SMRT enters partnerships at SITCE 2022 on rail and urban mobility

SMRT's group of companies and partners ink agreements on rail and urban mobility at SITCE 2022
SMRT’s group of companies signed Memorandums of Understanding with their partners, including (clockwise, L-R) Thales, SIT, ITE, Alstom and JR East on the sidelines of the LTA-UITP Singapore International Transport Congress & Exhibition (SITCE) 2022: Photo: SMRT

SMRT’s group of companies and partners have inked eight agreements along the theme of “Digitalisation, Decarbonisation and Demand” for advancements in rail and urban mobility at the LTA-UITP Singapore International Transport Congress & Exhibition (SITCE) 2022.

Held at the Singapore Suntec Convention Centre from 2 to 4 November, SITCE is a key platform for urban mobility stakeholders, including policymakers, urban planners, operators and solution providers to meet and redefine the public transport landscape.

SMRT was a key participant at this year’s event, with the following agreements signed:

2 Nov 2022: Alstom and SMRT Trains collaborate to explore use of 3D printed spare parts and innovations for enhanced rail operations and maintenance

Alstom, a global leader in smart and sustainable mobility, and SMRT Trains, Singapore’s pioneer and dominant rail operator, are working together to explore the use of technology such as 3D-printed spare parts, autonomous robots and vision computing for predictive maintenance automation, and recoverable braking energy.

Refer to the media release for more details.

2 Nov 2022: SMRT doubles yearly ITE internship opportunities and offers two new student awards

SMRT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), enhancing the earlier MoU between SMRT Trains and ITE College West in 2019:

  • Doubling the internships offered to 80
  • Expanding collaboration to ITE College Central and ITE College East
  • Extending partnership beyond Trains

Refer to SMRT’s Facebook post for more details.

2 Nov 2022: Thales and SMRT Trains collaborate to enhance local repair and digital rail capabilities in Singapore

Thales and SMRT Trains share a goal to provide safe, reliable and comfortable journeys in Singapore. They inked two agreements – for the joint establishment of a local rail signalling repair facility and also the joint development of an intelligent rail analytics platform – to reinforce the reliability of the nation’s oldest MRT lines operated by SMRT Trains.

Refer to the media release for more details.

3 Nov 2022: SMRT Trains and East Japan Railway Company (JR East) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on best practices, technological developments and business opportunities.

Refer to the SMRT’s LinkedIn post for more details.

4 Nov 2022: From Lab to Rail: SMRT and SIT to set up Transport Living Lab to solve operational issues

SMRT and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their research and development collaboration for the advancement of Singapore’s transport industry through engineering and technological innovation. Two SMRT-SIT Transport Living Lab projects in the pipeline are: (a) Smart profiling of bus captains’ driving performance, which uses data analytics and leading indicators to identify bus captains for targeted retraining; and (b) Smart rostering of bus captains, which aims to optimise bus captain schedules to improve fatigue management and driving safety.

Refer to the media release for more details.

4 Nov 2022: SMRT collaborates with A*STAR on translational research projects to enhance productivity, safety and sustainability in land transport

SMRT announced that it will work together with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) on translational research projects that can be deployed for the improvement of productivity, safety and sustainability within Singapore’s transport industry.

Refer to the media release for more details.

SMRT wins UITP award for Go-To initiative

SMRT is honoured and humbled to share that its efforts to serve commuters better have now been internationally recognised.

The Singapore-based public transport operator was named winner of the Marketing Campaign category at the 6th International Association of Public Transport (UITP) Awards 2021 for its “Go-To SMRT” initiative whereby its commuter services and facilities were enhanced to better serve the community.

Under Go-To SMRT, members of the public are encouraged to embrace SMRT-operated transport nodes as the first place they turn to for their common needs such as wayfinding, first aid, dementia Go-To Points (GTP), locating missing children or the elderly that may help in their commutes in the public transport network.

Others nominated for the marketing campaign category were public transport firm Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles (SITB) which operates metro, tram and bus lines in the Belgian capital Brussels, and Transports Publics Genevois which runs most of the public transport system in the Geneva district of Switzerland.

