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These rail industry professionals are staying ahead of the curve

By Rachael Boon

Before the outbreak of Covid-19, bus and rail systems completed more than one billion trips per year. Fast forward just one year later and travel volumes have eased, with more people working from home or having staggered work hours.

Key decision-makers in the rail industry are faced with a rapidly evolving scene – balancing changes in travel patterns with the planned expansion of the rail network from 230km to 360km over the next decade, and the vision of a city where 90 per cent of peak-hour journeys can be completed within 45 minutes. At the same time, new MRT stations and lines are being opened almost every year.

The SGRail Industry Scholarships, which were announced in 2019, seek to develop promising rail professionals with an interest and flair for innovative solutions, and who have a passion for all things related to trains, engineering, technology and transport.

One such rail professional is Ms Nurdiyana Fatin Sidik, 28, who is a field and senior engineer at SMRT Trains.

Her main interest is in intelligent automation, including the adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence. Automation is already in systems such as the communications-based train control system which all MRT lines have been using since 2018.

She says: “CBTC is an automated signalling system that allows the train to move based on algorithms set by a main controller. I see a future where automation is used to improve rail reliability and safety.” 

Mr Mark Javen Ng, an SBS Transit DTL senior engineer, joined the rail industry due to his fascination with trains and their networks. He feels it is suitable for “young and aspiring engineers looking for a challenge”. The 29-year-old is part of a technical support team under the diagnostic, monitoring and development section.

He says: “The rail industry involves multi-disciplinary engineering specialisations such as power, permanent way, rolling stock, and the operations team. They work together to deliver efficient train services. While mastering your field of specialisation, it is also very rewarding to learn and understand how each system is interlinked with others.”


For a smooth, safe ride

Mr Ng, who joined SBS Transit DTL as a power engineer in August 2018, has had the opportunity to experience innovation up close, with overseas encounters and various technology.

For instance, he conducts predictive maintenance by using condition monitoring technologies, which can detect any failure before it happens to deliver safe and reliable train rides.

Overseas learning experiences also gave him an “in-depth understanding of the design, performance characteristics… required of our equipment”.

As for Ms Nurdiyana, her job involves improving SMRT Trains’ systems and equipment. This is done by “increasing the reliability of the equipment through proactive maintenance, and looking into engineering studies to produce solutions and mitigating underlying issues from an engineering perspective”, she says.

She also once managed a team of 26 staff – where she was the only woman – comprising assistant engineers and technical officers in a previous role, and now oversees a team of 21 staff.

“My work impacts train reliability and availability, to provide commuters with a smooth and safe ride to their destination.”
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