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LTA: Defects of trains not safety-critical, SMRT: Defects will be repaired by 2023

In response to the news of SMRT Trains Ltd (SMRT) secretly sending 35 defective train carriages back to its manufacturer in June, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has posted on its Facebook page, saying that it had been working closely with the train manufacturer and that the defects are not safety-critical.

Just today, FactWire News Agency, a watchdog news organization released an exclusive report on 35 train carriages belonging to local train operator, SMRT being shipped back to its manufacturer on 12 June due to alleged existing defects.

In its report, FactWire verified and documented the whole transportation after being tipped off by a mainland source in the railway industry that SMRT was secretly shipping defective trains back to mainland China for replacement and repair by manufacturer CSR Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company Ltd (CSR Sifang).

LTA wrote,

The Land Transport Authority has been working closely with train manufacturer, Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Sifang, on defects that were found on trains purchased under C151A. These defects, found on the train body, are not safety-critical and do not affect the train’s systems or performance. The train manufacturer will be required to make good the defects as part of their warranty.

Trains on the rail network are extensively tested to ensure the safety and reliability of the train. Every train also undergoes a comprehensive regime of static and dynamic testing as well as interface testing to ensure its structural and operational integrity. After the testing is completed, the trains are delivered to Singapore for further testing before they are placed for passenger service.

However, LTA did not mention how long the repairs will take in its Facebook posting.

In response to media queries, SMRT Trains managing director Lee Ling Wee said: "Our engineers discovered that 26 of the 35 trains delivered by the manufacturer had cracks in the structure connecting the car body and the bogie after they were delivered in 2013."

"Since then, we have been working closely with the Land Transport Authority and the manufacturer to rectify the issue.

"The defective trains, which are still under warranty, will be repaired by the manufacturer. All 26 trains will be repaired by 2023."

This means that the "not safety-critical" defects as claimed by LTA, will take 7 years for the China based manufacturer to repair.

Mr Lee did not address the claims made by FactWire that SMRT suspected serious malfunctions occurred on the SMRT’s North South Line in December 2011, were caused by C151A trains manufactured by CSR Sifang. And neither did he dismissed the claim of a subcontractor responsible for supplying train components to CSR Sifang informing FactWire that SMRT significantly reduced the frequency of C151A trains after the malfunctions in 2011 and asked to delay payment for extra trains of the same series.

This raises questions as to when exactly did SMRT got to know of the existing defects in the train carriages.

Response by public by LTA's statement

Netizens were not convinced with LTA's statement made on its Facebook page and lambasted the stat board with further questions.

One commenter in particular, Emily Mok posted a series of questions to LTA.

This raises many questions:

1) If they're not safety-critical, why are they sent back? Who is paying for the transport? is it the LTA/SMRT (which really means us the taxpayers), or the manufacturers?

2) If they do not affect the train's systems or performance, see Q1 again.

3) Even with the self-proclaimed "extensively tested...reliability....comprehensive regime.. static and dynamic testing", our trains are breaking down at an alarming rate. Which means one of 2 things: either you guys are ticking those check marks w/o any checks whatsoever, or your testings standards are irrelevant.

4) Does the LTA / SMRT place profits, and profits alone, above safety of commuters, who incidentally are the ones paying for you to run the operations?

5) If news of this didn't break out online, does the LTA not intend to make this known to the public?

6) Why was this only made known to the public only AFTER news broke out online?

7) On a slightly unrelated note: Why is the CEO of SMART still getting close to $2m a year in remuneration, with such an atrocious string of breakdowns?

LTA did not reply to Mok's questions at the time of publication.