Downtown Line chief to retire early

The head of a new but somewhat problematic MRT line has decided to call it a day.

Mr Wong Wai Keong, chief executive of SBS Transit's Downtown Line division, will leave the company on March 31.

SBS Transit, a subsidiary of transport giant ComfortDelGro Corp, announced yesterday that Mr Wong, 58, had opted for "early retirement for personal reasons".

The Straits Times understands he had recently become a grandfather.

A chartered engineer, Mr Wong joined SBS Transit in 2005, after having spent 16 years with the Land Transport Authority and one of its predecessors, MRT Corp.

The first stage of the Downtown Line has been experiencing a spate of breakdowns since it opened in December 2013.

In fact, it broke down on opening day on Dec 22, and then again within a week.

According to Land Transport Authority statistics, the 4.3km, six-stop line had 3.43 delays of more than five minutes each for every 100,000km operated last year - nearly three times as many as the overall MRT network.

The LTA said new MRT lines "typically take about six to nine months to stabilise".

Trains for the Downtown Line are made and supplied by a joint venture between Canada's Bombardier Transportation and China's Changchun Railway Vehicle.

Mr Wong will be replaced by veteran Simon Lane, 54. Mr Lane was chief operating officer of SBS Transit's rail business from 2001 to 2005 before he left to set up a rail consultancy in Perth, Australia.

SBS Transit said Mr Lane has had 30 years' experience in the rail sector.

Born in Britain, he started his career as an operations management trainee with British Railways in 1982.

He later moved to Australia, becoming chief executive officer of the State Rail Authority in New South Wales before joining SBS Transit.

This article was first published on March 24, 2015.
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