SINGAPORE — Urging SMRT staff to view last month’s tunnel flooding that crippled the North-South Line as a “turning point”, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Tuesday (Nov 14) said the incident could happen to other organisations.
“Oct 7 happened to SMRT...but it could happen to other organisations too. In every large organisation, there will be some black sheep. Our job is to identify them, counsel them, give them opportunities to shape up, and if they cannot, get them to part company,” he said at the launch of the Public Transport Workers’ Appreciation Day. “What we should not do is to turn a blind eye to their act.”
He reserved harsh words for the “small” group of SMRT workers that had let commuters down, saying they had negated the good work of others and brought disrepute to other transport workers.
“They have also tarnished the reputation of Singapore and Singaporeans,” added Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.
Investigations found that the floods on Oct 7 were the result of poor maintenance of the flood protection system that had been masked by falsified records.
Six members, and another seven managerial staff, of SMRT’s Building and Facilities Maintenance group responsible for the maintenance of the pump system at Bishan MRT Station have been suspended.
Mr Khaw urged SMRT staff members to move on from the episode.
“We cannot change the past…but let (Oct 7) be the turning point after which all SMRT staff dedicate their 100 per cent to their public responsibility to make SMRT train services reliable again,” he said.
Noting that “the heavy lifting must be done by SMRT staff”, Mr Khaw said that he was certain others, including commuters, would show their support.
The 22,000 public transport workers “deserve our respect and applause”, said Mr Khaw.
“You have joined a noble profession … the vast majority of you are honest, diligent, responsible and dedicated to your responsibilities,” he added.
The minister also called on commuters to be “grateful” to the “silent, every day heroes who make our daily trips possible”. Daily bus and rail rides have increased by 30 per cent over the last five years to nearly 8 million daily.
The inaugural Public Transport Workers’ Appreciation Day was jointly organised by the Land Transport Authority, the National Transport Workers’ Union, as well as the four public transport operators.
Public transport workers at the event, held at Bedok Town Square, said the day served to recognise their contributions and to enable the public to understand what their jobs entail.
Bus service mentor at Go-Ahead Singapore, Md Ahzman Tumin, told TODAY it should be a regular event.
SBS Transit customer service officer Roy Ong, 61, said: “Hopefully… after knowing what we do (and the sacrifices we make), they will appreciate what we are doing.”
Mr Ong has been with the operator for eight years.
Tower Transit bus captain Rickee Ng, 64, noted other professionals, like nurses or secretaries, have special days or weeks.
“If (public) transport workers go off for a day, everything stands still. (We) are actually the movers of the economy,” he said. “Finally, (public) transport workers (have) come to the fore.”