"Rat Catchers" Needed to Address Train Issues

"Rat catchers", or sharp-eyed engineers who can spot potential problems, can play a part in easing Singapore's rail woes, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan suggested after a disruption of nearly two hours on the North-East Line yesterday (26 Oct).

In his blog post, Mr Khaw shared an e-mail he had received from Chairman of Public Utilities Board (PUB), Tan Gee Paw, who is also the newly-minted Advisor on Rail Transformation

"We need to engage street-smart, sharp-eyed practising engineers in systems engineering for rails alongside the third-party consultant," Mr Tan said in his e-mail, dubbing these engineers "rat catchers". "They are the ones who will walk through the system and spot the risky parts of the system, beyond the codes of practice and alert us on what modifications must be made urgently," he added.

Mr Tan said he speaks from experience. In the 1980s, PUB's first refuse incineration plant suffered a total shutdown after a rat tried to jump across two bus bars, a kind of electrical conductor, and short-circuited the entire plant. 

As the rail system ages, more "rats" will appear, he said. "Unless we can get this done quickly, pouring massive engineering manpower to beef up maintenance will never get us out of this mess. No amount of good maintenance can make up for rats running around."

Sources: “'Rat catchers' needed to ease rail woes: Khaw” (The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2015), “How to boost rail reliability: Hire ‘rat catchers’” (TODAY Online, 27 Oct 2015)

Do you agree that hiring “rat catchers” can help ease our rail problems? What more can be done to boost rail reliability?

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