SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and national water agency PUB have formed a committee to regularly look into flood prevention for tunnels, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday (Dec 5).
The committee will also study some long-term measures beyond the current generation and put them in place, he said.
“The PUB-LTA Standing Committee will institutionalise our lessons and hard-earned experiences, lest they disappear with us at the crematorium,” he said in a speech at the 5th Joint Forum on Infrastructure Maintenance at the Environment Building on Scotts Road.
The committee, set up on the suggestion of former PUB chairman Tan Gee Paw, will ensure future generations do not lose sight of the hazard of floods, Mr Khaw added.
In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia on the rationale behind the formation of the Standing Committee, LTA and PUB said it is to review the flood prevention measures for existing critical transport infrastructure. The Committee will meet twice a year, and put up an annual comprehensive review, which will be submitted to the Minister for Transport, they said.
"It will also assess the resilience of the flood protection measures for critical transport infrastructure against climate change, and review the emergency preparedness plans and collaborations between LTA, the public transport operators and other agencies during joint exercise," the agencies said.
The flooding of the Bishan-Braddell MRT tunnel on Oct 7 was not a failure of engineering, but a “failure of organisational management" at SMRT, he said.
“The Oct 7 incident throws up other issues: HR policies, staff rotation, staff supervision, staff engagement and staff motivation."
While the engineering design is straightforward, regular maintenance, periodic audits, checks and tests make the difference as to whether the anti-flooding mechanism will work as designed, he said.
“The Oct 7 flooding incident will be remembered for a long time. It’d better be,” he said.
In an email to LTA and PUB last month, Mr Tan also suggested including sluice gates in new tunnels, which completely seal the tunnels against flooding, Mr Khaw said.
Such sluice gates exist in tunnel portals in Taipei, where they have to deal with typhoons. "We may never experience typhoons but we will experience heavier rainfall periods, as the typhoon belt shifts southwards and we sit at the periphery of these typhoons," Mr Tan had said.
While newer train systems are better than their predecessors, they are not perfect, Mr Khaw said on Tuesday. Still, engineers have to try to the best of their ability to make them flawless, he added.
"We are not gods," he said.
GIVE THEM MORAL SUPPORT: KHAW ON SMRT STAFF
SMRT must emerge stronger from the incident, Mr Khaw said, adding that he has "full confidence" in SMRT, its chairman Seah Moon Ming and his team.
"While we are keenly aware of various gaps in SMRT that still are not yet addressed, do appreciate the many tireless, but necessary jobs that have already been done, and the risks avoided."
He also warned that SMRT may experience other incidents as it tries to catch up on "what could and should have been done years ago". He asked the public to give their support to SMRT staff, to make their jobs easier and raise their morale.
“The hardest role is always the men and officers fighting in the trenches. The burden on their shoulders are the heaviest. Their families are also affected if they see that their loved ones are being screamed at, or castigated,” he said.
The least that we can do is provide them with moral support, he added.
“The pride in SMRT still lurks among the rank and file. We can build on that.”