Photo of Khaw Boon Wan from TodayOnline

After over 8 years of persistent train breakdowns, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan finally gave up and announced that train maintenance will be done by the manufacturers instead. The S$1.1 million-a-year PAP Minister said that he has paid an undisclosed sums costing tens of millions for lifetime maintenance contracts from the train manufacturers:

“The recent supply of 66 replacement trains for the North-South and East-West lines was bundled with a lifetime maintenance programme. The approach would ensure that train manufacturers had the right incentives to deliver a well-designed asset that is easy to maintain, not susceptible to failure, and minimises the overall life cycle costs.”

Maintenance contracts by manufacturers is estimated to cost three times more than local maintenance teams, as engineers had to be flied in from overseas and manufacturers would have to set up a local office in Singapore on the Transport Ministry’s costs.

The move is also a little known legal corruption to nationalise the exorbitant costs of train maintenance and in turn boost profits of SMRT and SBS Transit, benefiting their owner Temasek Holdings whose CEO is the Prime Minister’s wife.

Speaking at a public forum on Friday (Nov 2), Minister Khaw Boon Wan then started complaining about the complexity of having different systems for different train lines. However the Transport Minister omitted to mention that the train specifications and tenders were issued out by the Transport Ministry himself:

“As our rail network becomes more extensive, we need to think about greater standardisation across the rail system,” he said. “By 2030, we will have eight MRT lines. Is it wise to have eight different system providers for signalling, another eight for trains, another eight for power and so on? If we do that, our engineers will need to learn eight different systems, multiplied by many different assets. This is not a good use of our engineering talent. It also prevents us from exploiting economies of scale.”

Minister Khaw Boon Wan then passed the problem of persistent train breakdowns to the manufacturers, saying that they have help the government solve its problem:

“Rail reliability is a national priority, suppliers must see the benefit of being aligned with this priority. At the end of the day, when Singapore succeeds, our strategic partners succeed together with us. If they meet the high standards here, they should be able to succeed anywhere else too.”