The ceremony for the prestigious UITP Awards was held during the MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition in Dubai on 6 Feb 2022.

A total of 320 projects from 28 finalists contested for awards in 8 categories, including for climate and health, diversity and inclusion, and operational & technological excellence.

Held biennially, the UITP Awards is a key date on the annual calendar of public transport industries. According to the UITP, the Awards showcase the most ambitious and innovative projects in cities and regions around the world. For the marketing campaign category, UITP said they look for “creative, original and result-oriented” projects which “make a positive impact on the perception of public transport while reinforcing customer trust in the services provided. It can be a stand-alone campaign, or as part of a wider one that is aligned with the overall strategy and objectives of the organisation.

Serving commuters within SMRT’s network

Launched in April 2021, Go-To SMRT features a unique “Scan & Go-To” QR code which is like a digital concierge service for commuters to easily access useful travel information. It includes Go-To Maps featuring frequently-asked-for amenities surrounding the stations, train and bus timings, and alternative travel information. Facilities such as first aid rooms and WeCare rooms have been refreshed to make them more welcoming and comfortable.

Posted by SMRT on Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Scenario-based training has also been included to the training curriculum for SMRT’s frontline staff at MRT stations and bus interchanges so that they can confidently and competently handle a variety of situations more commonly encountered within the network.

The training is provided by partner organisations such as the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd (GDS) and the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA).

The Go-To initiative complements SMRT-run train stations and bus interchanges listed as Dementia Go-To Points (GTP) by the Agency for Integrated Care as part of a collaboration between SMRT and AIC under the Dementia-Friendly Singapore initiative.

GTPs are touch points within the community that serve as resource centres to provide information and useful resources on dementia and link those who need help with relevant dementia-related services. It also serves as a ‘safe return’ point where members of the public can bring persons living with dementia who may appear lost for help. Trained SMRT staff will be able to assist in helping to contact their next-of-kin.

As of February 2022, 46 train stations on SMRT’s network and all four bus interchanges that the company runs are dementia GTPs. By the end of 2022, all 98 SMRT-run train stations on the North-South and East West Lines, and the Thomson-East Coast Line will be listed at dementia GTPs.

Staying commuter-centric

While a nod to SMRT’s efforts, the UITP award is also another reminder that providing safe, reliable and comfortable journeys on SMRT’s public transport network remains the company’s top priority.

As SMRT Group CEO Mr Neo Kian Hong aptly summed up when the Go-To SMRT initiative was launched in April 2021, “Go-To SMRT is a key part of our WeCare service ethos, which seeks to care for everyone we meet and serve.”

Making sustainability a key part of SMRT’s DNA

As a leading public transport operator in Singapore, SMRT is aware that our businesses and actions impact how current and future generations live, work and play.

Mindful of our responsibilities, we have embraced sustainability as one of our key corporate values, integrating it at the strategic and operational levels with the aim of creating a positive impact for Singapore and its people.

The aim of being sustainable is to create value over the long term for our stakeholders, by keeping a keen eye on environmental sustainability, community engagement and development, and having strict corporate governance and robust systems and process to make sure business practices are conducted in a transparent, ethical and responsible manner.

SMRT’s sustainability strategy has three pillars:

  • Green Business & Operations – Focus on building operations resilience and resource efficiency to guard against climate change risks.
  • Sustainable Communities – Focus on enhancing workplace wellness, workforce development and building sustainable communities.
  • Responsible Practices – Focus on generating shareholder value through ethical and transparent business practices.


At SMRT, sustainability is a key aspect of our plans and programmes as we align ourselves with the Singapore Green Plan 2030. We are committed to environmentally sustainable developments in energy reduction, water conservation, better waste management, and green advocacy. The goal is to cut energy and carbon footprint consumption by 5 per cent, and to reduce year-on-year water and paper consumption by 10 and 20 per cent respectively.

SMRT has been exploring ways to achieve this. These include:

  • Ramping up the use of solar power for Bishan, Tuas West and Mandai depots.
  • Having fully electric taxi and bus fleets by 2026 and 2040, respectively.
  • Switching to eco-friendly hand dryers at MRT station toilets.
  • Implementing dual-cycle recycling for trains (water from the second rinse of a train is recycled for pre-washing of the next train), which saves about 670,000 litres of fresh water monthly.
  • Managing metal and e-waste, which has so far seen 1,600 tonnes of scrap metal recycled, and electronic waste disposed of properly, reused or re-sold.

