Saturday 11 November 2017

Why 30-year-old MRT system is looking its age: Rodents and missing cable tabs?

Another week of the news dominated by SMRT — Parliament, 30th anniversary and of course, more breakdowns.

And that's just the mainstream media,

Online, there are supposed behind-the-scene revelations from alleged insiders.

Disclaimer: This could all be "fake news", so read on at your own peril.

What is wrong with SMRT

Well written but not many people know the issues plaguing SMRT.

Before Saw became CEO, 2/3 of the SMRT workforce worked in the Permanent Wave; that's night shift to people who don't know. 11pm to 7am; non-rotating shift.

These were majority engineers, technicians. Most with Diplomas and a few with Bachelors.

When Saw became CEO, on the recommendation of the Board of Directors, she fired 25% of the night staff. Not so bad, but what happened was the night shift guys had to prioritize workload.

Still not so bad.

Desmond stepped in and fired 50% of the Night Crew. So the original 100% is down to 35%

Now they have severe issues.

And those who were fired had been in SMRT from the beginning making a lot of money, and doing the same job as a brand new Poly Grad.

Here lies the problem. Poly Grad = S$1600. SMRT entrenched with 10-15years S$5400. Yet Day in day out they're doing the same thing⁉

Not so. That 10-15 year old man can hear the train and tell you what's wrong. The Poly grad doesn't know squeak from squawk.

And when these oldies were chopped. They removed all the Cable Tabs which would tell a normal person, where the wire comes from and where it terminated.

All the cables in SMRT are insulated and waterproof, but when Saw brought in retail, it caused a rodent problem in SMRT.

Rats were eating into the water insulations and cable insulation. Worse, some of these cables are completely sealed off. Meaning they don't require maintenance for 25-50 years.

But the rat infestation caused leaks, and now water has seeped in and with it dirt and tiny creatures which have been causing all those Signaling issues.

The SMRT brought in a consultant. He asked SMRT to shut down for a month so they could trace every single wire and cable; replace and retag all of them.

SMRT has said NO.

UPDATE: SMRT has refuted the post:
Some of you may have seen this online report on SMRT.

This is obviously fake! How would SMRT have been able to complete the change out of all the power rails and 188,000 sleepers if staff count had indeed been cut so drastically?

Contrary to what is purported, under SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek’s tenure, the Permanent Way (PWAY) team that looks after our track and track-side infrastructure almost DOUBLED.

It grew from 206 staff to 395 staff from 31 December 2010 till 30 September this year.

The number of night shift workers also increased by 65% with more permanent night shift staff added to the North-South and East-West Lines in the same period.

The number of personnel carrying out maintenance work is even more when one adds external contract workers who augment the permanent staff on the tracks.

Note that SMRT addressed only the part about staff numbers in the first half of the post and not the cable insulation issue and rat infestation brought up in the second half.

SMRT has also yet to refute this other post from SGtalk:
A ex consultant leaked this on mrt breakdown.

He says too many people there, don't know what is going on. He was trying to look at the drawing on the cables and no one knows what the cables are for.

He dig up old drawings and even get his men down to look at the cables, no one can tell him what the cables are.

The cables are old and worn out. He needs to know what it is for, before recommending them to be replaced or decommissioned.

He tried asking around. No one can tell him what to do. This endless cycle of looking at cables and trying to figure out what to do drag on and on.

Have you ever notice, new mrt lines are given to new contractors. He told me mentioning the circle line. It is obvious, the previous team heading the old lines are not doing well. He shake his head. Given there are only 3-4 hours each night to review the maintenance of the lines, how to get things done. How to solve problems when no details on how to solve them.

He don't want to come out in public on this. He says its only a matter of time before we see more breakdowns.

Machines needs to rest. You can't expect mrt to run everyday with only 3-4 hours for maintenance and don't breakdown. What about redundancy in work processes? You can shut down a line and get another line to run to cover? The ex consultant says this mrt system has critical issues. There is just too many problems and too many people don't know yet pretend to know. How many times he went into mrt meetings, only to get rebutted that it is not possible. He says, fixed it by doing a thorough check. You can't just do patch work, everytime there is a problem. By doing a thorough check, you can uncover more potential problems.

No, cannot shutdown the mrt line for maintenance. This is the what mrt engineers told him

He shaked his head everytime he says he went for mrt meetings. Mrt meetings are a drag. No one wants to put their head on the chopping block to recommend a complete shutdown for repairs.

He claims, he decided its better this consultant job be given to others. He quitted.

A common theme in these two posts is that the MRT needs to be shut down for longer periods for proper maintenance, but SMRT was resistant.

Well, this week, it was reported that daily train service may start later and end earlier to facilitate maintenance. So that lends some credibility to the posts.

For more purported insider dirt, there's also this article at The Online Citizen: Desmond Kuek’s resignation will not solve SMRT’s maintenance problem and its deep-rooted cultural issues