Why stretching targets might not be a good idea for rail workers…

khaw boon wan

Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday urged Singapore’s rail operators to emulate their Taipei counterparts in improving its train services reliability.

Apparently, Minister Khaw had just returned from a learning trip to Taipei together with representatives from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rail operators SBSTransit and SMRT.

He challenged both rail operators to “set stretched, audacious targets and work out guts out to attain them”.


Actually this can be rather dangerous for rail workers who already work tirelessly while the rest of Singapore is asleep.

Just last week, National Transport Workers’ Union’s (NTWU) Executive Secretary  Melvin Yong wrote in a blogpost that rail workers often have a very tight schedule while working to maintain our rail system.

So if the schedule for train maintenance is already short and targets are stretched, workers might feel even more stretched and stressed.


As it is, workplace accidents and mishaps have been one too many in the last few months, adding more stress to the workers in the form of stretched targets might not be a good idea.


Fortunately, according to Mr Melvin Yong, LTA recently announced that train services will be cut short on certain days to facilitate the maintenance. This allows rail maintenance workers to have a bit more time to work on the track system without putting workers at risk.

With more time for them to perform their maintenance duties, perhaps the target suggested by Minister Khaw could be achieved.

Mr Yong also emphasised that it is important for rail workers to be rallied and motivated towards a common goal by the rail operators. And also highlighted that the union is ready to work with the LTA to acheive the targets together.

What Minister Khaw suggested about having workers attached to the Taipei Rail operator to learn from their maintenance programmes and reliability efforts could possibly be quite a good idea. This allows them to be better skilled and have better career progression in the long run.

Sending the maintenance workers there allows them to acquire best practices first-hand and implement them in the maintenance operations here. This would be more efficient than sending management personnel who might not have the ground expertise or knowledge.

If this is done well, then perhaps Minister Khaw’s challenge to set higher targets can be achieved with all stakeholders better off.


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