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.

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.

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 Mobility Features

Millions of commuters travel on our transportation network daily. Lot’s of us know the stations and interchanges so well that we breeze through them on auto-pilot, with eyes glued to our phones.  Admit it, you and I are guilty of that once in a while. We’ve walked the same route for years and it has become second nature to us.

However, for passengers with disabilities, the daily commute can be a constant challenge.

For someone on a wheelchair, something as small as the 75mm gap between the train platform and the train can be an obstacle to overcome.

There are many accessibility features on both trains and bus networks to help narrow the metaphorical gap that passengers with disabilities experience daily.


MRT Train Stations

SMRT Barrier Free Entrance

Barrier-free entrances and exits

In SMRT’s early days, passengers on wheelchairs would have trouble entering our stations as there were only staircases and escalators to reach the concourse levels. Today, all stations will have at least one entrance that passengers on wheelchairs can use.

SMRT Tactile Paving

Tactile paving

The bars and bumps on the ground are known as tactile paving. They are there for the visually impaired, forming a path leading from platform to important places in the station, such as the fare gates. Have you also noticed that the tactile paving always leads to the wider fare gate?

SMRT Larger fare gates

Wider fare gates

Wider fare gates were introduced to allow wheelchairs to pass, as well as bulky items. These gates are bidirectional, making it more convenient for the passenger as they do not need to approach a Station Staff to help them turn the gate to a certain direction.

SMRT Wheelchair entrance notice

Wheelchair indicators and wheelchair-accessible train carriages

At the platform, passengers in wheelchairs should look out for the wheelchair indicators on the platform screen door or platform floor. These indicators reflect where the wheelchair spaces are on a wheelchair-accessible train carriage. There are two such spaces per train. Some trains also have the grab bar closest to the train doors removed, allowing passengers with wheelchairs or strollers to enter the train easily.

SMRT Visual Indicator

Visual indicators

There are also visual indicators for the hearing impaired. The prominent flashing red lights above the platform screen doors indicate when the train doors are closing.


Bus Interchanges

SMRT wheelchair accessible bus boarding berth

Special boarding and alighting berths

Special boarding berths at some interchanges were modified for passengers in wheelchairs. Wheelchair bound passengers who wish to board a certain service number can state so via a console at these berths. The next bus will swing by the berth to pick them up.

SMRT Wheelchair accessible bus

Wheelchair-accessible buses

Passengers in wheelchairs indicate their intention to board a wheelchair accessible bus by pressing the blue button next to the exit doors, triggering a special alert to the Bus Captain. The Bus Captain will then deploy the ramp and help the passenger on board the bus.

SMRT Woodlands Interchange Braille Handrails

Braille guidance on handrails

At the new Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange, there are “signs” in Braille on the handrails to help the visually impaired locate waiting areas.



SMRT Engineering Workforce Expansion

To strengthen our repair and maintenance capability, we have substantially reinforced our engineering workforce. Over the last 3 years, SMRT grew the number of Rail Maintenance staff by nearly a quarter (23%). For executive rail engineers alone, the numbers grew by 70%. By 2018, SMRT aims to have more than 400 engineers (a 127% increase from 2011) and more than 2,600 technicians (a 50% jump from 2011). This will complement the enlarged train fleet and will keep the renewed NSEWL network in good working order.

Gatefold HR-19

The SMRT Trains Engineering Programme (STEP) and  enhanced Career Roadmap was introduced in May 2015 to help us better recruit, retain as well as professionalise our engineering staff. STEP will see our Engineers attain a professional rail engineering chartership awarded by the Institute of Engineers Singapore. The Roadmap underscores SMRT’s commitment to develop staff throughout their careers to their fullest potential to better serve passengers and to cater to growth in the rail industry.

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

New trains to increase passenger capacity on the North-South East-West Lines

Improving the North-South and East-West Lines SMRT is making good progress in its multi-year, multi-project efforts to renew the NSEWL. This marks the biggest transformation of the Lines since they were built in the 1980s.

Read more

SMRT Disruption on 17 December 2015: Preliminary Investigation

After a major disruption on 17 December 2015, SMRT engineers work through the night to determine what were the major causes. Detailed investigations could take several weeks or longer to conclude but we are determined to provide an initial assessment of the situation as soon as possible after the incident. In this entry, we are sharing the results of the preliminary investigation with you, so that you may have a better understanding of what happened and the actions taken to get train service back online. 

JKN-PNRDisruption between Joo Koon and Pioneer

At around 7:35pm on 17 December 15, a power trip caused a train travelling between Joo Koon and Pioneer to stall. Initial efforts to restore power failed and eventually, the train had to be towed away before normal service could resume. Here are the initial findings of the incident based on preliminary investigations. Investigations are still ongoing and as new evidence is uncovered, we may update further.