A key component of SMRT’s sustainability strategy is to also nurture a green company culture.

This means actively engaging staff on green initiatives and goals, raising their awareness of the latest sustainability issues, and encouraging them to take ownership and participate in a green lifestyle. Staff can share their ideas for sustainability projects and showcase their achievements. Activities, such as workshops and fairs, will also be conducted to further efforts in green advocacy.

Externally, we spread the green message to stakeholders, partners and the wider public by leveraging our media, digital and network assets. SMRT also aims to expand our efforts as an environmental steward, seeking collaborations with notable campaigns such as Earth Day, World Environment Day, and Singapore International Water Week. We also work with green non-governmental organisations such as Singapore Environment Council to improve our green practices and targets.


To be sustainable is more than just being environmentally friendly. It also means adopting more sustainable employment practices to create a more equitable workforce, which in turn creates a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

A member of SMRT's staff performing maintenance work. Photo by SMRT.
Providing re-skilling opportunities for staff to be future ready is a key aspect of SMRT’s sustainability drive. Photo: SMRT

Developing a workforce that is adaptable, competent and flexible is vital to SMRT’s sustainability strategy. Employees have ample opportunities to upskill and develop their capabilities through work-study programmes and partnerships with Institutes of Higher Learning. SMRT also works with LTA to run programmes and scholarships for engineering students to build a steady supply of talent. This helps establish sustainable growth for the future in order to provide quality jobs for the workforce and deliver service excellence to our customers.

Being sustainable also means looking after the well-being of our staff, particularly with the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic being felt. Besides regular and sustained public messaging efforts to remind commuters to follow safe management guidelines, SMRT has also introduced measures to protect its staff, such as stepped-up testing and vaccination drives for frontline employees and educating our taxi partners on safety precautions when interacting with passengers. SMRT has also started mental health and wellness initiatives for employees by joining the City Health Alliance since 2020.


Frontline staff from SMRT assist a commuter to board a bus. Photo by SMRT.
SMRT is committed to helping foster a more inclusive public transport experience for all commuters. Photo: SMRT

Being sustainable also means contributing towards building a public transport system that is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all commuters. Efforts by SMRT to support this include:

  • The April 2021 launch of the Go-To SMRT initiative, which sees the transport operator enhancing its commuter services and facilities to better serve the community.
  • The certification of 17 MRT stations and five bus interchanges by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) as Dementia Go-To Points.
  • A first-in-Singapore trial of the NaviLens app to help visually handicapped commuters navigate the Woodlands Integrated Transport Hub with greater ease.

SMRT is also working with partner organisations such as AIC, Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Guide Dogs Singapore and the Handicaps Welfare Association to provide more inclusive, commuter-centric services to these with special needs.


In the coming years, sustainability will become an increasingly important element in SMRT’s business and actions, and we will do so in an accountable, transparent and responsible way.

We take a multi-pronged approach towards this goal. While being environmentally friendly and aligned to the Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a key component, sustainability, to us, also means caring for our employees’ physical and mental well-being, as well as doing our part to foster a more gracious, caring and inclusive public transport culture.

The full SMRT Group Review 2021 report can be viewed here. Visit here for more on SMRT’s sustainability drive.

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.”

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Dear Commuters,

We are pleased to announce that SMRT is participating in the 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) for CoMET and Nova[1] and International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG)[2].

We want to thank you in advance for taking part in the global trains and buses benchmarking surveys which will start from 4th April to 1st May 2016. The two surveys will help measure your satisfaction levels towards our train and bus services.

Your information and your responses will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose.

Thank you for completing our surveys.Note :
1) CoMET and Nova is the World’s Metro Benchmarking Group. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.
2) IBBG is the comprehensive programme of international benchmarking for urban bus operations. The research is carried out by the Railway and Transport Strategy Centre at the Imperial College London.


