He keeps our trains safe

He keeps our trains safe

SINGAPORE - You may not see him but Mr Sunawr Ali is one of those people in the background who help keep Singapore running.

The SMRT train captain has been getting Singaporeans to their destinations safely for the past five years.

And his passion for his job still shows.

Mr Sunawr has been fascinated with trains since he was a child. He was even a driver on the Sentosa Express for a year before he joined SMRT.

"I love this job," he said.

But of course, each job has its challenges. He noted that peak hours are the hardest part of his day.

"There is more urgency because we know that commuters are rushing to work," he said.

He added that there would also be people pressing the emergency communications button on the trains almost daily to report commuters who faint or vomit.

Asked how he handles such situations, he said he would reply and say that help is on the way at the next station before alerting the SMRT Operations Control Centre to activate the necessary staff.


Driving the MRT trains can also be challenging.

As he travels from one end of the North-South line to another, Mr Sunawr sits alone in a small driver's cabin.

He also has to handle the control panels to rectify train faults and monitor footage from closed-circuit television cameras to ensure that no accidents happen when passengers transit through the doors.

Furthermore, he works hours which many would consider highly chaotic.

He works a range of shifts that can start from as early as 4.30am to as late as 4pm.

He is also on duty three seven-day stretches with two days off per stretch, followed by one five-day stretch with three days off.

Mr Sunawr, who was married last June, admitted that getting his wife to adapt to his schedule was initially challenging.

"At first I needed to do a lot of explaining to her. Luckily she's understanding," he said.

As a train captain who has been on the same route for five years, Mr Sunawr has had a unique view on the changing Singaporean landscape.

To him, the major changing feature is the construction of residential buildings that signify an ever-increasing population.

In his eyes, the need to handle the increasing number of commuters is the toughest long-term problem he faces.

He said: "It'll be a challenge for train captains because the safety of more people is in our hands."

But he has no plans to leave.

"This is my career of choice... I see myself staying forever."

What qualities do you have that make you Singaporean?

Having adopted practices or qualities of other cultures and making it part of who I am.

How would you describe Singapore to a stranger?

Singapore is a clean and green nation, a safe country with a low crime rate and we are fortunate to have a Government that cares for its people.

What are the little quirks you see in Singapore every day?

Using pocket tissue to reserve seats in hawker centres or coffee shops .

What foods do you miss the most when you are overseas?

The laksa at Bugis+.

What are your favourite Singlish phrases or words?

It's always "lah", like "Come on, lah."

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