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Khaw announces $900 million upgrades in NSWEL but commuters “disappointed” at choice of SMRT CEO

On Friday (11 May), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that there would be a $900 million project to upgrade the power supply system of the North-South and East-West MRT lines. The “extensive and complex” project will replace nearly 1,300 km of cables, 250 km of fibre optics, several power transformers, switchboards, substations and is expected to take five years to complete.

Giving details at an infrastructure maintenance forum at the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Minister said that late openings and early closures of certain lines may be needed to speed up upgrades. This is because shorter operating hours give engineers more time to test the reliability of the lines.

The Minister then asked consumers to be more understanding: “[We] seek commuters' understanding for more extended engineering hours to help us complete the power system renewal more quickly. If the renewal is not well executed, it can have a widespread impact on passenger service. No power, no train service."

He also acknowledged that they had previously “neglected [reliability] and please, never to neglect it again going forward”.

Taipei Metro turns around with experienced civil engineer at the helm

Judging from metro systems worldwide, it would certainly seem that an experienced engineer is most certainly required for any improvements to be seen.

One such example is the Taipei metro, which was once plagued with persistent reliability problems. Under President B C Yen – who has a MA in civil engineering with over 40 years’ experience in the transportation industry – it became one of the most reliable systems in the World with one delay every 1 million kilometres.

The solution was simple, according to a Channel NewsAsia article which described Yen’s initiative of holding “weekly technical meetings that would look at how and why each problem occurred, and how it would be fixed”. All these were written into “more than 7,000 SOP documents [which] are reviewed annually”.

ST Forum Writer “disappointed” that a former Military Chief with no industry experience had been appointed as SMRT CEO

Last month, Management Consultant Dr. Michael Loh wrote in to the Straits Times forum expressing his “disappointment” that former Chief of Defence LG Neo Kian Hong would take over as the new SMRT CEO. Dr. Loh is a re-engineering guru and advises companies at the board level with a fee of $10,000 a day.

In his letter, he shared how he was impressed with the complex 83 year-old Moscow subway after visiting Moscow last year. He then attributed the success to head honcho Dmitry Pegov, who had several roles as an assistant engineer, train driver and even a driving instructor before assuming several senior positions.

He then asked: “With due respect, how did the relevant decision-makers end up appointing another SMRT chief with zero experience in the transport industry, zero experience working in the private sector and zero experience at the board level of any company, let alone a $1 billion company?”

What do you think?