Photo of Khaw Boon Wan and SMRT staff from Facebook

Unable to handle public criticisms over it’s sloppy maintenance work, SMRT today (Jan 26) announced that they will be outsourcing more maintenance work to third party contractors. The announcement came after SMRT announced last week (Jan 20) that the maintenance of the water pump system would be subcontracted out.

In this announcement, air-conditioning and tunnel ventilation maintenance works would be given to subcontractors. Currently, the work to be outsourced is done by 160 SMRT maintenance employees. It is unknown whether the 160 will be made redundant:

“For aircon and ventilation alone, there are 146 chillers, 224 air-handling units and 355 pumps in the central aircon systems across its network. In addition, there are 3,900 split aircon units, 452 tunnel fans, and 4,300 other ventilation fans. All these are maintained by 160 employees who are part of a team of 600. Functions which are outsourced now include cleaning services, and maintenance of fire protection, ceiling fans at station platform, lifts, plumbing and roofing. External contractors also assist in the servicing of escalators, lights and platform screen doors.”

There is also no mention how much subcontracting will cost taxpayers more compared to using in-house staffs.

SMRT is trying to push the blame of any train incident like it did with the Joo Koon train collision last Oct, where contractor Thales was made to bear full responsibilities over a software glitch in the signalling system.

SMRT however denied that they are passing the buck over to contractors:

“We will not outsource our responsibility away. In tandem with the outsourcing move, SMRT maintenance staff will step up to supervisory or inspection roles.”

SMRT’s Director of Building and Facilities, Siu Yow Wee, told state media reporters that contractors can do a faster and better work than SMRT itself:

“Outsourcing allows SMRT to fix defects across its network more speedily. Engaging an external contractor – some of whom are original equipment manufacturers – allows us to work on multiple sites concurrently as we can mobilise the contractor’s manpower.”

SMRT has in recent years seen a number of train incidents, injuries and deaths resulted from it’s substandard maintenance. Since 2011, train breakdowns have been increasing due to lack of maintenance. In 2016, two maintenance crews were killed due to poor safety standards. In 2017, the flood warning system were damaged and train tunnels were flooded due to corruption from falsified maintenance records. There was also a train collision, several power outages and countless train delays.