SMRT Train Officer

The basic salary for Train Officer in SMRT ranges from $1,250 to $2,250. There are 3 grades for Train Officers. I joined in 1995. I have reached the maximum basic pay of $2,250. I will not have any more salary increment unless I am promoted to Crew Manager Train (CMT) which is a supervisor post. There are 2 grades for CMT. The maximum basic salary of CMT is $2,900.

It is promotion season in my company. We prefer to promote our front line supervisor (CMT) from amongst the 400 odd Train Officers from 3 crew stations. If CMTs are well au fait with train operations, it makes the job easier. He is able to visualise the operational issues rather than recruit an outsider who need to learn from scratch the entire train SOPs.

I was approached at least twice to apply for CMT post. Our No: 1 at Tanah Merah Crew station and RSM Chin encouraged me to apply. I declined without giving any second thought.

In my company, we need to submit our application for whatever higher posts we aspire to management for consideration. If you do not put in your application for a higher post, you will never be considered no matter how capable or brilliant are you.

There are only 6 CMTs per crew station. The only overtime (OT) generated is that either of them go on leave, MC or course.

Whereas, there are more than 130 Train Officers at my work place. In terms of annual leave, MCs, courses such as yearly refresher courses in Bishan depot, ICTs, child care leave etc OTs are plenty.

In other words, OT is much lesser for CMTs. OT is so much more for Train Officers.

In my 16 years as TO, there is always OT. It is only a question of more or less depending on seasons. We do have our peak, off peak or super peak periods of OT.

For instance, every December is considered super peak for OT. We may work for the full month without off days. At times, we work 18 hours – no typo error here. 9 hours per shift including 1 hour meal break. We are exempted from the 12 hour working hours limit due to “exigency” of services.

Our leave cannot be carried forward to next year. It must be cleared every year. As such, every staff will try to keep at least few days until as near to end of the year as possible.

Say if you clear all your annual leave by end of November and you suddenly need the leave in December due to some reason then what to do? Either you report sick and get an MC so that you need not go to work or apply for no pay leave. The latter will affect your bonus. No staff will ever want to do that.

CMT job is stressful and unrewarding. There is really so much routine work such as daily manpower deployments, leave, courses or ICT arrangements for coverage of duties, reports writing, daily submission of returns, preparation of new duty schedules (every now and then duty schedules keep changing like underwear), master rota planning etc are time consuming and complicating.

The worst is “crew reformation” whenever there is train service disruption due to train breakdowns or delays during morning and evening peak hours. We call it “Train Reformation” where train numbers are changed at will to comply with the 3 minute headway on the train timetable! It seems that it is a daily routine to have train and crew reformations!

Train Officers need to be taken out fast from the “wrong” trains they are in and quickly put them back to the “correct” trains. CMT must work fast with a clear mind to ensure flawless crew management.

If a weak CMT is on duty, choas may result due to messy crew deployment in a “rojak” situation. I may end up in Ulu Pandan depot or Jurong East station instead of Tanah Merah resulting in my next train cockup. I will not be able to take over that train and the TO inside will have to continue with the driving loop. If he is on his meal break then he will need to forgo it.

I still prefer to drive trains according to schedule. For example, my scheduled duty today is CM09 duty. I report at Changi Depot @0440 hrs and end @1405 hrs. My meal break is from 0939 hrs to 1037 hrs. In between, I drive a few trains as per scheduled. If I feel like working extra, it is OT.

That is my typical tour of duty for a day. I may be working on shifts with rotating off days but I am on my own working independently according to my work schedule as spelt out in the details of my work slip.

As a train professional I just need to ensure that I take over my train on time, runs on time, no problem or complaint from passengers then no one will bother me.

When I report for work, I just clock in with my staff pass without knowing who are my duty supervisors. Sometimes I do not even meet top management for years! I cannot even recall when was the last time I met my Manager Train Ops or Director Train Ops in OCC at City Hall.

I was a police officer for 12 years before I joined SMRT in 1995. I was also an Investigation Officer for about 4 yrs. I had 35 days of annual leave but I took at least 10 days of leave to clear my Investigation Papers. No one believes me when I tell them. I can now sleep peacefully. I can apply leave anytime without the need to check my court dates. I can make full use of my current 21 days leave. As an IO, I had a hard time clearing my leave due to the many court cases on my calendar.

In short, the best part about my Train Officer job is that I work independently on my own and earn much more than my supervisors!

Now you know why I rejected the promotion offer without second thought. I do not need it.

You are welcome to come aboard!


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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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44 Responses to SMRT Train Officer

  1. qingmoments says:

    Thanks for sharing. And great blog! I will visit this often :).

  2. hilscreate says:

    Thank you for the post making us understand the workings in MRT stations. And thank you guys for the hard work in keeping the trains running under such circumtances. And hope u won’t get in trouble for this post.