CoMET and Nova











Click here to take part in the CoMet and Nova survey.














Click here to take part in the International Bus Benchmarking Group survey.

Official Launch of JurongHealth Mobility Park, sponsored by SMRT​

SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek Speech at Mobility Park Launch
When JurongHealth approached SMRT in 2013 with their idea to create a first of its kind mobility park that included public transportation features, we immediately said yes. It sits well with our vision of “Moving People, Enhancing Lives”. SMRT’s experience transporting millions daily by rail and road transport can greatly contribute to such a park that brings rehabilitative care for patients to a whole new level. We are proud of this partnership with JurongHealth over the past three years.
SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek at Mobility Park Launch
We contributed a life-sized train, bus and taxi to replicate real-life conditions so that people with mobility needs can regain their confidence in taking public transport. Many of us take this daily routine for granted. But for those who have suffered some disability or illness, this seemingly simple activity can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Training and sharing sessions will be organised so that staff can assist patients and commuters to make the necessary adjustments and feel more comfortable when using our trains, buses and taxis.

​SMRT Customer Experience Innovation Conference


1. Welcome to SMRT’s first Customer Experience Innovation Conference – CXI. We are pleased that you can all join us, and I would like to welcome our guests, strategic partners and distinguished panel of speakers, for taking time to be with us this afternoon.

2. Today’s CXI conference is one of many initiatives that we embarked on as part of a Service Excellence campaign that was started back in 2013. It is important for us to understand why we did so, and why we continue to place significant management emphasis on driving and sustaining the organization-wide effort to bring about a high quality in customer experience.

3. The period of 2010-2013 was a particularly rough patch in SMRT’s 29 year history. Although it may seem to some like just the other day, it has been 4-5 years since. If you recall, a series of troubling incidents during these recent times – from vandalism, to major train disruptions and nagging reliability issues, to an illegal bus strike – Singapore’s first strike in 26 years – had severely hurt our reputation, and shaken public confidence. Meanwhile, ridership continued to grow and operational demands intensified despite an aging network urgently in need of renewal and upgrade. Investor sentiments were undermined as profits plunged, and internally, staff morale was at a low with high staff turnover in many quarters.

4. Against such a formidable backdrop of challenges, where and how do we start to get people on board, our programmes on track, and the company on top again? We needed to regain the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders. And there are many: our staff who commit to achieving our company’s mission and goals; our commuters whom we carry on their journey safely each and every day (all 1 billion passenger journeys last year); the authorities who entrust us with the delivery of a high quality of public transport services; and our shareholders who invest with us in anticipation of steady annual dividends.

5. Not all these interests are aligned, as you can expect. But all, whether external or internal, are customers in one form or another whose experience with us is important. We decided therefore to place our leadership focus squarely on people – and set out on a Service Excellence campaign to deliver the kind of customer experience that we would all be proud of. We made Service Excellence one of 6 core values – the S in SMRTnI. We set Customer Experience as one of the 5 key strategic thrusts that would guide the prioritization of management effort across the company. It formed part of a set of key performance measures that would be factored in our collective management performance incentives. More than just a desired outcome, we turned this into a platform to shape work culture and engage the hearts and minds of all 9000 of our staff.

6. Changing culture takes time and consistency of leadership effort. It needs to involve every single individual in the organisation. Often results are seen only in the long run, and one can easily be distracted by immediate issues and expediencies. We knew it was a journey that might never finish but that did not deter us from making a bold start. With collective buy-in from rank and file, we embarked on Service Excellence with a passion – to unite everyone with a common mindset and purpose – to build trust and bring on smiles every day, and with everyone who journeys with us.

7. This was the critical catalyst for an organization-wide change effort to align all staff in operations, maintenance, administration, commercial business, quality assurance, and front-counter activities – toward excellence in their service wherever they were in the company. We wanted to foster a climate where people can feel empowered to initiate and innovate in their Service Excellence efforts towards positive customer experience. .

