SMRT Trains Ltd: Providing More Reliable Train Services with SS ISO 55001

SMRT adopted SS ISO 55001 to support its mission to continuously improve its services so that commuters enjoy better journeys.


SS ISO 55001 supports SMRT Trains’ mission to continuously improve its services so that commuters enjoy better journeys. 


SS ISO 55001 – Asset Management – Management Systems

SS ISO 55001 specifies the requirements for the establishment, implementation, maintenance and improvement of a management system for asset management, which is the total management of physical assets – including machines and infrastructure – that are essential for operations and delivering performance outcomes.

Quick List of Benefits
  • Meet international regulatory standards
  • Improve the performance of assets to provide better services
  • Manage risks through proactive intervention and reducing financial losses
  • Improve financial performance by reducing costs from asset degradation or failure
  • Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation by improving processes

Company Profile

As the first and largest train services provider in Singapore, SMRT Trains Ltd. (SMRT Trains) aims to provide safe, reliable and comfortable journeys for commuters. SMRT Trains is a subsidiary of SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT).

SMRT Trains manages and operates the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL), the Circle Line (CCL) and the new Thomson-East Coast Line of Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, as well as the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit system. Before Covid-19, the daily MRT ridership was 3 million passenger journeys, out of which 2 million were for the NSEWL and CCL.


In 2011, SMRT faced a significant setback when a series of train disruptions and breakdowns occurred, revealing vulnerabilities in the ageing rail infrastructure of the NSEWL. This marked a turning point for SMRT, prompting the need for a comprehensive review of its maintenance and renewal efforts on Singapore’s oldest lines. The transformation of the NSEWL was a complex engineering effort and represented the first major line upgrade since operations began in 1987.

To address the disruptions and breakdowns, one of SMRT Trains’ key priorities was to adopt the international standard ISO 55001 – Asset Management – Management Systems from 2014. SMRT Trains received its first ISO 55001 certification in 2016. [Singapore adopted ISO 55001 as a national standard, known as SS ISO 55001, in the same year.]


Why Adopt SS ISO 55001

1. SS ISO 55001 provides a framework to manage assets effectively 


Mr Lam Sheau Kai, President, SMRT Trains, says: “Asset management is about optimising the relations between an asset’s cost, risk and performance. With SS ISO 55001, we have a framework of global standard to manage these relations in a structured and efficient way. This helps us to optimise our assets’ lifetime value.”

The SS ISO 55001 framework’s effectiveness comes down to its holistic approach in asset management, which covers policy and planning to leadership, support, operations, evaluation and more. SMRT Trains mapped these key processes onto its strategic asset management plan (SAMP) to cover all bases and ensure best practice in asset management.

“Asset management requires a multi-disciplinary and holistic approach involving various stakeholders such as management, operators, suppliers and regulators. Hence, we need an all-encompassing framework, which the SS ISO 55001 series of standards provides,” Mr Lam explains. 

2. SS ISO 55001 ensures asset management objectives align with organisational objectives

As part of its SS ISO 55001 journey, SMRT Trains developed an asset management policy that aligns its asset management objectives with the objectives of its parent company SMRT.

“SS ISO 55001 helps SMRT Trains to establish asset management practices that drive organisational strategic goals,” says Mr Lam. “This means that asset management contributes significantly to the overall effectiveness of SMRT to deliver safe and reliable public transport services.”

3. SS ISO 55001 helps coordinate asset management functions to materialise the SAMP

In the SS ISO 55001 framework, clarity of roles and responsibilities is important to deliver the SAMP effectively. SMRT Trains has clearly assigned asset management functions: top management and the System Management Division oversee asset management policy and planning, while various specialised groups carry out asset monitoring and maintenance.

In addition, to prepare the resources and competence needed to implement the SAMP, SMRT Trains has a capability framework that includes enhancing employees’ core and soft skills via training; strengthening compliance to regulations and international standards; and continuous learning and innovation through the principles of Kaizen and digital transformation.


Mr Lam (third from left) and staff of SMRT Trains at a track inspection.


Benefits of Adopting SS ISO 55001

1. Increased reliability of trains and services

SMRT Trains reports MRT reliability using the Mean Kilometres Between Failure (MKBF) as a key metric. MKBF tracks the average distance travelled by a train before it experiences a delay of more than five minutes. 

In 2015, the MKBF of Singapore’s MRT system in general was 130,000 train-km. This was below high performers such as the Taipei Metro at 800,000 train-km and the Hong Kong MTR at 500,000 train-km. After SMRT Trains implemented SS ISO 55001, the MKBF for its trains rose to above 1 million train-km in 2020, which is maintained till today. Going above 1 million train-km places Singapore’s MRT system among the best performers globally.

2. Improved cost efficiency

Between 2018 and 2022, SMRT Trains increased the MKBF performance of its trains by 12.5 times with no marked increase in repair and maintenance costs. In other words, since 2018, SMRT Trains has performed better year on year within the same repair and maintenance budget.

3. Proactive intervention

SS ISO 55001 states the need for establishing processes to identify potential failures in asset performance and determining preventive action. To meet these goals, SMRT Trains taps digital transformation in the areas of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). 

One of its latest AI initiatives is Project Overwatch, which detects train anomalies in real time, enabling the Operations Control Centre to respond swiftly and prevent train delays. Since the implementation of Project Overwatch on the Circle Line in 2023, there has been a 30% drop in train delays of up to five minutes.

Framework of Continual Improvement

Mr Lam concludes: “Asset management remains a critical task for SMRT Trains. It improves the reliability, availability, maintainability and safety of the assets under our care. This allows us to provide quality train services to commuters in Singapore while reducing costs from downtime, waste and inefficiencies. By complying with SS ISO 55001, we do not just deliver quality train services but also have a framework for continual improvement.”

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