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New SMRT CEO sells his car, takes the train to work from Bishan “to understand issues” and regain the public’s “confidence”

In a bid to demonstrate his commitment towards improving the current Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) services, SMRT Corporation Ltd.'s new chief executive officer Mr Neo Kian Hong has sold his personal car and had foregone buying a new one in order to take the train to work.

Mr Neo has even moved to the Shunfu estate in Bishan, an estimated 10-minute walk from the Bishan MRT station, to further immerse himself in his new role which he had taken up only a couple of weeks ago.

“I sold my car earlier on but I didn’t want to buy a new car, because it is more useful for me to take the MRT to understand the issues and take our company’s assets like our taxis and buses,” said Mr Neo.

“It’s because of this job. I moved near Shunfu just to make sure I can take the trains to work and it's easier for me and my family can support me in doing this,” he added.

It was reported that SMRT chairman Mr Seah Moon Ming had revealed Mr Neo’s move to Bishan for his new role, leaving Mr Neo to elaborate on Mr Seah's revelation.

Mr Seah dubbed Mr Neo as a “ground leader and a problem solver”, perhaps countering criticism regarding Mr Neo's purported inexperience in the transport industry, particularly the rail sector, coming from a military background.

Mr Neo had personally responded to the criticism: “It’s an entire suite ranging from how… we organise ourselves to how we deliver in operations, in maintenance. It’s also about selecting the right people to run the operations, rallying everyone to see our focus. And we’re now focused on delivering that outcome which is reliability. And we will deliver.”

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to SMRT’s Bishan depot today, the former Chief of Defence Force (CDF) said that he has outlined three aims for the transport company: providing rail reliability which he described as a "basic requirement", creating sustainability and ensuring continuous improvement.

“As a trains company, we will be focused on delivering safe and reliable train services,” he reassured.

Other than Mr Neo and Mr Seah, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan was also present at the Bishan depot for a viewing of the new trains that will soon be a part of the North-South and East-West rail lines (NSEWL) starting September.

On a separate occasion, Mr Neo announced the introduction of the six new trains, along with another six trains due to be unveiled in early 2019 as a means of accommodating the growing number of passengers.

The new trains will be the first trains in Singapore with “tip-up seats” to create more standing space for commuters during peak hours.

Mr Neo succeeded Mr Desmond Kuek who had tendered his resignation earlier this year.

Mr Kuek’s six-year tenure was punctuated by a marked rise in train breakdowns, as well as controversial events such as an accident near Pasir Ris MRT station resulting in the death of two SMRT employees in 2016, a train collision at Joo Koon MRT station that left 38 people injured, and a tunnel flood at Bishan MRT station that led to a 20-hour long disruption in train services.