By: Phillip Ang
HDB lifts have been increasingly breaking down since years ago.
Statistics on HDB lift breakdowns only came to light after MND Minister Lawrence Wong suggested in Parliament last year that residents would need to pay for the benefits of increased maintenance. Wong of course conveniently forgot to mention the cause was improper maintenance by town councils.
Wong revealed there were 20 breakdowns per 1000 lifts in 2015 (i.e. about 480 breakdowns based on 24000 HDB lifts). In the previous 2 years, there were likely more than 500 breakdowns per year but HDB has refused to disclose the figures.
According to Wong, “older lifts beyond 20 years were more likely to break down because of more wear and tear”. Wong was stating a half truth.
One month before Wong anyhow tried to mislead Parliament, all three lifts in a 33-storey HDB block had broken down for 4 hours. Managed by E M Services, Woodlands Peak was recently completed in 2015.
One day after the Woodlands Peak inconvenience, all four lifts in a 40-storey HDB block in Dover Cresent decided to take a one-hour lunch break – together. According to one resident, the lifts had a history of breaking down. She said “the two lifts serving the higher floors would take turns to break down almost every month” since she moved in 6 years ago. Block 28 B in Dover Cresent is also managed by E M Services.
Question for Lawrence Wong: 20 years ago got 40-storey HDB blocks or not?
More recently on January 10 this year, all four lifts at 2 HDB blocks in Punggol broke down for about 4 hours. Waterway Cascadia** in Punggol is a premium HDB estate, managed by E M Services.
Question for Lawrence Wong: 20 years ago, Punggol got premium HDB flats or not?
The government has not been upfront on this issue all along and is performing the ban-Sigma-Elevator wayang to deflect blame from the real culprits – E M Services and PAP MPs. Lifts are designed to last a very long time but what they require is proper maintenance. But our profit-driven government is convinced that cheaperer = betterer and therefore has been cutting costs and corners as if there are no consequences.
Why is blame deflected from E M Services? This is because E M Services is a joint venture between statutory board HDB and government-linked company Keppel Land. PAP of course can’t blame itself and has again chosen to resolve another self-created issue by throwing away millions of tax dollars.
EM Services is the managing agent of 9 town councils which holds the record number of lift breakdowns.
Last year, the government decided to throw $450 million over a 10-year period in a Lift Enhancement Programme to improve safety. But this of course wasn’t enough.
On 2 Feb, the MND announced more than $100 million per year will be needed. No one really knows how badly damaged HDB lifts are due to improper maintenance. Higher S & CC fees akan datang to pay for town councils’ incompetence?
All in, more than $1 billion will be spent to improve lift safety/lift replacement over a 10-year period. But wasn’t this factored into the 30 to 35% in the sinking fund account? Or did the government only realise the lifespan of a lift is less than 30 years recently?
That all private estate managers are not required to set up a special account for lift enhancement is testament to public estate managers’ improper maintenance.
If lifts had broken down in private estates as frequently as in HDB estates, the estate manager would have been given the boot. But PAP MPs cum estate managers are given access to millions of tax dollars to cover up their incompetence.
HDB residents should not expect PAP MPs who live in private estates to understand our issues or resolve them because they are not affected. And neither do they have the time as they hold full-time jobs earning 6- or 7-figure sums, hold multiple directorships in private sector and government-linked companies, etc.
Town councils should disclose the number/age/country of manufacture of lifts that are to be replaced. How many newer China-made lifts or lifts using unreliable China-made spare parts will be replaced? Is this the reason why additional millions in tax dollars are needed?
HDB record lift breakdowns did not happen by chance but is solely due to the incompetence of E M Services and MPs who double up as HDB estate managers. It’s a shame for the government to again cover up their incompetence with hundred of millions in tax dollars.
Waterway Cascadia has a history of lift breakdowns and this was highlighted to CNA last year. However, CNA seized the opportunity to deflect blame from Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council to contractors. (“CNA tweaks resident’s complaint about faulty lifts into govt propaganda”.)