The news recently makes me wonder if SMRT is going to hell.

Now, I have no vested interest in the stock (I used to) and honestly, it’s pretty hard to screw up when you have the advantage of being a virtual monopoly (have you heard of a Company/Business that has been so hated by its own customers and still make money?) but that’s another story for another day.

A friend asked me recently if SMRT is a good buy given all the recent negativity and my comments went along these lines:

– Good business, virtual monopoly.

– Problem with raising prices (fares at least) due to government.

– Need to invest in more infrastructure but short term pain, long term gain.

– Management team at the top is a question mark. (In my book, SAF guys and profit-making don’t go together)

In sum, my view was that there is too much constraint on the upside of generating revenue while the management is untested. Well, after today’s news, I think I have my answer.

In Gintai, SMRT actually had the perfect PR weapon/tool to correct their public image. A well-loved blogger, obviously loves his job, presents the ‘human’ side of the ‘evil corporation’, wrote stuff that was obviously balanced and thought-out for Minister of State Tan Chuan Jin and Minister K.Shanmugan to reach out to him, RSIS to invite him to give a speech on blogging and what did SMRT do?

Well, they fired him.

According to Gintai, the reason he was given is for being “not fit or competent to drive trains”. Well done SMRT. After a guy has operated the train for 18 damn years, you now say he’s unfit or competent? Unless he failed a medical that puts him at risk of not doing his job and potentially harming hundreds, if not thousands of commuters, I can’t think of a reason why someone would suddenly become unfit or incompetent at his job.

I really think SMRT could have done better. For example, if Gintai can’t drive trains, they could have redeployed him to a PR post focussing on social media. Anyway, Gintai has said his piece. The ball is in SMRT’s court now and it should be interesting to see how they respond.