Friday, July 10, 2015

An alternative approach for SMRT to deal with train breakdowns

Hi Mr. Tan
What would you do if you were the CEO of SMRT? You seem to have a lot of ideas. Let's hear them.

First, I have to recognize what can and cannot be done.

The SMRT system is old and has been poorly maintained for several years. There is a serious shortage of experienced engineers who are familiar with the system. The demand for train service is excessive due to the large increase in population. Many people rely on the trains for their primary mode of transport.

There is nothing much that can be done on these fronts. I believe that the current management is doing their best according to their available resources.

My strategy is to manage the expectations of the general public, in particular, the passengers who are affected by the breakdown.

1) First, I will cap my salary at $500,000. This salary is adequate, even for a CEO with huge responsibilities. You must remember that SMRT is almost a monopoly and is not subject to the kind of market competition faced by most international and large domestic businesses.

2) If the CEO's salary is not humongous, the commuters will be more forgiving if the system breaks down once in a while. They know that it is an old system that is under heavy strain.

3) I would also take the train to work at least a few times each week. The commuters will find it nice to see the CEO and the top managers taking the train and experiencing what they have to go through daily. They will not be so demanding when things go wrong - as it must from time to time.

4) If there is a train breakdown, I would give a refund of $5 to each passenger credited back into their fare card. This should be 3 times of their normal fare. It is not enough to compensate them for the inconvenience, but it would be a good gesture. They can use the refund to take alternative transport, e.g. bus or taxi.

5) When there is a breakdown, I would alert the private bus operators and taxi drivers to be available at the stations to meet the heavy demand. The passengers can pay their own fares for the alternative transport. I would still arrange for buses to provide the alternative support. However, if the buses are not available, the passengers can still find their alternative transport.

6) I would engage engineers on a 3 year contract at a 150% to 200% of the normal salary. I will take this time to train young engineers to gain the experience in the maintenance of the train system. This will solve the temporary shortage of engineers.

If there is a major breakdown affecting 250,000 passengers, the cost to SMRT for the refund would be $1.25 million, plus the cost of arranging alternative transport. This does not happen every day. Hopefully, it will happen only once in a few years. It is not a large sum.


yujuan said...

Good try at possible solutions.
Commuters barking up the wrong tree, dig deeper and see the embattled SMRT CEO is just a scapegoat shielding the Govt and main shareholder Temasek Holdings from total blame. They could take refuge in the aging system and CEO's incompetence.
Paying the price for stinging on routine maintenance past years, the damage is done, no one wants to take the hot CEO seat. So only a retired, unemployed, thick faced SAF soldier willing to take up post.
But Temasek has to pay well for a scapegoat willing to take up the rap to face public fury. So spare the CEO puppet.
There are solutions, but why should we show the way, anyway Govt either won't listen or unwilling to take crucial action.
Just stay on the river bank and watch the fireworks. We dun pay the Ministers million $ pay to teach them, and later claim credits for themselves after hijacking our ideas.
Govt has to pay the price for stinginess in awarding contracts to the cheapest bidder and greedy for profits at expense of needed maintenance in past years.
Cents wise, $ foolish.

Kin Lian Tan said...

I read that SMRT might have to pay a fine of $20 million dollar for this breakdown. I don't think it will come to that sum.

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