We thank Mr Francis Cheng for his letter (SMRT managers should learn how to drive trains as well; April 4).
In SMRT, all staff have a part to play in keeping train services moving.
During a train disruption, more than 700 staff from SMRT corporate departments such as finance, human resources, information technology and corporate communications are recalled to serve in customer service teams.
Given one hour to respond to their designated MRT station – before or after office hours on weekdays, or on weekends - these corporate staff augment frontline staff at MRT stations to provide service information and directions to commuters, and perform crowd control duties.
In addition, staff from SMRT Buses are recalled to support the trains team by providing shuttle buses and additional engineering staff are mobilised to return train services to normal operations expeditiously.
SMRT managers and staff, not just those on the front line, also perform customer service duties during periods when large numbers of commuters are expected to use the network to attend major events. All new staff joining SMRT are also familiarised with different aspects of commuter operations before taking up other assignments in the company.
This all-of-SMRT approach ensures SMRT staff at all levels are not “insulated” from feedback or sentiments expressed by the public.
We agree with Mr Cheng that “such a system would be fundamental to developing a world-class rail culture”.
In addition, SMRT managers do walk the ground to inform and update commuters on upcoming activities on the rail renewal front.
This outreach has involved the distribution of information material explaining situations involving early closure or late opening of MRT stations to provide more time for engineering staff to work on rail renewal or maintenance projects. Such face-to-face contact with commuters provides management with a firsthand feel of who they serve, and of public expectations of MRT operations.
Driving of trains is a specialised skill set. Train Captains on our North-South and East-West Lines undergo training for a period of six months before they are allowed to first drive trains with passengers, under close supervision.
The safety of our commuters is paramount and the driving of trains is therefore entrusted only to full-time Train Captains. Even for the driverless lines, station staff, engineers and rovers who can drive the trains when needed require special training.
Lee Ling Wee
Managing Director, SMRT Trains Ltd.