SMRT Staff Commended at Singapore Tourism Awards

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

Senior Station Manager Katijah Bte Sarbu won the Best Customer Service for Transport award at the Singapore Tourism Awards 2017. This was SMRT Corporation’s fourth consecutive win in the category.

Katijah receiving the award from Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) (centre) and Mr Lionel Yeo, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (left).

Katijah has been with SMRT Trains for 32 years. “I love to interact with people. This job allows me to meet people from all walks of life. Through conversations with my passengers, I get to learn something more about them. After some time, it feels like I am meeting up with old friends. We even talk about where to find good food and how each other’s family is doing.” Now stationed at Paya Lebar, she is responsible for the station’s daily operations. She shared that she always tells herself to perform her job to the best of her ability. “As long as my passengers are happy, I am happy.”

She said she is motivated by people featured in the media who had either won service-related awards or had their extraordinary acts published. “These stories help me to identify the different approach that may help me in assisting my passengers in a different way.” When asked to share advice with new joiners, she said it was important to be calm and empathetic. “Always listen attentively to passengers, in order to come up with the right solution to help them. Be objective instead of being too emotional as this will affect decision making. Be open-minded and do not be afraid of challenges.”

Katijah added that she went through a difficult period when her son passed away due to an illness last year. “I hope that this award will motivate and inspire my two other children. No matter how difficult the situation is, nothing is impossible if we put our hearts into it.”

Bus Captain Chia Boon Siong was a finalist in the same category. Having been in the industry for four years, he believes that it is important to treat his passengers with patience and care. He pays special attention to senior citizens, and ensures they board and alight safely, and that elderly commuters are seated before the bus moves off. He once helped an elderly man and wheelchair-bound wife board the bus on a rainy day. Although he was thoroughly drenched in the process, he still continued his work in a most cheerful manner.

A familiar figure to passengers who take Service 858, Boon Siong says that he enjoys helping others, “I always want to bring a smile to every person who journeys with me. Though it seems like a small thing, it makes me very happy.” He has taken the initiative to learn the names and general information of key landmarks along the route so that he can respond effectively to commuter queries.

Organised by the Singapore Tourism Board, the Singapore Tourism Awards celebrates and recognises individuals and organisations in the tourism sector for delivering outstanding experiences and demonstrating enterprise excellence.

Thank you!

Thank you Minister Khaw Boon Wan for your kind words of encouragement and appreciation to all public transport staff.

International Customer Service Survey on SMRT Train and Bus Services

SMRT’s train and bus services are part of an international customer service survey, now on from 24 April 2017 till 21 May 2017.

The online polls for the 2017 Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) are led by the CoMET and Nova, and the International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG) for train and bus services respectively. These surveys, which allow commuters to rate transport operators on their levels of service, provide data that show areas in which train and bus services serve commuters well and flag out areas for improvement.

These two surveys will help us better understand your satisfaction levels towards our train and bus services.

Click here to participate in IBBG CSS.

Click here to participate in to participate in CoMET Nova CSS.

Both surveys are managed by Railway and Transport Strategy Imperial College of London (RTSC).

Once the surveys are completed, RTSC will compile the data, provide them to participating metros, and present them at the CoMET and Nova meetings in the second half of 2017.

The CoMET Benchmarking Group has 17 members made up of some of the largest metros while the Nova Benchmarking Group currently has 16 members consisting of mostly medium sized or newer metros. CoMET and Nova provides a confidential forum for metros to share experiences, compare performances, and identify best practices and learn from each other.

The IBBG is a comprehensive programme benchmarking urban bus operations. The consortium is currently made up of 15 medium and large sized bus organisations in the world.

The surveys go live from Monday 24 April through Sunday 21 May 2017. Your information and responses will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.

We thank you for sharing feedback via these surveys.

SMRT Rail Report 2017

Mr Desmond Kuek, President and Group CEO, SMRT Corporation
Mr Lee Ling Wee, Managing Director, SMRT Trains

Our multi-year, multi-project efforts to improve the journey for train commuters by enhancing rail operations, maintenance and engineering are seeing steady results. This is thanks to close and constant collaboration and cooperation with our counterparts from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Transport Ministry. Our joint efforts in renewing the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) – Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily-used MRT lines – alongside the push to raise reliability on the Circle Line (CCL) and Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) are well on track.

