SMRT's Desmond Kuek urges staff to learn from flooding incident, which left them 'awash in collective shame'

SMRT's Desmond Kuek urges staff to learn from flooding incident, which left them 'awash in collective shame'

Mr Desmond Kuek at SMRT briefing
SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek apologised to commuters at a media conference on Monday (Oct 16) on the MRT tunnel flooding incident on Oct 7.

SINGAPORE: On Tuesday (Nov 7), train operator SMRT was set to celebrate its 30th anniversary of train operations. Instead, the company was "awash in collective shame because a few of our staff had let us down", CEO Desmond Kuek said in an email to employees.

That day, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament about the MRT tunnel flooding incident which occurred along the North-South Line, disrupting train services for about 20 hours on Oct 7 and 8.

"The SMRT team responsible for maintaining the Bishan storm water sump pit had neglected their duties, falsified records and failed us," Mr Khaw told the House.

SMRT investigations have shown that maintenance works for the Bishan portal sump pump system were not properly carried out since December last year.

The train operator subsequently announced that six staff members will face disciplinary proceedings and an inquiry is being conducted against seven other managerial staff, including two executives at the vice-president level.

Referring to the staff members involved, Mr Kuek wrote in the email on Wednesday: "They did not do what they were entrusted to. Their supervisors assumed that nothing would go wrong just because it hadn't gone wrong before. Possibly they thought no one would notice, or care. Maybe it was always deemed to be someone else's problem."

Mr Kuek stressed the importance of integrity, ownership and responsibility, and said that without these qualities "things can go horribly wrong. As it did".

"We had worked so hard to come this far, but when some of us fail to do what's right or do the right thing, we have nothing more to say but apologise to the nation."

The SMRT chief urged staff to "take the lessons seriously", stating that "we have not lost if we learn".

"It is not the mistake that defines a person or an organisation, but how we learn from it, rising to be stronger and better."

He added: "This will be a crucial new beginning for SMRT if we commit ourselves to a culture of discipline and excellence in providing safe, reliable, commuter-focused public transport services that Singaporeans can be proud of."

Mr Kuek told staff to make it their duty to step forward to correct or report any wrongdoing, and encouraged open communication with fellow workers.

"Take the responsibility, walk the talk, own the outcome," he said. "Let's press on. We will get there."

Source: CNA/mz