In the midst of the train delays and breakdowns, as well as the numerous reasons for the ongoing failures, one thing has always bugged me about SMRT. Is it actually a private or public company? On the one hand, it was set up by the government to serve the public transportation needs of the nation, and through the rail financing framework, the LTA is responsible for the rail assets of the firm. However, it is clear that SMRT operates on a market model that competes with other transportation providers for profits, something that is unusual for other public institutions such as IRAS or SAF.
So, which is it? In today’s episode, I delve into the history of how the company was set up, the various transformations in its corporate existence, and finally how some tricky terminology muddles the distinction.