8. In these past 3 years, I’m proud to say that we have made significant progress. Our Organizational Climate survey conducted by Towers Watson last year showed that 9 in 10 employees are proud to be in SMRT, and 86% are sustainably engaged – a measure of how engaged, enabled and energised they feel about themselves in the company. On a global scale, that puts SMRT as Best in Class, especially for companies undergoing transformation and transition. In business output, the bus business turned around to make a small operating profit after many consecutive quarters of losses. And based on the international metric for train reliability based on delays lasting more than 5 minutes for every 100,000 km, we have that number down from 1.8 in 2011 to 0.71 in Dec 2015, the best performance in the past decade despite the ageing network. .

SMRT Organisational Climate Survey Results

9. But it’s the ground-up stories of people who have gone the extra mile that move and inspire us. One example is Chief Bus Captain, Sim Boon Hwa, who in December last year was approached by a school-girl who thought she had lost her wallet onboard the bus service 188. He was supposed to start his duty in a few minutes, but seeing how sad and anxious the girl was, he did a quick search on the service 188 buses that were parked at the interchange. Unable to find the wallet, he asked her to follow him on his bus service 855 to make a police report at Queenstown Police Station along the route. Before she alighted, he gave her $50 in case she needed money to pay for her trip home. The next day, the girl called to inform that she had found the wallet in her friend’s car, and to arrange to return the $50. But Mr Sim declined and told her that the $50 would be his Christmas present to her.

SMRT Bus Captain Sim Boon Hwa

10. Another example is our Assistant Station Manager, Nurulhuda. The passenger lift at City Hall MRT Station was undergoing maintenance until 8 am that morning. Knowing that her regular passenger who is wheelchair-bound would face difficulties when she exits the station, she took the initiative to call her and advised her to delay her journey to avoid the inconvenience. While the gesture may have been simple, having that attention to detail and personal touch with each and every commuter is truly Service Excellence at its best.

11. With many other deeds like these, SMRT has won numerous national-level Service Excellence awards over the past few years – including the prestigious Singapore Service Excellence Medallion, the Singapore Experience Awards for Customer Service under the Transport industry and Contact Centre Association of Singapore annual awards.

SMRT Contact Centre Awards

12. We are determined to continue to serve and excel, innovating in improving the experience of all our customers. This afternoon, we look forward to learning and sharing with experts and leaders in Customer Experience and Innovation. Innovation is as much an idea or act, as it is a state of mind. We can apply this in end-to-end service delivery in a commuter’s journey, from before he or she even steps into the network, with way-finding, passenger information services and physical signages, to consumer amenities in the retail shops and advertising spaces as he makes his way through the transit network, to every single commuter touch-point that make for a more enjoyable journey. I wish all of you a meaningful afternoon of reflection and inspiration as we find new ways to innovate the customer experience.

Strengthening Maintenance Systems, Process and Culture

We want to sustain higher levels of reliability, safety, convenience and comfort for our passengers and we will do this by strengthening the way we maintain our rail network and train fleet.

To keep the rail network running safely for 20 hours a day, every day, even as the NSEWL serves increasing ridership, calls for a high standard of engineering excellence. We have a comprehensive, structured maintenance programme to look after the rail network. Our engineering staff step up maintenance checks as railway components reach their end of life. Safety is paramount and we will update maintenance schedules regularly to factor in ageing components that may need to be checked more often and more intensively.

SMRT Train at Changi Depot

We have introduced more devices to monitor the condition of rail assets and infrastructure. These include fitting trains with cameras for early detection of track faults, placing devices on tracks to check the condition of train wheels as well as installing devices across the network to measure the health of the power supply system. More specialised condition monitoring devices, such as lasers that check track alignment, will be introduced to supervise critical components in the NSEWL.


Our efforts to institute a lifecycle asset management system have been recognised. SMRT is the second metro in Asia to achieve the ISO 55001 standard. It demonstrates to both regulators and other stakeholders that assets are being appropriately maintained whilst short, medium and long term issues and risks are being properly identified and addressed. In addition, independent certification provides evidence of compliance to safety critical systems and procedures. It shows, most importantly, that SMRT is on the right track to achieving better rail reliability.

