Introducing You To The World of MRT

MRT bridges

As the LTA drums up to the challenge of building a good and hardy transport system, MRT seems to be the crux of it all. AcePLP Trainee Yap Kimm Ho shares his experiences with MRT projects and how it links to his interest in design.

I have to admit that after getting involved with MRT projects, I have been looking around MRT stations in detail,… (and) inspired me to think more about the elements in MRT.” – Kimm Ho

Just this January, the government announced that there would be a slew of new rail transit projects that will only be completed in 2030. We are preparing for the future of Singapore, one with an expected incremental population growth

While the 3-letter acronym may seem simple, MRT projects are never so. The creation of each MRT line, each station, is a complex combination of several disciplines and services. One of our trainees, Yap Kimm Ho from Batch 60, has been there, done that, and is still currently in the middle of one. The nice chap has taken some time to share his experiences in the world of MRT projects with us:

How involved have you been in MRT projects since you joined us?

I’ve been to two assignments so far, AECOM and Arup, and both were MRT-based projects. At AECOM, it was the Thomson Line project, whereas at Arup (my current assignment), I am involved in projects like the Thomson Line: Woodlands station, Downtown Line: Kallang Bahru, Jalan Besar, Sungei Road, Bencoolen and River Valley stations.

So what is it like, working on an MRT project?

MRT Projects are really interesting. I discovered many other aspects of the MRT that I had not paid attention to, prior to being involved in the projects. I am now more aware of the various services involved in an MRT project, such as fire protection, water valve and drainages, and learnt more about the design specifications of these elements.

For example, the drainage catch pit distance needs to be 2 metres apart, and all the water would be collected at the lowest level, then pumped up to the ground level to discharge. There are also some MRT stations which also function as bomb shelters, so additional features need to be added, like creating more wall-layers for stronger resilience.

Work often involves amending drainage, plumbing and sanitary drawings to fit current requirements, which is what I am focusing on at the moment. The amended drawings are then submitted to obtain licensing for fire protection valves and escape signage.

What were the difficulties you encountered at the beginning?

Fire safety measure drawings for the tunnels were difficult at first, because I was not familiar with tunnel drawings at all. The different elements mentioned earlier, such as the water valve had to be indicated within the drawings. Luckily, I had assistance from the other technician at Arup. Through her guidance, I was able to complete the drawings.

The MRT experiences sound very design-based. As we recall, you actually won
a Design Innovation Award in University. Was that when you got interested in design?

My interest in designing started even earlier, when I was in Temasek Polytechnic. Projects which required me to calculate and size up mechanical robot design systems drove my interest. The motivating factor was to see the project being able to perform as specified.

Have your daily interactions with MRT design led you to become sharper in observing the real physical elements of MRT?

I have to admit that after getting involved with MRT projects, I have been looking around MRT stations in detail, like the pipes hanging above, the drainage routing, even the lighting. I try to relate the drawings to the physical aspects that we see. I wouldn’t say that it has made me sharper in observation but rather, inspired me to think more about the elements in MRT.

How has your participation in so many MRT projects impacted your skills?

I learnt a lot because I had to take on Combined Service Drawing/SEM (Structured) and also got to use Microstation during the MRT projects. My Microstation skills improved tremendously because the practical experience during the assignments gave me the opportunity to practice.

The fast working pace also pushed me to work with speed, using shortcuts. I would consider Microstation less challenging than CSD/SEM though, because all the foundations of Microstation had been learnt during my in-house training, mostly through Tips & Tricks classes.

Why is CSD/SEM so challenging?

CSD/SEM is quite challenging because it requires lots of practise before you can really get the hang of it. The difficult part is doing something we call the “cut back”. Cut back is done when one or two dozens of services overlap each other in the drawing and we have to cut them into parts of similar services in order to see clearly what services they are. I think it is great that I had been given the chance to do quite a number of CSD/SEM drawings during my assignment in AECOM.

Right now at Arup I am experiencing a different challenge – doing individual drawings. However, in my opinion, CSD is still more difficult as there are more factors to consider. For instance, elevation of the services has to be done to ensure they will not clash with each other. Having to squeeze many services in a narrow walkway can be pretty challenging.

Recently there was news that the government is going to have a number of new rail transit projects that will only be completed in 2030. Would you consider specializing in this area?

I definitely would consider staying on in this field as I have already garnered some valuable experience and knowledge of the MRT design. Both assignments being MRT-related, I have gained qui
te a bit of insight into the MRT sector. However, I think that there is still a lot of knowledge to be captured out there and my present goal is to learn as much as I can through different assignments in terms of practice, system and culture.

Any general takeaways or important realizations during your assignments so far?

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not making any assumptions. Clarifying any doubts immediately and thus understanding as clearly as possible the task given to you is the best way to go. It is also a good habit to have a backup file before doing any actual amendment to the drawings. I learnt it the hard way because there was once in Arup, I overrode an old file and had to redo everything! 


His advice to graduates who want to do design:
“Be prepared to go through the process over and over again till the optimum result is obtained. It can be quite a frustrating process, so you need to keep your calm.”

Kimm Ho graduated with B.Eng. Mechanical from Nanyang Technological University

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