Silence from SMRT CEO appalling after all the faults in the past week

By: Amiroh Binte Mukasan

Last month, there was considerable flak from the public when another ex-military man – Mr. Neo Kian Hong – was appointed as the new CEO of rail transport operator SMRT.

Not only did he not have any industry-related experience, the public remains unconvinced that there are no better candidates for the job.

To assure commuters, an SMRT Spokesman said that Mr. Neo had a “track record in operations and people management” and the “ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders”.

Yet this week alone, there were two serious incidents which happened on SMRT lines.

On Thursday, a “platform screen door fault” happened on the North-South Line on Thursday causing inconvenience to commuters. On Saturday, a track fault on the Bukit Panjang LRT resulted in commuters having to have to walk on the tracks to the nearest station.

Despite all these, we have yet to hear any statements or any apology from Mr. Neo.  While SMRT is a private company, we must not overlook the fact that it serves a large number of people each day. In fact, it was the Minister of Transport who has decided to set a target for rail reliability.

When we compare such behavior to the Japanese metro system, it speaks very badly for Singapore where excellence used to be a key factor in public service. A corresponding lack of a public statement from Mr. Neo is worrying if we were to have him at the helm of SMRT for the foreseeable future.

Are the people affected by the breakdowns not part of the stakeholder group as well?

Mr. Neo’s  predecessor acknowledged that there was “deep-seated cultural issues” in SMRT. As the new CEO, Mr. Neo would have access to internal reports detailing the causes of these track faults. He could have started a good culture by explaining these delays and by issuing an apology.

Being more responsive CEO would be a good start.