Photo of Khaw Boon Wan on train

In his first media appearance since Nov 2016, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan spoke at the opening of the Singapore Rail Academy today (Feb 23) claiming that 15,000 rail workers are needed by 2030 in Singapore.

“There are almost 10,000 people working in the rail industry currently but this number is expected to increase to 15,000 by 2030.”

However, Minister Khaw Boon Wan seems to have got his figures wrong because in April 2016, the Ministry of Transport wrote that there are only slightly over 6,000 rail workers in Singapore, of whom more than half are engineers and technicians while the rest are in administration.

View press release in April 2016 by Ministry of Transport here

The Transport Minister also claimed that rail engineering has “almost guaranteed” employment prospects in the next 10 years:

“By 2030, we expect this (total headcount) to grow further – at least by another 50 per cent to 15,000. But I suspect we will need more than that. This makes the rail industry a growth industry, whose employment prospects are almost guaranteed in the next decade.”

In 2013, Minister Khaw Boon Wan called for more Singaporeans to become crane operators:

“Half of the (current 3,600) operators are Singaporeans. But we need more, a few hundreds more, as we ramp up our Build-To-Order programme.”

However as the construction sector frail, many local crane operators are retrenched and find themselves out of job after heeding the Minister’s advice. In the rail engineering industry, there are also only three rail companies – SMRT, SBS Transit and LTA – to work for in Singapore. A rail worker will be unable to find a similar job opening in other two rail companies if he is retrenched.

The Minister also did not mention if the 5,000 rail engineer jobs will hire only Singaporeans. It is understood that SMRT and SBS Transit will seek foreign employees to fill the positions as the engineering training will take at least 3 years for an engineering diploma and a minimum of 4 years for an engineering degree.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan has avoided media appearances and comments on the persistent train breakdowns. The retiring Minister has also given up on new plans to fix the worsening public transport, and is just passing time holding the transport minister portfolio until the next General Election in 2020.