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TCs to set aside more funds for lift replacement

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    • MND to require all Town Councils to set aside more funds for lift replacement

      SINGAPORE: Town Councils will be required to set aside a higher proportion of their S&CC (Service and Conservancy Charges) collections into their Sinking Funds, and ring-fence a part of the Sinking Fund specifically for lift replacement, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Monday (Jul 11).

      “A more comprehensive lift maintenance and replacement programme will cost more. For example, with more rigorous checks over time, Town Councils are likely to draw more on their sinking funds to replace worn out lift parts or to carry out a complete replacement of older lifts,” he explained.

      Mr Wong did not go into specifics involving the timeframe or the exact proportion of S&CC collections to be set aside. But he noted that the number of lift breakdowns for the first half of this year - at around 20 per 1,000 lifts every month - "is lower than the average breakdown rate of 30 per 1,000 lifts each month registered in the previous two years".

      He highlighted this, noting that there is a perception that there has been a sudden surge in lift breakdowns. So far this year, there has been a has been a string of well-publicised incidents - including a fatality - involving lift malfunctions.

      “Nevertheless, any serious lift incident is one too many. Furthermore, as our lifts get older and are subject to more wear and tear, they will face higher risks of faults,” he said, responding to questions by Members of Parliament over lift safety and maintenance.

      Mr Wong also assured MPs that there is no evidence of any systematic or identifiable trend across the various lift incidents so far. But he said older lifts - those beyond 20 years old - tend to have a higher breakdown rate.


      While monthly and annual checks are being carried out today, audits by Building & Construction Authority (BCA), the regulatory authority for lifts, reveal that the quality of work can be improved, said Mr Wong.

      This is why BCA has recently announced measures to tighten lift maintenance standards, and that it will step up its audit checks and take enforcement action against non-compliance, he added. The measures will be implemented this month.

      Currently, all lift owners, including Town Councils, have to engage a registered lift contractor to service the lifts at least once a month.

      “The lift contractors must also carry out an annual inspection and testing of the lifts, in the presence of an independent Authorised Examiner, who has to certify that such inspection and testing was done in accordance with regulatory standards, and that the lifts are fit for operations,” said Mr Wong.


      Without detailing the numbers, Mr Wong also noted that Singapore has more technicians per lifts than in other jurisdictions, such as Japan. But he said that what matters is that the lift personnel, including technicians and engineers, are skilled enough.

      To this end, BCA is working with the industry to set clearer requirements on the scope and level of training for all lift personnel.

      He also said that BCA is also developing “a sectoral plan which will take into account the manpower demand in relevant fields of expertise, as well as the need for better defined career development pathways to attract and retain more skilled professionals in this sector”.


      He also revealed that eight main lift contractors maintain about 70 per cent of the lifts in Singapore, and said that more can be done to “effectively harness competitive forces in the industry to bring about benefits to residents”.

      All lift companies - including many other smaller firms - are free to bid for the installation of lifts in public housing estates, and HDB adopts a stringent procurement process, said Mr Wong. This takes into account factors like cost, and the quality and reliability of lifts.

      “For new lifts installed in BTO projects and under the Lift Upgrading Programme, HDB imposes the requirement of not more than 1 lift breakdown per month per 10 lifts installed during the one-year Defects Liability Period (DLP),” he said.

      “Lift companies that fail to meet this performance standard will be penalised, for example, through the imposition of liquidated damages, or debarments for future HDB tenders.”

      Beyond the one-year DLP, Mr Wong told Parliament that Town Councils can decide whether to continue with the Original Equipment Manufacturer or switch to a third-party lift contractor.

      In this regard, Mr Wong said he agrees with MP Ang Wei Neng, who suggested requiring potential lift suppliers bidding for HDB projects to facilitate use of common parts for their lifts. This will give the Town Councils more contractor options to choose from, and is a matter the Competition Commission is looking into, he told Parliament.


      Mr Wong said that it is “important” for Town Councils to take pro-active maintenance and cyclical replacement of lifts.

      This includes analysing the lift fault data from the Tele-Monitoring System and their records of residents’ feedback to identify lifts which may require more attention. It also includes having qualified personnel within their ranks to supervise the lift contractors, and put in place an effective maintenance regime.

      Responding to MP Alex Yam’s request for an upgrading programme to replace older lifts, Mr Wong said that this is the responsibility of the Town Councils and "ought to be undertaken by them as part of their cyclical maintenance programme".

      He reiterated that the Selective Lift Replacement Programme (SLRP) - which is being implemented by HDB on a cost-sharing basis with the Town Councils - is a once-off programme, and there are no plans to extend it further.

      “However, for the existing lifts that are not due for replacement soon, we will look at the possibility of helping the Town Councils to retrofit them with key safety enhancements and features. This support for safety enhancements for existing lifts will require significant government expenditure. MND is studying the matter carefully, and will announce the details when ready.”


      In a written reply to questions unanswered by the end of Monday's parliamentary sitting, MND noted that there is "no definitive life span for a lift", as much of this depends on the intensity of use and standard of maintenance. As a guide to help Town Councils in planning and budgeting, HDB has recommended a schedule of 28 years for lift replacement, said the Ministry.

      MND added that HDB does not have statistics on the number of lifts replaced before the 28-year schedule, as this is responsibility of the respective Town Councils. 

      There are currently 59,000 passenger lifts in Singapore, including 24,000 in public housing estates.  

      - CNA/ll
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