Khaw Boon Wan Reveals SMRT’s Investigations Regarding The Flood & The Future Of SMRT In Parliament

He has finally spoken — and in Parliament nonetheless.

Aside from the post-flood press conference, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had remained relatively mum about the MRT tunnel flooding incident which occurred on 7 Oct.

That is until Tuesday (7 Nov), when he delivered a Ministerial Statement about the incident which resulted in a 20-hour train disruption — one of the worst in Singapore this year.


His full statement can be read in its entirety here.

Alternatively, you can sit back and read on as we here at MustShareNews bring you the 8 key things that was said during his statement.

1. What went wrong during that fateful day?

After briefly explaining what happened that day, Mr Khaw provided the results of SMRT’s investigations as to what went wrong.

On the day of the incident, the Bishan storm water sump pit must have been quite full, even before the rain started.

He mentioned that it was unlikely for the sump pit to have been filled just from the rain on that day itself, and speculated that it had already been close to its maximum capacity prior.

He also stated that the pit could contain a volume of up to the equivalent of two Olympic-sized swimming pools, and that the downpour only amounted to 13% of its capacity.

The Bishan storm water sump pit has a capacity of over 5,000 cubic metres… In comparison, the total rainfall which was cleared from the tunnels was only about 640 cubic metres.

Because of this, he concluded that the flooding was a result the negligence of the SMRT maintenance team in charge of Bishan’s pump.

It was due to poor maintenance and neglect of duties by the specific SMRT maintenance team responsible for the Bishan storm water sump pump system.

Disappointed, he reiterated that the incident could’ve been avoided from the start.

The tunnel flooding incident was preventable. It should not have happened.

As to why the float switches controlling the pump system had  failed to function normally, Mr Khaw simply stated that it was a subject of the ongoing LTA investigations.

2. Revelations of SMRT’s investigations


Additionally, investigations revealed that the sump pit hadn’t been properly maintained — as per company regulations of a quarterly check.

Based on [SMRT’s] findings, it appears that the Bishan flood protective system had not been maintained for many months.

This is despite records stating otherwise, which could only mean one thing.

In other words, the maintenance records may have been falsified.

Interestingly, SMRT’s press release on Update on Maintenance of the Bishan Water Discharge System stated that the previous maintenance work done was back in July.

However, the flooding incident occurred just three months later in October.


If that was truly the case, then why wasn’t the issue corrected during their checks?

3. Bishan team was actually involved in 15 other stations

Perhaps more concerning was that the team involved in the Bishan system – which have since been suspended – was actually also in charge of pump maintenance of 15 other MRT stations from Sembawang to Dhoby Ghaut.

The engineering supervisor and four other crew members were directly responsible for maintaining pumps and other facilities in 15 stations from Sembawang to Dhoby Ghaut stations, while the manager was responsible for supervising and ensuring that the work was done.

Mr Khaw also revealed that the pumps at Bishan weren’t the only ones that were faulty.

SMRT found that 2 out of 8 pumps at Kembangan and 3 out of 4 pumps at Lavender were not in serviceable condition.

Which is really shocking but don’t worry, the issue has been remedied.

According to him, anyway.

For the other portal systems at Kembangan, Lavender and Changi, SMRT has replaced or repaired all the non-serviceable pumps.

4. Immediate actions following the flood

Having said that, Mr Khaw also provided the immediate actions that were taken at Bishan following the flood.

  • Replaced all existing float switches
  • Enhanced flood protection system resiliency
  • Added a new radar-based sensor system
  • Made the pump control panel more accessible

He also assured that the removal of accumulated sludge, silt and debris is currently in progress.

5. Steps taken to prevent a recurrence 


In order to prevent a recurrence of the incident, Mr Khaw stated that SMRT had taken the following actions:

  • Replacing the former VP of Building and Facilities Mr Ng Tek Poo with Mr Siu Yow Wee
  • Increasing of flood protection system maintenance from quarterly to monthly
  • Tightening flood recovery plans and strengthening coordination with the SCDF and PUB
  • Inviting expert from the Taipei Metro to do a thorough and independent review

He also vowed to develop and cultivate a stronger culture of accountability, ownership and open reporting across the organisation by strengthening internal processes and staff support.

This includes:

  • Staff rotations and renewal
  • Delayering of reporting chains for tighter management oversight
  • Enhancing night work supervision
  • Strengthening training and coaching of supervisors
  • Aligning bonuses and incentives of senior supervisors to the performance of their teams

Looks like they’re really serious about making a change.

6. A possible pay cut incoming?


Those clamouring for management to take pay cuts will be delighted to know that SMRT is indeed intending on at least reviewing the salaries of those in upper management.

[SMRT’s new Chairman] also shared that the Board will review the remuneration of its senior management, from the CEO through the relevant chain of command.

However, Mr Khaw Boon Wan himself will not be affected.

When Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera asked if the flood would affect the pay of staff from the Ministry of Transport (MOT) , Mr Khaw had the following to say:

There is no evidence of shortcomings or lapses in regulatory oversight by the MOT and LTA in the MRT flooding incident.

Basically meaning that they had done all they could given the situation.

7. Actions beyond the flood

Beyond the flood, Mr Khaw reaffirmed that their focus remained on raising train reliability and meeting the high standards set by commuters.

He even stated that the past two years had produced significant results towards their ultimate goal of being a world-class transport system again.

As I have told this House before, our maintenance ramp-up in the last two years is producing results. The improvement is real and significant and is experience by all the 5 MRT lines, including the oldest North-South and East-West Lines.

However, he did acknowledge the unhappiness on the ground.

But I know the commuters, especially those using the North-South Line regularly, do not feel so.

While he said that he understands their frustrations, he insisted that the situation had only been improving.

..the problems are being resolved one by one.

He mentioned how not long ago people were jumping from the platforms — to which they put a stop to by installing platform screens.

And how they previously experienced rail and sleeper issues but not any more as they had changed them out.

He likened the flooding incident to the previous issues and proclaimed that it won’t happen again.

The same is with flooding, it will not recur.

Before promising a major improvement really soon.

As we keep going in this direction, there will be a major improvement in experience in the near future.

As long as we endure the current situation — which is unavoidable, or life as he put it.

8. 6 core components of the NS/EW Lines


Lastly, he touched on the six core components of the North-South and East-West Lines:

  • Sleepers
  • Third Rail
  • Signalling System
  • Power Supply
  • Track Circuit
  • First-Generation Trains

He stated that SMRT was currently halfway through their goals to upgrade the components.

We are about halfway through this multi-year journey (to renew the six core components of the North-South and East-West Lines), with our destination in 2024.

Which would mean that come 2024, Singapore’s MRT system will once again be world-class.

What do you think of his statements?

What do you think about his statements on the flood? Is he finally telling the truth or are we simply witnessing another act of tai chi?

Could our trains really reach world-class status again by 2024 as he promised? Perhaps.

Either way, looks like we’ll have to endure a few more years of disruptions to find out.

Featured image from Facebook.