney, rail passengers are told to “mind the gap” between the train and the platform.

For Mr Shahrin Abdol Salam, Senior Vice President, Plans and Development, SMRT Trains, the phrase takes on a deeper meaning as his team works on the massive renewal of the 30-year-old North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily-utilised MRT lines.

One of the biggest challenges is the way commuters judge the MRT system. “A commuter only cares about one train – the one that is either at or not at the MRT station at the moment he arrives. He does not care about the trains that have been running since 5am, or the ones that come after he has completed his journey.”

SMRT Trains, like many other rail operators, including Hong Kong MTR and Taipei Metro, uses Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) as a measure of service reliability. In the first half of 2017, MRT trains in Singapore travelled an average of 393,000 train-kilometres before a delay of more than five minutes, about three times better than 2015. The target is 1,000,000 train-kilometres in 2020.

The commuter, however, judges the system by what is happening the moment he’s on the platform, so past – smooth, comfortable and uneventful – journeys are quickly forgotten, he says, adding: “That’s why there will always be that gap.”

It is worth looking at what it takes for that single train to run without incident, Shahrin suggests. It takes interconnected systems of thousands of moving parts not just to work together, but to not break down. A failure in any one of these systems or subsystems can lead to a delay while the situation is rectified. Replacing any one of the systems also means having to ensure that they have to snugly fit into and sync with both the hardware and software of all the other existing systems.

The age and design on the system creates its further limitations – the primary one being the design of the initial system. There is no room for additional parallel tracks. That means, unlike in Tokyo or London, there is no option of shutting down a main line like the NSEWL, and diverting commuter traffic to alternatives.

“The NSEWL, which bears the brunt of most failures and complaints, is the backbone of our rail travel, and we don’t have the option of closing the system down. All our lines feed into it. So this 30-year-old system has to be renewed as it runs, and we continue to work hard and minimise the inconvenience associated with that.” The multi-year, multi-project rail transformation includes new concrete sleepers, a new signalling system, new power rails, refurbishment of midlife trains, progressive addition of 45 new trains and the delivery of 12 new trains by 2018.

Predict, Prevent, Recover

Various contingency plans have also been put in place to allow for quicker recovery from incidents when they do happen. When a hiccup occurs, inspection continues until the fault is identified, Shahrin says. “It is very easy for two- to three-minute faults to evolve into faults that last five minutes or longer. That is why we keep a close eye on every single fault.”

Through the 24-hour SMRT Maintenance Operations Centre located at Bishan Depot, engineering staff from different technical disciplines work together to react to incidents – big and small – faster. Frontliners at stations are also being trained as first responders to incidents.

From electronic displays in stations, real-time in-train information, mobile app SMRTConnect (iOS / Android), a Twitter feed with live updates and a dedicated WhatsApp number (97884398) for fault reporting, a growing list of options allow for effective two-way communication.

“We anticipate that there will be issues, and adapt our processes accordingly. We have trained staff to be more responsive in dealing with delays,” says Shahrin.

But for many of these moving parts, there will continue to be limitations.

“We are dealing with assets that are reaching end-of-life. Replacements are due and must be carried out to provide the safe and reliable journey that our commuters depend on us for,” Shahrin explains. For us, this means listening to our commuters to both identify and bridge those gaps.


Credits: Infographic – SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

Singapore’s First Intergenerational Playground in Nursing Home

SMRT CEO at Intergenerational Playground at St Joseph's Home

A space where children can play and interact with the elderly – Singapore’s very first intergenerational playground in a nursing home was unveiled at St Joseph’s Home yesterday (28 Aug 2017). The $100,000 sum is the first donation from SMRT’s Gift of Mobility Fund announced two weeks ago. The government will match the sum dollar for dollar to help St Joseph’s Home support other mobility-related needs as the home expands to its full capacity of over 400 residents.

Child at Intergenerational Playground

The playground will provide a common space for the home’s residents and children to interact and play together, improving their overall wellbeing.Its unique features include a see-saw with a ramp, and a merry-go-round that has wheel-locks for wheelchairs and custom-built seats for toddlers.

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek, Senior Minister of State Amy Khor

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources & Ministry of Health, Dr Amy Khor, President and Group CEO, SMRT Corporation, Desmond Kuek, joined staff and residents for the official launch of the playground.

SMRT CEO engaging elderly from St Joseph's Home

Speaking at the event, Mr Kuek said SMRT was encouraged by the success of the first two SMRT-sponsored playgrounds located at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Ghim Moh.

“So when we heard about the intergenerational playground at St. Joseph’s Home, we jumped at the opportunity to help along in this very meaningful project to better connect our community,” he said.

Top shot of brand new St Joseph's Home

Gift of Mobility Fund

“It is most timely, as we are starting a Gift of Mobility Fund to commemorate our 30th anniversary, and have pledged $30 million in cash and contributions in kind over the coming years to aid those with mobility needs in our community,” he added.

In line with SMRT’s vision of ‘Moving People, Enhancing Lives’, the Gift of Mobility Fund will help those in need keep on the move and extends our commitment to providing safe reliable and comfortable rides to those who need more care and support on their travel journey.

Trains Operations Review: Giving at SMRT

SMRT's Inclusive Playground

At SMRT, we believe in Moving People, Enhancing Lives. We believe in giving back to society and fostering a fair and inclusive community.

Three pillars – Enabling Mobility, Empowering through Arts & the Education, and Encouraging Environmental Sustainability – form the foundation of our Corporate Social Reasonability efforts.

SMRT's CSR Efforts Graphic

“I am very happy that I can go for the Home Nursing Foundation (HNF) outing in the mini bus! It is not easy for patients like me to go out because it is very inconvenient. The mini bus is also very spacious and comfortable. Thank you SMRT!”

– Lim Ah Moi, HNF beneficiary

Close to 70% of the patients HNF serves have mobility issues or are bed-bound. For patients in wheelchairs, such as 59-year-old Lim Ah Moi, the custom-fitted passenger mini bus sponsored by SMRT offers the gift of mobility so they can attend social and recreational events.

Previously reluctant to leave her house, Ah Moi readily agreed to join in a Lunar New
Year luncheon for beneficiaries upon hearing about the sponsored mini bus.

Pathlight School Student contributing artwork to SMRT's Train Stations

“I enjoy looking at every detail on trains and buses, and learn more about the different models. I even construct my own transport system with Lego bricks at home. I love train and bus hopping with my parents on weekends. Travelling on public transport makes me happy. When I grow up, I hope to work in SMRT.”
– Trusten Ng, Pathlight School Student

Trusten was one of the students from Pathlight School who contributed his artwork. Trusten’s art piece was displayed at Bishan MRT station, along with 18 other paintings by his fellow schoolmates.

Get more details on our CSR efforts in the SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.

Graphics: SMRT Trains Ltd. Operations Review 2017.