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What SMRT’s third breakdown really means

Posted on 21 December 2011

Singapore’s public transport in three-ring circus.

By Chong Zhi Ping

Early counting systems often relied on the “One- Two- Many” concept to describe counting limits.

In other words, early peoples had a word to describe the quantities of one and two. But any quantity beyond this point would be simply be regarded as “Many”.

It is, therefore, safe to say that our prestigious Mass Rapid Transit has broken down many times in the past week.

The Wall Street Journal suggested that “the disruptions are not just isolated events… Question then is what underlying systems and structures caused this, and then what mental models or deep assumptions underpinned those systems and structures.”

Nonetheless, I shall contribute my three cents worth of opinion, because three is simply the magic number now.

1) Breaking down is a norm, not breaking down is not

Get conditioned. SMRT may have over-performed in the initial years so that means we cannot not factor in complacency and always expect a smooth-running MRT as God-given.

Should you be sceptical, read up on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seamless public transport was never a listed item.

In fact, train breakdowns happen world wide, be it on purpose like London’s or an honest mistake like Berlin’s. We Singaporeans are suaku and complain too much.

Transit map of the world, anyone?

2) Our current transport fare is undercharged

So why did SMRT’s CEO Saw Phaik Hwa apologise for the cock-up? Is she three bricks shy of a load, you asked?

Sit easy, have a Kit Kat and allow me to backtrack for you.

In July, SMRT and SBS submitted a joint application for fare adjustment. They sought a total increment of 2.8% to upkeep service standards.

Wary of the May election’s furore over increasing costs of living, however, the Public Transport Council only approved the fare hike allowing it to escalate by 1%.

We celebrated. We thought the government is finally listening and we can look forward to a better 5 years. Viva la revolucion!

Except there’s also this good old Chinese saying that goes: One cent money, one cent worth.

By paying less in public transport fees, we have unwittingly caused the demise of our First World MRT operations.

After all, who is going to cover that 1.8% revenue-cum-budget deficit? Surely not from Tuck Yew Tryingtoscorepoliticalpointz?

To save our blushes, Ms Saw and gang bravely put forth the self-demonising statement. It’s customer service that we should be concerned about. Do recognise, as such, that we have not been fair towards SMRT.

We ‘aint giving them enough benefit of doubt as a profit-based corporation.

Ms Saw being SMRT’s highest paid CEO ever is also irrelevant.

3) SMRT still have our interests at heart

True benevolence

Especially when we consider efforts shown by SMRT to cushion our shock: Live twitter updates. Free bridging bus services. Messages to increase cabbies to relieve the crowd. Not penalising the man who smashed one of the train window.

What more can you ask for? (A friend did suggest that SMRT could borrow the 40 topless models from Abercrombie & Fitch to stand outside Orchard station and sooth our feisty mood, but we are not that lewd, are we.)

Which is the reason why I totally sup-pork Straits Times’ timely reminder regarding SMRT coming tops among local firms:

Don’t ask what SMRT can do for you! Ask what you can do for SMRT!

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of SMRT!

Burp. Actually,I could well be three sheets to the wind.

This post was written by:

- who has written 2685 posts on New Nation.

Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

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  • Kenneth Koh

    Cannot factor in complacency? I would like you to say that to air crew, logistics, and roughly anyone in the service industry. Complacency gets people fired, reprimanded, or at worst, some people killed, if you didn’t know that.

    It could’ve been worse, a tunnel fire could’ve happened. Would you still say you can’t factor in complacency?

    SMRT is providing a mobility service. If you lose your legs by negligence from another, would you be complaining? Would you be angry?

    I refuse to read further of your logically flawed article till you know what is the meaning of service.

  • Maya Phoenix

    Kenneth, I believe this article is a satire…

    • Kenneth Koh

      Ahhh, should’ve read the rest of the site. I have embarrassed myself. Opps.

      • Belmont

        It’s ok, no worries… You’re not the first. Won’t be the last either.