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!

“The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the official policies, practices or opinions of SMRT or any organisation with which I may be affiliated.”

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