About this time each year, we typically meet with media and analysts to report on our full-year financial performance. Following our delisting from the Singapore Exchange last October, we are no longer obliged to share on financials, but will nevertheless do so for our Trains business when our accounts have been audited. More importantly, we intend to proactively share on operational developments and report on the progress made in rail reliability and service-related journey matters. This is to keep our commuters informed on our overall progress with ongoing rail reliability efforts, update on work done in the past year and what to expect in the coming year.

Further Progress in Rail Reliability Improvements

Our investigations have shown that the rail disruptions lasting more than 30 minutes that have inconvenienced commuters on the NSEWL are chiefly due to parts of the rail network that are awaiting replacement such as track circuits and ageing train parts such as propulsion, brakes and signalling equipment. Parts of the rail network that have been renewed are performing well. We are optimistic that in time to come, the rail transformation will give Singapore a renewed and much-improved MRT system.

Using the 12 month average of Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) for incidents lasting more than 5 minutes as an indicator for reliability, as at 31 March 2017, the NSL and CCL have seen major improvements and are now at 180,000km and 282,000km respectively while the EWL has held steady at 145,000km. Compared with 5 years ago, this is a 3-fold improvement in rail reliability for our oldest lines, and almost five times for the CCL. This is the number of kilometres that we clock before incurring a single incident of service delay lasting more than 5 min. Naturally, the longer the interval, the better.

Measured another way, what is also noteworthy is that the NSL achieved 200 days without a major incident on 18 March 2017. Meanwhile the CCL crossed 150 days without a major incident on 1 April 2017. For the EWL, unfortunately we incurred a service delay caused by additional time needed to complete the replacement of a switch rail during engineering hours between Joo Koon and Pioneer MRT Stations on 12 February 2017 when we were on our 194th day, and so we start the count again from zero. We are placing significant emphasis on managing down the number of such major incidents lasting more than 30 minutes because these are the ones that cause great passenger inconvenience when they occur.

While these results are encouraging, we have still some way to go to be best in class in the world. There are a handful of other operators in the world belonging to this class, and we are determined to make the journey for commuters even better as we aspire to join the best in class. So this year, we aim to make an even higher stepped improvement, and do better than 300,000 km. By next year, we target to reach 400,000 km – in line with the stretched goals that the Transport Ministry has set, to be among the best in class in the world.

Our effort to reach and sustain 300,000 MKBF is underpinned by five focus areas. These are: Structure, Asset, People, Process and Technology. We have revamped and strengthened the Trains organisation Structure with planning and resource management functions closely integrated with rail operations, maintenance and engineering capabilities. The multi-year, multi-project rail transformation effort will see our Assets renewed or upgraded, while improvements in People management will bring out the best in our engineering and maintenance staff who will be augmented by improved Processes and more extensive use of Technology to keep our rail network in good working order. These focus areas will sustain better reliability, availability and safety for our MRT network.

Our push towards a reliability-centric maintenance approach will benefit commuters as engineering staff can intervene proactively to fix faults before they occur. At the heart of this effort is the increased use of condition monitoring devices and data analytics. This will allow our engineering staff to focus on preventive and predictive maintenance to detect, identify and fix emerging rail problems. When fully implemented, we expect to drive down the need for corrective maintenance.

Renewal Works Are On Track and Will Improve System Resilience

Our assets have mostly reached end-of-life, and others are in need of a midlife upgrade. This is not unexpected as this year we are marking our 30th year of MRT operations. Renewal works to upgrade and expand the network are timely and commenced a few years ago. We thank our commuters for their patience and understanding, knowing that we only have a limited number of hours each night for engineering works and need to stabilise the system in time for commuter service to run again at dawn the next day. When all our systems have been renewed, and with a comprehensive preventive and predictive maintenance regime in place, we can look forward to higher system resilience, and even better train reliability and availability. As at 31 March 2017, our train service availability rate stands at 99.89% for the NSEWL, and 100.00% for the CCL.

