Sunday 15 March 2015

Risky business: Winning award leads to losing streak on the tracks for SMRT

Absolutely fabulous.

On Feb 19, SMRT received the award for Delivering Value Through Risk Management at the Institute of Risk Management’s Global Risk Awards ceremony in London.

And you thought the Oscars were glamorous.

What? You’ve never heard of the Global Risk Awards? What rock have you been living under?

Other big winners that night include Mr Amair Saleem of Roads & Transport Authority in Dubai, who was named Risk Management Professional Of The Year; and Lord Currie, chair of Competition And Markets Authority in UK, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Surely, you must have heard of them?

No? Okay, how about Joanna Lumley?

That’s right, the blonde actress from the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous.

If you’re older, you may know her as the blonde actress from the weird British series, Sapphire & Steel.

If you’re even older, you may know her as the blonde actress from The New Avengers (which has nothing to do with the Age Of Ultron).

I’m in the “even older” category.

More recently, she kissed Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street movie. (No, not Margot Robbie. Lumley played Robbie’s character’s Aunt Emma).

Even more recently, Lumley hosted the Global Risk Awards ceremony.

I told you it was glamorous.

To receive its award in London, SMRT sent at least one lucky employee, namely its head of strategy and risk management, Mr Ryan Ong, who was photographed with the still-hot 68-year-old Lumley clutching his arm like he was DiCaprio himself.

Absolutely fabulous, darling.

But what exactly is the Delivering Value Through Risk Management award?

Well, it’s “aimed at those who have established clear evidence that their risk management activities have added value to their organisation”, according to the SMRT press release.

SMRT president and CEO Desmond Kuek said:
“The rigorous judging process reaffirms that SMRT's Enterprise Risk Management programme is truly world-class and delivers superior value for our stakeholders.”

And thus SMRT snatched the award from other shortlisted contenders like AON UK, Emirate Transport (UAE), Essex County Council (UK), Infosys BPO (India) and Wakefield & District Housing (UK). What a win.

But mere days later, like the Marisa Tomei incident at the 1993 Academy Awards, it appeared like someone could’ve read out the wrong name by mistake. (I’m looking at you, dead Jack Palance.)

On Feb 23, a train service disruption between Yew Tee and Kranji stations kicked off a series of unfortunate events that made SMRT winning the award look like a oversight akin to giving the Best Actor Oscar to Eddie Redmayne over Michael Keaton.

I was rooting for Emirate Transport myself.

The Feb 23 disruption was followed by another the next day on the Bukit Panjang LRT system and another one three days later on the North-South Line after a man was seen walking on the tracks. At least he wasn’t taking a dump.

That was just in the last week of February.

Then came a delay on the Circle Line on March 3, a fire on Monday that turned the entire Bukit Panjang LRT system into a giant walkable art installation for a day, a stalled train at Yishun station on Thursday and a partridge in a pear tree.

I’m no expert like Mr Amair Saleem of Roads & Transport Authority in Dubai, but that doesn’t seem like very good risk management to me.

I’m not counting the girl who got her leg stuck in the platform gap at Hougang station on Wednesday, causing a disruption on the North-East Line (NEL) because NEL belongs to SBS Transit, not SMRT.

So I guess SMRT caught a break there — but not the NEL commuters. Or the girl.

Where is SMRT Ltd (Feedback) when you need them?

The disruptions inspired the Twitter hashtag #SMRTmovies. Someone should give Oscars to whoever tweeted “Dude, Where’s My Train?”, “Planes, Bus Bridging Services And Automobiles” and “50 Shades Of Delay”.

So you can’t help but scoff at the latest Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey, which showed that Singaporeans’ overall satisfaction with public transport has increased to 91.3 per cent last year from 88.5 per cent in 2013.

The timing of the release of the survey results was just unfortunate, like the timing of SMRT’s Global Risk Award win. I wonder if the Institute of Risk Management might ask for its award back.

Luckily, that wasn’t the only award that SMRT won last month.

On Feb 25, the company also received the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore Prism Award for Best Public Sector Campaign.

Yes, SMRT actually won an award for public relations. That’s like me winning an award for congeniality.

The guest of honour was Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information.

She may not be ab fab like Joanna Lumley, but she can clutch my arm any time.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 March 2015

From Derek

The Company does not deserve any accolades nor trophies. A wash out Company in the eyes of Singaporeans. Who caused these dismal performances - Saw Phaik Hwa and Desmond Kuek, and poor Tuck Yew has to bear the brunt of the beatings. SMRT Officials have to learn from Hong Kong's Absolutely Fabulous MTR, London's Underground, Japan's JR and the various Transport Giants of Australia.