SINGAPORE: SMRT announced on Friday (Sep 15) that it has been awarded the tender to operate and maintain the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).
The contract started from 2019 and will run for an initial nine-year period, said SMRT in a news release.
“We are delighted with the TEL result. When fully operational in 2024, it will grow SMRT’s rail network by a third," said Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation.
SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek said SMRT will immediately start preparations for the opening of the line and the firm will be recruiting several hundred more staff.
“We expect to recruit and train 600 more staff before the first TEL stations open, with about 900 more by the time TEL is fully open in 2024," he said.
He added that SMRT will not "dilute the engineering resources" required for the renewal of the North-South Line (NSL) and East-West Line (EWL).
"We remain focused on improving SMRT’s overall train network, and are on track to do so," he said.
The TEL will add 31 new stations to the existing rail network, with seven interchange stations.
SMRT WANTS TO RESTORE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE: CHAIRMAN
Mr Seah said in a media briefing that SMRT will work to restore public confidence and "meet public expectations by showing that our efforts to transform SMRT will result in better journeys".
“We are fully committed to working with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Ministry of Transport to transform the MRT network, to provide public with better train reliability and better commuter experience," he added.
On how SMRT managed to clinch the deal despite questions over its reliability and safety record, Mr Seah said the operator has learnt good lessons from challenges in running the NSL and EWL. "This is a 30-year-old system, and it's in the process of renewal and upgrading. And all the problems and challenges we face we take it as a good lesson learnt."
The tender is the first by LTA to pilot a framework to incentivise as well as penalise the TEL operator based on its performance in the key areas of service reliability, customer satisfaction, and maintenance processes.
Under this framework, SMRT undertook a contractual guarantee that if it was unable to meet any key obligations, the service fee it receives for running the line will be cut.
The company accepted these terms "to show that we make a serious commitment", Mr Seah said.