In December 2016, we completed the change-out of all 188,000 wooden sleepers on the NS and EW lines. Speed restrictions have been lifted, and the ride is now faster and more comfortable. Track works on several other components such as the power rail are due for completion next month (May 2017) while the track signalling system on the East-West Line will be completed next year. The renewal of the power supply infrastructure for selected traction power substations is on schedule for completion in the next five years. To improve capacity, we have made good progress with the testing of a new signalling system (a Communication-based Train Control or CBTC system) that can shorten the wait time from 120 seconds to 100 seconds, thereby improving peak-hour capacity by up to 20% with the addition of more trains to each line.

Investments in Human Capital

We now have 5,200 staff in Trains and had grown 6% from April 2016 to March 2017. We now have more than 400 engineers, almost double the number we had three years ago.

We have ramped up professional rail specific training for our engineers to better manage the new and complex systems. To complement the training and development curriculum that SMRT Institute offers, SMRT continuously seeks partnerships with top academic institutions to train and develop a sustainable pipeline of rail engineers for the future.

SMRT announced a collaborative effort with the University of Birmingham to offer the UoB -SMRT post-graduate certificate, the first of its kind in Asia, and has trained close to 200 of our engineers in its two runs last year.

Working for You in 2017

The Thomson-East Coast Line is open for tender and we have made a competitive bid with a focus on quality, reliability and customer service to operate the line when it is open from 2019.

This year, the NSEWL will see a significant expansion with the opening of the 7.5km Tuas West Extension. We have already taken over the Tuas Depot and the four new stations from LTA, and have been working hard together with LTA to get the depot and stations ready to serve commuters in that area soon.

We are keeping up with efforts on the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (BPLRT), and note that it has achieved 40,000 MKBF as at 31 March 2017. We are happy to hear that LTA is looking into the upgrading and renewal of assets for the BPLRT, and we look forward to working with them to improve LRT services for the residents in Bukit Panjang.

SMRT is also carrying out upgrade works to station facilities concurrent with ongoing rail renewal efforts, starting with a project to renew escalators across the NSEWL from now till 2021.

Concluding Remarks

Last year we transited SMRT Trains to a new rail financing framework, and completed the privatisation of SMRT Corporation under Temasek. We have sharpened the focus on rail service and maintenance, without the burden of lumpy capital expenditures and short term earnings pressures.

As we celebrate 30 years of MRT operations this year, we will continue our close partnership with LTA as we renew our commitment to rail excellence, and broaden our urban mobility portfolio to serve the end- to-end journey needs of all our commuters.

All-of-SMRT Approach to keeping MRT Train Services Moving

In SMRT, all staff have a part to play in keeping train services moving.

During a train disruption, more than 700 staff from SMRT corporate departments such as finance, human resources, information technology and corporate communications are recalled to serve in customer service teams. Given one hour to report to their designated MRT stations – before or after office hours on weekdays, or on weekends – these corporate staff augment front-line staff at MRT stations to provide service information and directions to commuters, and perform crowd control duties. In addition, staff from SMRT Buses are recalled to support the Trains team by providing shuttle buses and additional engineering staff are mobilized to return train services to normal operations as quickly as possible.

SMRT managers and staff, not just those on the front line, also perform customer service duties during periods when large numbers of commuters are expected to use the network to attend events. All new staff joining SMRT are also familiarised with different aspects of commuter operations before taking up other assignments in the company.

This all-of-SMRT approach ensures SMRT staff at all levels are not ‘insulated’ from feedback or sentiments expressed by the public.

In addition, SMRT managers do walk the ground to inform and update commuters on upcoming activities on the rail renewal front. This outreach has involved the distribution of information material explaining situations involving early closure or late opening of MRT stations to provide more time for engineering staff to work on rail renewal or maintenance projects. In doing so, the face-to-face contact with commuters provides management with a first hand feel of who they serve, and of public expectations of MRT operations.

