Executive engineer James Han contributes to LTA’s efforts to keep Singapore’s rail system running smoothly.

WHILE most Singaporeans are winding down for the day or are fast asleep, executive engineer James Han is often still hard at work.

This is because maintenance or improvement works usually only go into full swing after the regular train service ends to minimise disruptions to rail commuters.

The 27-year-old, who works for the Land Transport Authority (LTA), is part of the team responsible for supervising, testing and commissioning — ensuring the system is fit for service — the communications-based train control (CBTC)  signalling system on the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL).

On some days, he is at the LTA office analysing data and results of the tests conducted. About three times a week, he works the midnight shift on the NSEWL, doing the testing and commissioning work.

He is involved in the upgrading of the signalling system for NSEWL to support shorter headways, and in the implementation of the CBTC signalling system for the Canberra station along the North-South Line. This station is not open to the public yet.

Mr Han interacts with multiple stakeholders in various aspects of his work. They include the operation, maintenance and project staff from SMRT, as well as the design, testing and commissioning engineers from the railway signalling system provider the Thales Group.

“The team structure consists of different signalling sub-systems focusing on trains, trackside and operation control centre, working together to manage the delivery of the project,” he says.

Learning journey

Mr Han, who has a bachelor’s degree with honours in electrical and electronic engineering, graduated from Nanyang Technological University in 2015.

Although he was given training when he joined the industry, he believes that the technical and logical thinking skills which he acquired while pursuing his degree have helped him better understand the signalling and train circuitry, as well as the system functionality.

Mr Han attended two basic courses in railway signalling and rolling stock mechanical design in 2016.

He continued his learning journey by going for more in-depth technical training on signalling and train circuitry conducted by a senior consultant last year.

He was also given the opportunity to attend a Railway Professional Programme by Mass Transit Railway in Hong Kong.

Charting his future

LTA has a competency development framework to grow and groom junior engineers, says Mr Han.

He works with his supervisor to chart his development plan, which includes taking courses and attaining professional membership of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE). The membership offers access to the latest global railway development trends.

“The internal and external course trainers cover a wide range of technical and elective topics. Some courses provide value-added certificates upon completion,” he says.

Mr Han is aware that the railway industry in Singapore offers plenty of career opportunities. One could venture into resignalling work on another railway line or consider a role in the upcoming Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project.

“I hope to become an IRSE member in the near future and be given the chance to attain a master’s degree in this field,” he says.

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