  3. Pingback: Just Like Us: Chen Show Mao Caught in MRT Delay (& Why Singaporeans are Complaining so Much) | Singapore Actually

  4. bookjunkie says:

    wonderful post…thanks for giving us an insider view. I truly hope the abuse of the train officers will stop when you are all just doing your jobs the best you can and taking direction from those in top management. They are the ones who should be accountable.

    • I really enjoy reading your blog esp those nice photos. Your trip to the tip of the world ie Finland also enjoyable read. I shall “borrow” your 15 reasons to blog soon. Thks. Merry Xmas. Cheers.

  5. k says:

    Hi there, I jus wonder how u work for 18 hrs a day? Is SMRT cutting costs and lesser the man power for their maximum profit?

    Working alone in the driver cabin for 18 hrs seems bored and dangerous.

    • We do not drive contd in the cabin for more than 4 hrs. We will take a short break from 30 mins to an hr. If it is meal bresk, then its 1 hr. Sometimes we need to work 2 shifts due to “super peak” period as stated on my post. Not all the time. Sometimes only. It is true that we do work 18 hrs! Nothing to be proud abt. Thank so much for your comment. It shows you care for us! Cheers.

  6. nadzri deres says:

    this is truly an eye-opener on the working life of a train officer.
    very enlightening. i bet if my bro had read something like this much earlier in his life and then went on to apply as a train officer, he would be in better shape now.

    tk you very much

    • Thank you for your keen interest on our job. We welcome you to join us. Pls apply if u are keen. Looking forward to meet. Thks.

  7. Bmail says:

    Wow, this post tells us about how unstructured and how poor manpower management smart has, especially the CEO. I feel that the CEO really needs to be replaced with a top CEO since we are supposed to have world class transport.

  8. Wally Tham says:

    Hey, thanks for a great article! : )

    I have a question.

    Prior to the incident, there were numerous calls online for a solution to crowded trains.

    Folks from every major online platform were demanding for an increase in train frequency.

    Do you think reducing wait times was a viable option?

    • Our system just like anything else such the lift, bus, car etc do have limits. Can we put 8 or 10 persons in a car? Same reasoning here. 3 mins is really the limit – maybe 2.5 mins? At the end, we need to admit that all machines do have limitations. Is it wise to stretch it to a breaking point at the expense of safety? That is the trade off we have to consider. Thks for your comments.

  9. Definitely sounds better than being an PO!

    • Of course I do agree with you. As a PO, we look into people’s problems ie victims of crime, fighting, quarrrels, accidents etc. As TO, our job scope is so much smaller. We only handle trains most of the time. Thks for dropping by.

  10. abc says:

    Confirms my believe and observation why most blue-collar workers as well as low-level white-collar workers in Singapore are not ambitious and/or prefer to relak and “keng”. Because in Asian culture, there’s a salary cap on lower-level supervisors. The small pay increase is not worth it to compensate the extra responsibilities and headaches. The scale-up in responsibilities is also very uneven — you go from very little responsibility at rank-and-file to suddenly 1000% extra responsibilities at supervisor level, but your salary only increase 10%.

    This also highlights the mentality of Singapore companies — rank-and-file are treated as recruits and privates — they are not suppose to think, just follow orders, even when situation is collapsing around them. They are not empowered at all, hence the chaos we saw in MRT last week when rank-and-file SMRT staff cannot and unable to handle mass public.

    Plus usually end up hentak-kaki at the lower-level supervisor grade with the headaches and the problems. Not possible to rise up further into executive and management, unless you have relevant degree AND also ar-kah-liao with a senior manager / director.

    Frankly SMRT should hire more TOs and cut down on OT entitlement mentality. The job is not rocket science and anybody with average intelligence can be trained quickly to do the job. Another avenue for structurally unemployed persons with diplomas, degrees, NTCs. Salary scale should also be increased maybe 10%-20% higher.

  11. capsulemoney says:

    Interesting read, was quite surprised to hear that leave cannot be brought forward next year, the norm is – leave is able to brought forward 1 year.

    The only thing that reminds me is during NS, leave is not allowed to be brought forward.

    Once again, Thanks Gintai for sharing this =)

    • Yes our A/L cant bring forward. That is the policy for many yrs. Before that we could KIV then they stopped it. What to do? Thks for dropping by.

  12. Alan Wong says:

    It is very courageous of you to be able to write so honestly about the various aspects of your current job especially on monetary matters like salary, overtime & promotion prospects. It provides a very interesting insight for outside people like me to understand the inner workings of a job like yours.

    What rather astonish me is why do they need to specify the maximum salary scale for such a job when it is not even considered to be on civil service scale ? Private sector jobs hardly have a maximum scale stated so clearly to disincentivize employees. It appears like SMRT is trying to have the best of both worlds to their own advantage.