SMRT Maintenance Ops Centre

Another significant step forward is in setting up a new Maintenance Operations Centre (MOC), the first of its kind in the region. Opened in August 2015, it allows SMRT to better coordinate and provide stronger support to maintenance teams as they respond to rail incidents. The MOC allows rail engineering experts to guide staff attending to faults on our network with more precise technical advice, leading to faster recovery. When fully operational, the MOC will provide a 24/7 health status of each train and of all critical components across the rail network.

5 things you need to know about our MOC

SMRT CEO speaks on Innovation and Transformation in the Transportation Industry


“With timely and accurate data fusion and analysis, city planners and transport operators can shift transportation assets to meet real-time needs arising through local surges in commuter demand or a transport disruption.”- SMRT President and Group CEO, Desmond Kuek
PriceWaterHouseCoopers Asia Transportation and Logisitics Conference
14 August 2015 
SMRT President and Group CEODesmond Kuek

​Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you this morning at PriceWaterHouseCoopers’ (PwC’s) inaugural Asia Transportation and Logistics conference.


2. One of the startling statistics about the changing face of the world that I recently came across was from UITP, the International Association of Public Transportation. The world’s urban population is growing by about 75 million inhabitants every year. By 2007, more than 50% of the world’s population lived in cities, and this is set to keep increasing. Twenty years ago, 80% of the world’s middle classes lived in OECD countries. In ten years’ time, 80% will live in cities in Africa, China, India and a handful of other Asian and Latin-American countries. It is evident that sustainable development and mobility needs will present some of the greatest challenges to cities in Asia. Decisions about public transport have repercussions that last for decades, so being able to accurately plan for and predict mobility habits and trends is vital. The infrastructure takes years to build, and that footprint will shape the development of a city for even more years to come.

3. These developmental challenges are not uniform across cities in Asia. Some like India and China are building lines at an incredible rate – Delhi is growing 20km of metro every year, Beijing has plans to develop 21 new subway lines by the year 2020. Manila is struggling with an aging and poorly maintained system that was first built in the 1980s, Jakarta is struggling with the local politics of getting started. Hong Kong, Bangkok and Taipei are leading examples of modern metros but they each have their own issues with sustainable financing and governance models across the public-private space. And they all have to contend with public commuter expectations about the affordability of fares and the quality of services.



4. So in order not to over-simplify or generalize Asia, let me stay on safer territory and talk to you about Singapore and SMRT.

5. At 700 square km, Singapore is slightly smaller than New York City and 2/3 the size of Hong Kong. We have a density of about 7,500 persons living in every square km. The idea of a rail system was proposed as early as 1967, two years after Singapore attained its independence. Detailed studies and reviews were carried out, but after more than a decade, the public transport plan remained inconclusive. Should we invest so much in a rail system, or stay with a lower-cost public bus system? In a significant leap of faith for a small country, the Government declared in 1982 that it would build the MRT. More than just a transport investment, the MRT was viewed in its wider economic perspective as a boost to long term investor confidence and enhancement of the intrinsic value of Singapore’s real estate.

6. The proposed North-South and East-West Lines were Singapore’s largest infrastructure project then at S$5 billion. Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) was established in 1983 to oversee all roles and responsibilities of the train network. Subsequently, SMRT was incorporated in 1987 to operate these lines. A 5-station section on NS Line was officially opened on 7th November 1987, before extending to Raffles Place a month later. The development of EWL was completed by 1990. Work continued through the years to expand the network and stabilize operations.

Bedok Interchange TIBS

7. With the turn of the century, Singapore’s rapidly growing economy again surfaced the issue of how the public transport system could better meet the travel needs of a growing population. By 2000, SMRT was listed on the Singapore Exchange. In early 2001, Singapore came a step closer to a more integrated public transport system when plans for a merger between train operator, SMRT and bus and taxis operator, Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) Holdings, came into play. With the merger, the public transport landscape in Singapore was transformed. SMRT became Singapore’s first multi-modal transport operator.