Executives and managers who served with the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) are deployed for customer service roles for major events that may see a surge in commuters taking NSEWL trains. As an added safeguard to crowd control, the NSEWL team also activates its Emergency Response Command Post in anticipation of any need to respond to contingencies during major events.

Over at the Circle Line (CCL), executives are deployed for crowd control duties in CCL stations during major events along the network. These include the National Day Parade (and rehearsals), New Year’s Eve events and the Formula One night race around Marina Bay and sporting and entertainment events at the Sports Hub. Front-line service is personally led by the Vice President and the CCL senior management.

I personally led a team of executives to distribute pamphlets that explained the need for early closure of MRT stations to provide additional hours for our renewal projects. More recently, I had led about a hundred executives to explain to commuters how the re-signalling project would eventually improve their travel experience.

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify that the driving of trains is a specialised skill set. Train Captains on the NSEWL undergo training for a period of six months before they are allowed to drive trains with passengers for the first time and under close supervision. The safety of our commuters is paramount and the driving of trains is therefore entrusted only to full-time Train Captains. Even for the driverless lines, station staff and rovers who can drive the trains when needed require special training. Moreover, all CCL engineers are trained to drive CCL trains.

Automated Vehicles in Dubai

In June 2016, SMRT International acquired a 20% stake in 2 Getthere Holding B.V. (2getthere), a Netherlands-based company that designs and makes a family of automated vehicles. Having worked with 2getthere since 2010, SMRT looked forward to further expand operations into international markets through the provision of consultancy services and operational expertise with transportation networks.

2getthere announced this month that it has been awarded the contract to deliver a new automated vehicle system in Dubai that will link new waterfront lifestyle destination Bluewaters with the city’s network of metro stations. The innovative system will carry 5,000 people per hour per direction. It will be the largest automated vehicle connection of its kind, and is considered an example of the future of autonomous transport solutions.

Bluewaters is positioned to be a prime attraction, housing Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest and largest observation wheel, alongside residential, retail and dining facilities. Dubai aims to have 25% of all trips to and fro Bluewaters completed by automated systems by 2035.

2getthere’s 3rd generation Group Rapid Transit vehicle will be deployed to link Bluewaters with the city’s existing rail network. The driverless vehicles will operate with a series of magnets embedded into the road network. A magnetic reader will measure the position of its vehicle every 50 milliseconds and adjust its position accordingly. (Read more)

SMRT Rail Renewal Milestone: 188,000 Sleepers Replaced

To enhance rail reliability and to provide better journeys for millions of commuters who travel with SMRT every day, we embarked on the biggest rail transformation programme since rail operations began in Singapore in 1987. The sleeper replacement project on the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) began in 2013, where 188,000 ageing timber sleepers were to be replaced with concrete sleepers.

A joint team comprising SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was formed in June 2012 to look into reducing disruptions and increasing the reliability of the NSEWL. Other rail transformation projects, including re-signalling and third rail replacement programmes were carried out concurrently.

The Works

All rail renewal and maintenance works are carried out between 1.30 AM and 4.30 AM, after the last trains arrived at the depots, and before the first trains depart the depots for the start of service. Actual work hours are much more limited because of the time needed to transport machinery to the work site.

Starting with four road-rail vehicles (RRV) in 2013, before increasing the fleet to 14 in early 2016, these vehicles were used to mechanise the replacement of sleepers, a process which was initially done manually. The use of RRVs helped to accelerate the sleeper replacement schedule. In addition, fixed gantry cranes were brought in in early 2016. They were located at two ends of the EWL – at Pasir Ris overrun, and between Chinese Garden and Lakeside stations.

The gantry cranes, which were 20 metres in height and weighed 74 tonnes, were used to hoist the RRVs and concrete sleepers from the ground on to the tracks. They allowed the RRVs to deploy more quickly to the work front and thus allowing more sleepers to be replaced each night. Six Temporary Staging Areas (TSAs) were located at Kallang, Redhill, Chinese Garden, Pasir Ris, Changi, and Ulu Pandan to act as holding bays for RRVs and other heavy machinery.