  13. Hi to all my fellow Singaporeans,
    To all the wonderful comments posted here I humbly and sincerely thank you for taking your time to read and comment on my blog. I am so touched by each and every single comment here. The greatest satisfaction of a blogger is getting the endorsement from netizens. I note that this post is also reproduced in hardwarezone forum –
    Unfortunately, I am not able to access the site to say hello to all of you wonderful people there. Now that the trains are still quite messy and that we are having a crisis in the system, we, including our CEO are working round the clock to bring it back to normalcy. She virtually camps in OCC since last Thursday trying to put things right. Pls give her some time to let her sort out the problems. We seek your patience and kind understanding on this matter. Pls bear with us. As humans we are not perfect. We all make mistakes. It is how we face the problems and tackle them that matters! I shall personally reply to every comment posted here in due course. Just be merry and continue with your shopping. Don’t let this affect your festive mood and spirit! I really appreciate your support. Cheers to all!

  14. Richard Sng B S says:

    Friend, you certainly write well. Keep writing and sharing. Much appreciated.

  15. Angie Yeo says:

    Thanks Uncle Alan for helping me to see the clear light of what daddy is doing. I never knew how much he was “tortured” by his CMT’s work. Would provided him more moral support if I knew it was that stressful.
    Angie =))

    • Yes do give your Dad the support. These few days he is under lots of pressure and stress. Hope he is coping well. Thks for your comment. Merry Xmas.

  16. kamprettos says:

    Thanks for sharing and really appreciate all your hard work and total dedication to the public service… *tip my hat for you sir*

  17. cy says:

    wonders if CSO in stations can do TO job as well? or?? cant?

    • We have few Train Officers fr station CSO. TOs and CSOs go thru diff training. TOs are basically trained to handle trains ie to operate the train, emergency procedures, handle train defects abd faults etc. CSOs are trained on the station aspects ie handle the station complicating equipment abd customer services etc. we are trained diff. Stn staff may apply to be TO but they need to go Bishan depot for training and be qualified. Just like driving a car, TO need to be tested and make sure he is competent enug before he can go on his own.

  18. Max says:

    Wow, impressive! With your writing skills, you need not work in SMRT. Go be a journalist or a full-time lifestyle blogger.

    • Thank you for your suggestions. I am coming to 50yrs. I can see my finishing line. To borrow a phrase from – – “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
      I just want to retire at 55 yrs and change to a less demanding job without these crazy hours and shifts. There are 8 types of shifts on my job – early morning, normal morning, office hrs, mid-shift, split shift, normal afternoon, post midnite and night shift! Not to mention the rotating off days irrespective of PHs and wkends! Sometimes, I woke up at 3.30am to report work by 4.30 am. Other time, I finish work at 2am and go home ard 3am! My body bio-clock is getting difficult to adjust to the crazy timings as I grow older!

      I have already informed my fren who operates a Security Agency Co to reserve a security guard job at one of the huge bungalows owned by some big billionaires who dont bother to visit their property. I can then spend my precious time reading all the wonderful books, poetry and Shakespeare! I also love to listen to chanting. Time to prepare for the next world if any! Blogging will also be my cathartic hobby!

      Hope you understand me better now. Thks.

  19. Jack says:

    Hello Gintai, there for sharing, now we have a better understanding of SMRT’s operation.
    TO is not an easy job and very often taken for granted by Singaporeans, but thanks to people like you, Singaporeans are able to travel easily from places to places.

    Keep up the good work!

  20. Drew says:

    While I’m sure most people will be quite focused on the SMRT content of this post, my big takeaway is your statement to your colleague about leaving something behind in the form of a blog. Blue collar, white collar, or whatever, everyone has a voice and I’m very happy that you choose to use yours in this blog.

    I really enjoyed reading this post and will continue following this blog. Please keep writing and don’t let anybody discourage you!

    • Thks for your sharp observation. He is my No: 1. He is in charge of all of us at TNM crew. The one above him is stationed at OCC HQ at City Hall. Cheers!

  21. Karen Z says:

    Thank you for your honest sharing.

    As a daily commuter on SMRT train, I must say many times we lost sight that these trains, although machines, are driven by flesh and blood human.

    Your writing certainly bring us back to the basic, to appreciate the effort that goes behind each train that arrives promptly, even at 2.5min intervals.

    Keep up the good work!

  22. someone says:

    very interesting and informative post! thank you for sharing!

  23. NewMan says:

    Ginta, Its great to know there is life being a TO after all despite the recent adversity on SMRT…!!
    I dread to imagine what will happen to the circle lines without TO, if accident do occur like in SMRT…?? Trusting on computer alone is a BIG mistake on circle line……!!! Hopefully the Public Inquiry would recommend changes on the way we operate MRT trains.
    Appreciate your blog very much. Cheers..!!

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