8. To better integrate the various modes of transport, an innovative distance-based fare structure was introduced in July 2010. Under the revised fare structure, commuters travelling the same distance pay the same fare for the same type of service, whether they travel direct or make transfers. Concession schemes for special interest groups were introduced, funded from SMRT’s profits which grew through successful commercial development in the transit network. When compared to major cities around the world, Singapore’s public transport fares are amongst the lowest. But questions would soon surface about its financial sustainability in the face of aging assets that needed to be replaced or renewed, and what balance should be struck between shareholder returns and re-investments sunk back into the network. When the bus industry moves to a fee-based contracting model next year with government taking on all fare-revenue risk, questions will also arise about how that distance fare structure would play out into the rail business that operates on a different model.

9. The question of maintaining public transport fares in Singapore at an affordable level while ensuring the viability of the public transport operators continues to be a challenge. Fare adjustments did not match the exponential increase in operating costs over the years, and significantly lags the theoretical cap allowable under the fare formula used by the Public Transport Council. In the continuing story of public transportation industry transformation, the intention is to migrate the rail business to an asset-light model to facilitate the future expansion of the Rapid Transit System network in a financially sustainable manner, and possibly inject greater contestability into the rail industry in the future.

10. SMRT has grown to become the dominant rail operator in Singapore, and a multi-modal transport company with business lines in buses, taxis, commercial property management, media and advertising. Today, the rail network has indeed become an integral part and a symbol of the modern metropolis that is Singapore. By its very nature, it is also incredibly public facing, with 1 billion passenger journeys carried last year.

11. By 2030, Singapore is aiming for an even bigger and bolder rail network. The Government has plans to double the rail network to 360 km, with 5 new lines added at an estimated cost of S$60 billion. The target is for 8 in 10 households to be within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station. 200 km of additional sheltered walkways will be built linking to MRT stations and transport interchanges to provide some relief in Singapore’s hot and humid tropical climate. It is envisioned that 85% of all public transport journeys in the country will be completed within an hour, with 75% of all peak hour journeys made on public transport.

12. While the strategic considerations in the early years were about our ability to deliver a large public infrastructure project in a cost-effective and timely manner, today’s considerations are more multi-faceted and complex, centered on answering to the needs for greater passenger convenience and mobility. So where might we see further innovation and transformation in a public transport system that is already amongst the best in the world?

13. I would like to briefly outline some ideas that we are working on in three broad areas: (1) developing a holistic and sustainable asset management framework; (2) harnessing advanced technology in maintenance and operations; and (3) moving from system efficiency to commuter centricity.


14. Integrating across the value chain and functionalities. The current structure, where the regulator is also the designer and builder, will need to be reviewed to achieve a more holistic approach toward design-build-operate-maintain. Whether it is in establishing a different management structure or a better inter-agency process, we are looking to find an integrated asset management framework across the whole value chain that would better facilitate upstream planning with maintainability inputs and downstream operations with deeper understanding of design considerations and timely decision making for asset replacements and network expansions. Within SMRT, there is also scope to strengthen system thinking and architecting across various engineering expertise domains.

15. Monitoring system health and predicting failure. SMRT is only the second company in Asia to be certified this year with Level 3 ISO 55001 for asset management. We are moving the maintenance regime from one that relies on OEM recommendation (on fixed maintenance intervals) to one that includes identification, analysis and mitigation of asset failure risks, where intervals of maintenance works are regularly reviewed based on asset conditions. Such a risk-based predictive maintenance approach will lead to better resource optimization, reliability and commuter experience.

16. Developing our human capital. As the rail network expands and ages in its life cycle, the industry has to ensure its workforce is equipped with the relevant knowledge. We initiated a comprehensive training competency and career development scheme for our engineers and technicians roadmap to ensure that our workforce continues to hone the necessary technical competencies needed to fulfil the increasingly complex functions. We also forged partnerships with the academic and research institutions to nurture a pipeline of talent that can support our needs into the future. This too helps to ensure network sustainability.


Current SMRT Condition Monitoring

17. Condition monitoring for predictive maintenance. It is critical to design the system to be resilient to failure, and operate it to be quick to recovery. Using sensor and sense-making technologies for condition monitoring will help greatly. One example is the deployment of advanced sensors to collect real-time data as trains run daily during commuter service hours. Detection of defective wheel is done through installation of Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) system on tracks to measure the vibration of pass-by trains. Misalignment of power distribution system on our tracks and current collection device on our trains is detected through a Linear Variable Distance Transducer (LVDT), and they provide real time information on defects through wireless data transmission. Trials are ongoing for an Asset Information Management System with embedded artificial intelligence capabilities to highlight assets due for replacement.