Details of Recovery Efforts

Four attempts to restore power by resetting the breakers failed. Power was restored at about 9:13pm only after the stalled train’s current collector shoes – devices that draw current from the third rail – were lowered and electrical continuity between train and third rail was broken. This procedure isolated the train from the power supply.

With power restored to the circuit, the affected train was subsequently towed away by a rescue train and normal service could resume.

Preliminary Investigations

For incidents that are of this scale and complexity, engineers with different expertise have to be activated to find out what caused the problem, recover the defect and restore service safely and expeditiously.

For this case, SMRT Electrical Engineers checked the status of the substations at Joo Koon (JKN) and Pioneer (PNR). They found slight burn marks at the main breaker contacts which is a normal occurrence as a result of the tripping.

Breaker Contacts

Data loggers that were installed recently indicated a spike around 7:35pm on 17 Dec, which gave engineers greater cause to investigate further. They discovered that the power trip was likely due to a shorting between train or trackside equipment to the running rail.

Concurrently, SMRT train engineers also checked the various parts and subsystems on the stalled train. They discovered mild burn marks on a cable in the air conditioning compressor in one of the cars of the affected train. The severity of the burn marks is important and further investigations on the marks are still underway as to what could cause them.

Cable Chaffing

The other subsystems including the Current Collector Shoe, Auxiliary Power System, Engine and Propulsion System and all fuses were also inspected and no other anomaly was found.

Finally, Track infrastructure engineers inspected the track and third rail where the affected train stalled thoroughly. No anomaly was found.

Tying it all up

The preliminary assessment resulted in the following evidence,

  • Power could only be restored after isolating the affected train from the power system.
  • The data logger shows an overload situation from the trackside.
  • Burn marks were found on the air con compressor of the affected train. However, the burn marks are considered mild and does not suggest a large current surge that would cause the power trip that occurred on 17 Dec.

While the preliminary investigations from the first eight hours following the incident have uncovered much, further investigation is still required to establish the root cause.

SMRT Engineers from the various fields will continue to run tests and inspect each subsystem to uncover the full picture for the 17 December incident.

– Low Chin Hun, Vice-President, Operations Maintenance

SMRT Upgrades Older Trains on the North-South and East-West Lines

Improving the North-South and East-West Lines SMRT is making good progress in its multi-year, multi-project efforts to renew the NSEWL. This marks the biggest transformation of the Lines since they were built in the 1980s.

Read more

Your Journey Matters – An Introduction

A tremendous amount of work is being done to renew and upgrade the North-South and East-West Line (NSEWL), Singapore’s oldest, longest and most heavily utilised MRT line. The work takes place every day even as the rail network continues to serve passengers for around 20 hours a day and as the system copes with increased ridership.

SMRT progress chartThe transformation of the NSEWL is a complex engineering project. It represents the first major upgrade for the line since it started operations in 1987. Indeed, the renewal of the NSEWL is said to be the biggest modernisation project on a “live” MRT system anywhere in the world.

SMRT Rail Renewal Projects

This modernisation effort will lead to an updated and renewed railway system that will allow SMRT to run more trains, carry more passengers and serve our passengers better with faster connections across the MRT network. The multi-year, multi-project effort takes place seven days a week, all-year round. Much of the work takes place away from the public eye in train depots, deep underground in train tunnels or during the early hours of the morning when trains stop running. Progress is made every day to modernise the NSEWL to serve you better.

With just three hours every night for engineering staff to access the track when trains are not running, it is vital for SMRT to prioritise and allocate the engineering hours available and resources properly across different projects. Our engineers and contractors maximise the time spent on the track so that attention can be given to the more urgent maintenance and repair tasks as well as to the upgrade and renewal projects.

SMRT Resleepering

Much progress has been made over the past three years, thanks to significant and sustained efforts to improve train service reliability to serve our commuters better.

Improvements can be seen from charts showing key performance indicators like NSEWL train withdrawal and delays of more than five minutes.

our Journey Matters - Train withdrawal rate and Service delays per 100,000km under 5 mins

Our engineering staff achieved these improvements through a number of reliability improvements and modifications on our trains. These include upgrading the propulsion software on KNS trains, the replacement of power supply units on KHI trains and improvements to the signalling system to reduce power and signalling faults.

Efforts to refurbish ageing components on older trains are now underway. SMRT also plans to conduct a mid-life upgrade on its fleet of Siemens trains, which have logged a higher number of train faults compared to other train models.

More can certainly be done. The rise in service disruptions of more than 30 minutes since 2012 is closely monitored. We will bring down this figure as we strive towards higher rail reliability.


Related posts

Improvements on the North-South East-West Lines: Sleeper Replacement

Improvements on the North-South East-West Lines: Re-signalling

Improvements on the North-South East-West Lines: Upgrading older trains