Roger Lim, Project Director, Track and Infrastructure; and concurrently Vice President, Circle Line and Bukit Panjang LRT Projects, said “As we take apart parts of the track each night, we need to be very judicious on safety and quality checks when we put back everything within the three-hour engineering window. We have to make sure all systems are in order and ready for service each morning.

We had to look into the inter-operability within and across other work teams. Managing close to 1,000 personnel with 14 RRVs, two tamping machines and numerous mechanical handling equipment, the project team members must be cognisant of the various activities in the five work fronts. We had centralised planning to optimise the resources, while allowing decentralised execution for localised care and safety measures at the respective workfronts. Steely perseverance and steady pace helped us to work productively yet safely on the viaducts every night.”

Thank You for Your Understanding

In the last three years, measures such as speed restrictions and shorter operating hours were imposed. With the use of heavy machinery, moving of extremely heavy equipment and materials, and works such as welding and tamping, it was inevitable that noise would be generated. Our teams took all necessary steps to minimise noise and light pollution in the early hours of the morning- including using monitoring devices and barriers to keep noise levels to a minimum, and keeping night lights pointed away from residential homes.

20 December 2016

There was an unmistakeable sense of excitement and pride at Clementi MRT Station at 1AM. Representatives from SMRT, LTA and our contractors were in high spirits as the RRV appeared in sight for the final time. They watched the last wooden sleeper on the westbound track was removed. The final concrete sleeper was laid on 20 December 2016 – a full three years ahead of its original target of 2019.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan officiated the completion of the sleeper replacement programme on 20 January 2017. Accompanied by President and Group CEO Desmond Kuek, the minister signed a commemorative plaque to be installed at Clementi MRT Station, where the last batch of wooden sleepers were replaced.

Better Journeys

The sleeper replacement programme is the first of many milestones to come. As speed restrictions are lifted, our commuters can enjoy safer, smoother and faster rides on our network. We also look forward to the completion of our re-signalling and third rail replacement projects which will improve the journey experience for all commuters.

SMRT Campaign featured in Europe

Many of our commuters would remember that we launched the ‘We’re Working On It’ campaign two years ago. Conceptualised in 2015, the campaign sought to inform the public of our rail transformation efforts. We featured our colleagues who were working tirelessly round the clock to provide better and more comfortable rides for our commuters.

Two years later, many inside and outside the organisation remember the slogan, and agree that it was a memorable campaign – one that went on to bag local and international awards. The campaign was recently highlighted in a publication by Union Internationale des Transports Publics (UITP), or the International Association of Public Transport. UITP is a non-profit international association, recognised for its work in advancing the development of sustainable mobility. It is the only worldwide network to bring together the whole public transport sector and all sustainable transport modes.

In a publication released this month, UITP sought to raise awareness and acknowledge the link between the attractiveness of public transport companies as mobility service providers for customers and the attractiveness of public transport companies as employers of choice for existing staff and potential candidates. It said that companies like SMRT had to pay close attention to its own branding, as well as the general perception of the industry, in order to attract the best talent.

While this was initially a commuter-targeted initiative, it noted that SMRT obtained improved recruitment results, as well as improved customer satisfaction. It was also observed that complaint rate dropped significantly despite more intensive track renewal work being carried out. The article highlighting the “We’re Working on It” campaign was subsequently carried in The Guardian, a newspaper in the United Kingdom.

“Employees can also be public transport’s finest champions as well as providing fuel for its greatest critics. A campaign by Singaporean operator SMRT shows how employees can be great brand ambassadors. The ‘We’re Working on It’campaign humanises SMRT by using employees to front its advertising, presenting staff as part of the community, so commuters can relate to them as a mother, father, brother or sister. It also expressed SMRT management’s recognition of employees’ hard work.”

SMRT partners NTU and JTC in Transport Research

Newer, and better urban solutions for the future, and integrating multiple modes of transportation for better connectivity and accessibility- that is what SMRT Corporation, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and JTC Corporation are hoping to achieve.

The three organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 13 February 2017 to form a new ‘Mobility-as-a-Service Lab’. It leverages the strengths of each partner – SMRT’s experience as a multi-modal transport operator, NTU Singapore’s capabilities in research and development, and JTC’s expertise in master planning and infrastructure development.

