SINGAPORE: The new chief executive of beleaguered transport operator SMRT said on Monday (Aug 13) he is confident of earning back the public's trust, and that he has given up his car and will rely on public transport.
“We continue to organise our people to deliver well. So as long as we focus on delivering the reliability, over time we should be able to regain (the public's) confidence," Mr Neo Kian Hong said in his first interview with the media since his appointment.
Mr Neo was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to SMRT’s Bishan depot, where he was briefed on the new batch of C151C trains.
SMRT has been at the heart of several high-profile incidents in recent times, including a train collision at Joo Koon MRT station last November and a flooded MRT tunnel in October.
READ: SMRT defends Neo Kian Hong's appointment, cites new chief's 'personal values' and 'leadership qualities'
Mr Neo said he has set out three goals for the company - providing reliability, creating sustainability and ensuring continuous improvement.
He described reliability of services as a “basic requirement” that the transport operator will need to provide under his leadership. “As a trains company, we will be focused on delivering safe and reliable train services,” he said.
GIVING UP HIS CAR
Mr Neo also told reporters that he has given up his car and will rely on public transport.
“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,” he explained.
He also revealed that his family moved to a new home because of his new role.
“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.
Mr Neo replaced former CEO Desmond Kuek, who spent five-and-a-half years heading the transport company.
"CONFIDENT HE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE": SMRT CHAIRMAN
During his visit to Bishan depot, Mr Neo was accompanied by SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Land Transport Authority (LTA) deputy chief executive for infrastructure and development Chua Chong Kheng.
Mr Seah said that Mr Neo understood the mission of the company, and is an individual who sees his role as a “duty” to the company and the public.
“I am confident that he will make a difference to SMRT,” said Mr Seah. “He is competent to lead and run large organisations well. Over the last two months during the leadership transition, he has worked the ground and understands the ground challenges.”
SMRT has had to defend its appointment of Mr Neo even before he officially took over the reins, with SMRT spokesperson Margaret Teo citing Mr Neo's "personal values" and "leadership qualities" as key reasons for his appointment.
Ms Teo's comments were in response to a Straits Times forum letter, in which its author Dr Michael Loh Toon Seng said that he was "disappointed" that SMRT had chosen "another chief executive" without "relevant experience".
However, Mr Neo said that he has received positive feedback since his appointment was announced.
“The public has been very supportive,” he said. “Many have come to me and expressed a lot of support. They have also expressed that they are very proud of the rail and that they want us to continue to improve it.”
MEETING COMMUTER DEMAND
To meet commuter demand, six new trains will be added to the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) next month, with another six to be introduced in early 2019, Mr Neo said.
These 12 trains will be the first in Singapore to have "tip-up seats" to create more standing space for commuters during peak hours.
They will have four sets of three tip-up seats located in the centre of each car. The seats will be folded during morning and evening peak periods, and unfolded during off-peak hours to increase seating capacity. This can only be done by the train driver.
The trains, which will also carry LTA's logo for the first time, will have red and green stripes - the colours of the NSEWL - against a white background.