Low Tian Leng, a rail industry expert, works on multiple facets of Singapore's transport infrastructure in his roles as Deputy Director, Rolling Stock & Depot Engineering and Deputy Chief Specialist, Rolling Stock and Depot Equipment at Land Transport Authority, as well as Head, System Reliability and Asset Management during his secondment to SBS Transit.
You can discern the success and vibrancy of a city by its transport infrastructure and in this aspect, Singapore has certainly fared well. These days, you can get to anywhere in Singapore conveniently thanks to its network of well-connected bus and rail network. The Public Transport Operators (PTOs) too, play a key part by keeping their fleets well-maintained to provide public transport which is safe, comfortable and reliable.
For sure, the success of Singapore’s transport infrastructure was not delivered overnight. Many dedicated officers, engineers and managers in the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the PTOs are constantly working hard and looking ahead to plan, execute, maintain and enhance the infrastructure.
To give us an exclusive insight into working in Singapore’s land transport sector and the immense opportunities for SGRail Industry scholars, we spoke with LTA’s Low Tian Leng, a rail industry expert with more than 10 years of experience collaborating with industry specialists in both private and public rail sectors.
In LTA, Tian Leng holds two roles - Deputy Director at Rolling Stock & Depot Engineering and Deputy Chief Specialist at Rolling Stock and Depot Equipment. He had recently completed his secondment at SBS Transit where he headed the System Reliability and Asset Management team. In his role, he assists in the provision and maintenance of the rail infrastructure and systems to ensure safe and efficient operations. He also supports the engineering activities for operations and maintenance (O&M) of the driverless Downtown Line (DTL) system.
Why did you decide to embark on a career in the rail industry?
For anybody who is travelling from Point A to Point B in Singapore, transport sets foot right from the doorstep to the destination. My dad used to work as an SBS Transit Bus Captain during my school days, and our conversations often revolved around the commuting experience and expectations from the passengers, ranging from waiting time to cleanliness and reliability. That sparked my interest and passion in marrying engineering and transport as a career choice after graduating from university.
Can you share with us your roles and responsibilities in LTA and SBS Transit?
At LTA, I’m working with the team on the deliverables of upcoming new lines such as Cross Island Line, Jurong Region Line and technical details of new train buys for North East Line, Circle Line as well as both Light Rail systems at Bukit Panjang and Sengkang-Punggol.
As part of the secondment role to SBS Transit, I had also worked on leveraging technologies and digitalisation to prepare the railway for new challenges. These could entail the use and implementation of more energy-efficient design, less labour-intensive initiatives and ideas, more productive and effective workflows and processes that can be optimised further via software for our existing infrastructure.
Sounds like your role at SBS Transit is very forward-looking. Can you tell us more about it?
I worked closely with the heads of various divisions such as trains, signalling, power, communications, systems and depot to ensure the upkeeping of the trains’ health. Specifically, I supported the engineering activities for O&M of the Downtown Line system where I am posted to. We also liaised with LTA and Original Equipment Manufacturers regarding asset management and replacement.
The SGRail Industry Scholarship is put together to attract top talent to the industry. How do you think the scholarship can contribute to Singapore’s transport infrastructure?
The industry has developed from its nascent stages in the 1980s till today, spanning over 40 years. The innovation and technological progress have continued to transform and elevate our system. Completion of projects such as the Thomson-East Coast Line, Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line will bring our target closer to expand rail network length to about 360km in 2030s, connecting about eight in 10 households within a 10-minute walk of a train station.
This expansion will be taking place even as we upgrade the rail assets across existing lines to sustain rail reliability and adopt new operations and maintenance technologies such as remote conditioning sensors and augmented reality to achieve greater cost efficiencies.
With these exciting works in the pipeline, we welcome promising rail professionals with the interest, flair for innovative solutions and determination to see through the implementation of mega projects, to bring our rail industry to greater heights.
What are some of the key benefits of the scholarship?
The SGRail Industry Scholarship offers scholars the unique benefit of work exposure to both LTA and SBS Transit or SMRT Corporation Limited and gain insights from both public and private sector perspectives. Through such rotation, our scholars will have exposure across the entire life cycle of the rail system (from planning, design and building to operations and maintenance, and eventually decommissioning) and cover core rail engineering domains like power, permanent way, rolling stock and systems.
LTA and the PTOs have tailored and calibrated the scholarship to ensure it remains relevant to the industry, keeps abreast with the latest developments around the world, the interests of our potential applicants and upcoming challenges to the rail industry, and at the same time enhance the lustre of engineering domains to build a talent pipeline that will support our rail expansion plans for many decades. To this end, we have expanded our skillsets development beyond mechanical and electrical engineering to include digitalisation, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and so on.
What would you say to convince somebody to consider the SGRail Industry Scholarship?
The SGRail industry is a sunrise one with many new innovations that are being envisaged. One could also work on and look into predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as telematics, reliability condition monitoring and advanced asset management with communications over 5G networks and how these can be incorporated into our trains in the future. These call for integrated and deep collaboration with stakeholders, as well as intrinsic knowledge of the fleet, to bring about fruition. The SGRail scholar will have the opportunity to work seamlessly between LTA and the PTOs, towards a common goal of delivering a safe, reliable and sustainable rail system for Singapore, while adopting the most cost-effective and rationale practices. The SGRail industry demands the best to join us, and to bring it to greater heights!
Finally, what’s your prognosis for Singapore’s transport sector in the next 10 years?
In the next five to 10 years, our challenges will be intensified further, because of dense and concurrent developments such as constructing rail lines under existing residential developments, and leveraging on new technological innovations and tools to strengthen our rail performance and improve reliability further. Amid these, we must continue to build trust with our commuters, assuring them that it is a safe and reliable rail network that will continue to serve them with high quality service availability. For both LTA and PTOs, we recognise these surmountable challenges, and we need passionate, competent, and capable engineers to join us to ride through this journey.