18. Energy saving for cost efficiency. With Toshiba, we are upgrading the propulsion systems of our train fleet with Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM). This will cut power consumption by 30%, reduce operating noise levels and improve the operating efficiency. Bishan Depot is undergoing a pilot programme on the use of solar energy.

19. IT solutions for transport planning. Public transport is a key area of focus for Singapore’s Smart Nation push. With risk based diagnostics and big data analysis, we can improve the fidelity and value of contingency and routine planning. With timely and accurate data fusion and analysis, city planners and transport operators can shift transportation assets to meet real-time needs arising through local surges in commuter demand or a transport disruption. We are going further than that. At the micro level, with passenger load planning through a “Train Load Visualizer”, we can utilize live video feed analytics to allow commuters to visualize the station platform crowdedness or even train car loading from their own handheld devices. Better informed commuters can then make more coordinated, and ‘smarter’ use of transport networks, with these individual decisions aggregating into greater overall system efficiency.


20. The need for system efficiency has been the dominant consideration in both design and implementation. But the quality of a public transportation network is no longer defined by technical and operational KPIs. When we measure rail network performance, we traditionally do so in terms of numbers and statistics, but these mean little to the passenger. They are much less interested in benchmarks and data than in the substantive quality of their travel experience – measured specifically at the time and place that they use the system. Their perspective, not unexpectedly, is shaped more by how far it is to walk to the nearest station, how long the wait time for the next train is, how crowded the trains are, and whether train arrivals are as scheduled.

21. So although we have 180 km of rail network and 140 stations in Singapore, this is an irrelevant statistic for that resident who has to walk 2 km to find the nearest node. Despite a cumulative train distance travelled of nearly twice around the equator each day, this fact is of no significance to that passenger who was late for a job interview because he was on that particular train service that happened to be delayed. Although our average train service availability is more than 99.8%, this is of little comfort when the passenger has to put up with the rush hour crunch on congested trains.

22. Improving rail network performance therefore goes beyond the rationality of operational and maintenance data. While these are still key measures of performance, the issues faced are entwined in the socio-economic well-being of the country, and form part of a national conversation about public transport as a reliable essential service, an affordable public good and a vital ingredient in the city’s quest for livability and sustainability.


SMRT Care Zones

23. Enhancing commuter touch-points. Station and network design will need to incorporate a fundamental rethink in architectural design and in design-commuter flow interface from what was originally planned 30 years ago. Demographics and travel patterns would have changed. Much has already been done to improve accessibility. Recognizing that commuter safety and security is an essential part of a safe rail service, we demarcated “Care Zones” on our train platforms for passengers with special needs that are monitored through closed-circuit television cameras, with emergency telephones also placed nearby. We are revamping in-train display screens to show upcoming station layouts so that commuters can move to desired platform exits more quickly.

24. Improving passenger information services. To give commuters more real time information on services and delays, so that they can make their own decisions, SMRT rolled out a “traffic light system” to denote station crowdedness, and implemented a system to indicate the current status of revenue service on each of our lines, in addition to Twitter and Facebook to disseminate real-time network information.

25. Bridging commuter and consumer needs. In enhancing the overall commuting experience, the next phase of innovation would be centered on bringing together the identities of commuters and consumers seamlessly in a single journey. The potential lies in capitalizing both the immense traffic flow within the network and the operational scale of the operator. One can envision a digital engagement ecosystem that brings together travel information, e-commerce, lifestyle services and entertainment which will transform the way consumers travel, shop and live.


26. As Singapore continues to promote increased productivity as a key driver of economic performance, industries and companies will need to continue to innovate and transform to achieve the same targets with less. In the public transportation industry, we have already come a long way. But we will need to continue to evolve, innovate and transform as the challenges of increasing urban growth and the demands for greater connectivity mount. SG50 is a good point to start thinking, planning and implementing new ideas that will shape the pathway of development for the next 50 years of Singapore’s story, and beyond.