Singapore has produced many very good engineers over the years. They dedicate their life to building modern Singapore and fly Singapore Engineering Flag high.
One of my most respected Singapore Engineers is Mr Tan Gee Paw who devoted his whole career to PUB, providing Singaporeans with a reliable and safe water service. He worked diligently to ensure that when you turn on the tap or flush the toilet water flows and waste water is drained away.
He believes in building local capabilities and over many years, built up a core of good PUB engineers, through a steady award of scholarships to bright students, nurtured their career and through personal example showed that engineering was a noble, meaningful career.
He also made water engineering sexy, through smart R&D investments. He and his team delivered NEWater and permanently removed the strategic risk of water dependency on a neighbouring country. Along the way, he helped create a new globally competitive industry for Singapore companies.
As soon as I was told of my new posting, Mr Tan was the first individual whom I consulted for advice and suggestion. We discussed the problem of rail disruptions, its possible causes and how we can make rail service as reliable as PUB services. We also discussed the industry structure for bringing about better alignment of incentives. We wondered aloud on how we would structure our rail companies, if we were to start afresh.
We also discussed the larger vision of a Singapore where public transport could be so convenient, reliable and hassle-free that there would be no need to own a car. The city should be for pedestrians, as envisaged by our Founding PM Lee Kuan Yew decades ago. We had so much in common on how the future transport system could be like and how to move from here to there.
I asked him to be my Advisor on Rail Transformation (ART), with an immediate priority to ramp up rail reliability. This will require a serious re-focus on the part of every player (MOT, LTA, SMRT, SBST) that we are in the engineering business, founded on strong engineering expertise and capabilities. We are no miracle workers, but given political will, clarity of purpose, dogged determination, we are confident that we will arrive at where we want public transport to be. But we need time to bring about this rail (and real) transformation.
Gee Paw readily accepted the challenge.
Indeed, many of my engineering friends have emailed me their feedback and suggestions. They have seen the rail disruptions as denting the reputation of Singapore Engineers. They want to see us succeed in the transformation. I thank them for their moral support. I also welcome their continuing feedback. There will be ups and downs in the journey ahead. We must not demoralise the troops on the ground. Please cheer us on.
Engineers unite, let’s get on with the rail transformation and real revolution!
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