Interview with Desmond Kuek at Asia Pacific Rail 2017

What are some of the latest technologies that SMRT is looking to adopt to improve service reliability and passenger experience? Read on to find out what Mr Desmond Kuek, President and Group CEO at SMRT Corporation Ltd, shared at the Asia Pacific Rail 2017.

1) The focus will remain on reliability and customer experience. As urbanisation and population grows, public transport needs will continue to be a dominant issue. The most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solutions are usually to be found in mass rapid transit rail systems. It is expected that this will continue to be the solution of choice for many cities in the foreseeable future, hence much emphasis will be placed on systems, processes, and technologies needed for rail asset owners and operators to provide affordable and quality transport services to commuters.

End-to-end connectivity for public transport journeys will be even more important. Many cities already have good connectivity for trunk nodes, but typically missing is that first mile connectivity to the nearest MRT node and the last mile connectivity from the MRT node to the destination point for the commuter. There is great interest and innovation through ICT with new modes of transportation and third party mobile applications – for mobility as a service to commuters.  The aim is to make transport journeys seamless across various public and private, including personal mobility, modes – so that commuter choice based on time and affordability for their journey – can be better discerned.

2) At the rail engineering end of technology, SMRT is looking to invest in condition monitoring, and how data can be collected, collated and analysed with a view to meaningful decision-making for more predictive maintenance. SMRT is interested in sensors, sense-making and the way in which information can flow wirelessly and in real-time back to decision or control centres that can make those meaningful decisions in a time-relevant way for safety and reliability.

In the face of an aging workforce, SMRT is also looking at technology to make the workplace more productive and efficient. Innovations with robotics and drones that can help in physically demanding areas where maintenance activities are mundane, hazardous or not so easily accessible.

A third area of technology exploration is with commuter touch-points, such as passenger information systems, payment systems, and to facilitate inclusiveness in the community.

3) A lot of SMRT’s current challenges have to do with enhancing the reliability of the trains network as the systems age. The oldest lines are now 30 years old, and renewal of all the component systems have begun and are expected to be completed in the next 1-2 years. This includes sleeper replacement, upgrading the third rail and power systems, and introducing a new CBTC signaling system. Trains are also being progressively overhauled for better reliability.

The challenge is doing all these upgrading works while the system is still running live. There are only 3 hours every night to get all these engineering works done in time before commuter service starts at dawn the next day. Work is done under tremendous time pressure, and there is a need to plan and resource the activities well in order to fully optimize track access. And most importantly, to ensure, in all the intensity of work, the highest level of safety for our workers and commuters.