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Source: Channel NewsAsia video screengrab.

Khaw Boon Wan credits SMRT improvements to new leadership but neglects to mention staff or former management

Speaking on the sidelines of an event about the upgrading of the North East Line (NEL), Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that public transport has had a good year in 2018. Particularly, he noted that train reliability has improved significant, due in part to the new SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong who Mr Khaw describes as a ‘good leader’.

When asked by Channel NewsAsia about the new CEO’s priorities in the upcoming year, Mr Khaw noted that he would be focused on replacing the older portions of the East-West Line to help bring it up to par with other lines.

On Mr Neo’s approach to his new position as CEO of SMRT, “He has taken up his mission very diligently, he’s on the ground very often, in the depot, on the tracks, in the trenches, day and night,” said Mr Khaw.

The Transport Minister attributed the improvements of the North-South Line to Mr Neo and the new chairman of SMRT Mr Seah Moon Ming, saying that “you will see from this example that leadership matters. If you have a good leader, you can turn things around.”

Based on his statement, it appears that Mr Khaw is implying that the credit for the turnaround for the performance of the SMRT lies solely on Mr Neo who fixed the issues left behind by former CEO Desmond Kuek.

In fact, back in 2016 when Mr Kuek was still CEO, SMRT and Nanyang Technological University launched a S$60 million joint research laboratory to further develop and enhance the reliability of existing rail assets. Presumably, the current improvements can be attributed to the efforts of this joint research laboratory.

Later in 2017, Mr Khaw even recognised that Mr Kuek ‘has been working very hard to try ad change work culture’ within the SMRT corporate structure.

Now however, it appears Mr Khaw is ready to dismiss the efforts of Mr Kuek without a second thought. I mean yes, Mr Kuek’s run as CEO of SMRT was riddled with concern and raised eyebrows, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify any good he might have done, does it? And besides, it appears that Mr Neo inherited a much better portfolio from Mr Kuek than Mr Kuek did from his predecessor Mr Saw Phaik Haw.

Alert netizens noticed this as well, pointing out that Mr Khaw has neglected to consider the years of effort put into improving the SMRT by the technicians, engineers, and ground workers as well as the former management led by Mr Kuek.