The ‘Mobility-as-a-Service Lab’ – a first in the region – aims to improve commuter travel experience by seamlessly integrating train and bus networks with next-generation transport modes. These include options which some members of the public are already familiar with –electric automated vehicles, bike sharing systems and personal mobility devices such as e-scooters. Commuters will be able to use multiple transport modes and travel to further locations conveniently, without relying on personal cars.

The trials will be carried out in NTU Singapore’s lush campus and CleanTech Park in Jurong Innovation District- a combined area of 250 hectares. There are plans to expand the initiative to Tengah, Behar and Bulim eventually. Users can test new technologies, and integrate multiple transportation options.

NTU Provost Professor Freddy Boey said that NTU has deep expertise in engineering and low-carbon transportation solutions, and is confident that the partnership will develop innovative transportation solutions, leading to a car-lite Singapore.

JTC Chief Executive Officer Png Cheong Boon said that these efforts will not only improve last mile connectivity in Jurong Innovation District, but also transform commuter experience.

SMRT President and Group Chief Executive Officer Desmond Kuek noted that the urban mobility landscape is changing rapidly. “We aim to facilitate more efficient and seamless commuter journeys through the integration of mass transport modes such as trains and buses with new personal mobility options. With the development of better tools for demand aggregation, SMRT looks forward to working with our partners at NTU and JTC for more synergistic planning, operations and management of their entire transport systems to fulfil their community’s needs.”

Press release on the launch of the SMRT, NTU and JTC Mobility-as-a-Service Lab here.

Re-signalling Project will significantly improve reliability

There were two disruptions on the East-West Line due to faulty track circuits in recent weeks. Commuters have asked if this is in any way related to the sleeper replacement project and what was the cause of it and what are we doing to rectify it?

The track circuit faults are unrelated to the sleeper replacement project completed recently for the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). The track circuit system is part of the signalling system, and is not part of the sleeper infrastructure that supports the running rails which trains travel on.

Such track circuits are used to send signals to the operations control centre to monitor the speed, location and identity of trains passing the respective track signals. Track circuits are integral to the signalling system that is also ageing.

Rectifying track circuit faults

When a track circuit fails, trains have to travel at a lower speed over the affected stretch for safety reasons. During peak hours, the need to slow down trains causes congestion along the train line because trains must slow down as they cross the faulty track circuit and cannot bypass the stretch of track. MRT trains must also maintain a safety distance between one another. This can result in trains stopping momentarily for several hundred metres behind the fault track circuit.

There’s a knock-on effect on MRT stations too. As a result, platforms at MRT stations ahead of the faulty track circuit will get more congested during peak hours.

While train services are still available, this is deemed a degraded mode of service.

Ageing track circuits fail for two reasons. Firstly, a hardware failure of equipment at a Signal Equipment Room (SER) within a MRT station (that is, not on the actual track). Secondly, failures could occur at track side.

For faults within a SER, there is a good chance that we can rectify the failure within a reasonable period of time. This is because the equipment is more easily accessible than trackside infrastructure, where access would involve clearance for track access and possibly the shutting of power or the use of trains as standing protection for the work teams.

For trackside faults, engineering staff will have to access the track to investigate the root cause. This can be very challenging when the track is on a NSEWL viaduct, especially in the event of inclement weather and lightning risks.

As a process, when rectifying track circuit faults, our engineering staff rule out a SER equipment malfunction first before proceeding to investigate trackside faults. That is why the failure of trackside equipment tends to take a longer time to recover.

In the new signalling system that is currently being installed, the ageing track circuits will be replaced with a more advanced system that is more reliable as it is built with multiple redundancy for greater reliability. After we renew the signalling system, faulty track circuits will no longer cause prolonged delays for commuters. This is something we are looking forward to.

We will start operating the new signalling system progressively on North-South Line. In time to come, after we have addressed the initial teething problems of the new signaling system, we will be able to improve the journey for commuters. Please bear with us in the meantime.