Inferior composite wood used for 188,000 sleepers of Singapore’s MRT train which can hardly withstand the crushing weight of trains and result in train derailment

Was inferior composite wood used for MRT sleepers?

August 5th, 2013 |  Author: Editorial


On 14 May 2013, ST reported that SMRT and LTA will accelerate a programme to replace timber sleepers on the ageing North-South and East-West lines to improve the resilience of the rail network in Singapore (‘LTA, SMRT to accelerate sleeper replacement on North-South and East-West lines‘). It said that SMRT aims to replace all 188,000 timber sleepers on the North-South Line by 2015, and on the East-West Line by 2016. On Saturday (3 Aug), SPH’s bilingual news and entertainment portal ( published an interesting article [Link] claiming the timber sleepers have been discovered to be made of sub-standard wood. The article claims to have heard from an insider in the wood industry. It seems that some company has bought or otherwise acquired the old MRT timber sleepers (i.e. the timber sleepers that are to be gradually replaced by 2015 in the case of the North-South Line and 2016 in the case of the East-West Line). The company wants to cut these timber sleepers into smaller pieces to manufacture other products. As the sleepers used for the Malaysian railway line can last for decades with no decay, the company quite fairly assumed the sleepers used for our MRT network to be of similar quality. However the company was shocked when it cut the sleepers. They found that they are not made of hard wood at all. They are in fact made of composite wood. Furthermore, the wood has decayed. Apparently the company is not so much concerned about the loss of their investment in the “timber” sleepers as they are that such inferior wood has been used as sleepers for Singapore’s rail network. The lousy sleepers made of composite wood can hardly withstand the crushing weight of trains. If enough sleepers disintegrated, the rail would sink. That would split the track and signals would be interrupted. Train derailment might result. Maintenance staff replacing the wooden sleepers on the train tracks near Clementi MRT station. Rail operator SMRT and rail authority LTA will accelerate a programme to replace so-called timber sleepers on the ageing North-South and East-West lines to improve the resilience of the rail network. (ST Photo)

The article posed a number of questions to LTA:

1. Does the Govt know about this? Is it the reason SMRT and LTA want to change the sleepers?

2. Who purchased the inferior sleepers?

3. Was this the cause of the intermittent signal interruption problems in the MRT network in the past?

4. Was the slowing of our trains due to the realisation that the tracks are lined with inferior sleepers?

5. Is it a misunderstanding? In other words, are there in fact no problems at all with the sleepers?08.03.2013


Categories: 时事民生















链接海峡时报五月十四日关于 – 加快更换18万8千根枕木的新闻



LTA, SMRT to accelerate sleeper replacement on North-South and East-West lines

Published on May 14, 2013
2:05 PM

Royston Sim

Rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will accelerate a programme to replace timber sleepers on the ageing North-South and East-West lines to improve the resilience of the rail network here. SMRT aims to change out all 188,000 sleepers on the North South Line by 2015, and on the East West Line by 2016. This may result in extended work hours, said SMRT and LTA during a joint briefing on Tuesday. The two organisations are also firming up details of a plan to replace the entire third rail system. A joint team from both organizations provided an update on measures taken nearly one year after a high-profile Committee of Inquiry (COI). Various measures recommended by the COI have been implemented, including new sensors to monitor the condition of the power-supplying third rail in real time.

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Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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