Category Archives: SMRT

A change of leadership will be good for SMRT

 

The past few days has been very dark for SMRT in it’s 24 year operating history. Trains breaking down 3 times in less than a week. While a lot have been said about the way SMRT handled this crisis, I think we must look at why this problem happened in the very first place.

I was never a fan of Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, CEO of SMRT. If you have been reading my blog, I have been very critical of her. Especially the way she handled the 2 train depot break ins. With every mistake that SMRT makes, the calls for her head to roll gets louder.

Let’s put it this way. Ms Saw has forgotten the very core of SMRT. Which is to provide and serve Singaporeans with trains as a form of transportation. 61 rail defects and 13 defective trains is just totally unacceptable. How an organisation behaves, it’s a reflection on what it’s CEO is doing. The past few years, SMRT has been solely concentrating on building the Circle Line and building Xchanges after another, in line with Ms Saw’s vision of making MRT stations a ‘lifestyle hub’. Which is also why the complacency on the maintenance of trains and rails must be placed squarely on Ms Saw’s shoulders. Safety, has also been comprised. For a transport operator, that is the most serious sin of all.

If you ever wondered where all the money from the fare increase went, now you know it went to all the ‘lifestyle hubs’.

That is why I’m calling for a change of leadership at the top of SMRT. It needs a leader that puts commuters first before making money. Honestly, Singaporeans don’t need Xchanges or ‘lifestyle hubs’ at MRT stations. All we need is a safe mode of transport home after a hard day of work.

While I thank Ms Saw for transforming SMRT in to one of the world’s best transport operators, she has lost sight of the goal. Which is why, she should not overstay her welcome and resign now.

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Potong Pasir residents ‘repented’…and a MRT station opens

Woodleigh MRT station was closed for 8 long years.

8 years later, SBS has decided to open Woodleigh Station to celebrate NEL’s 8th anniversary. Now wait a minute, which organisation worth it’s salt celebrates something that has only be around for 8 years? Call me a consipracy theorist, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

The People’s Action Party recently took back the opposition leader Chiam See Tong’s former stronghold of Potong Pasir in the recent General Elections after 20 years and less than 2 months later, Woodleigh MRT Station is suddenly operational.

For those who don’t know where Woodleigh Station is, the station, while only a few minutes away from the Potong Pasir MRT station, is located in Potong Pasir.

8 years ago, when Chaim was still in charge of Potong Pasir and  the North- East Line (NEL) was opened, SBS Transit was asked why Woodleigh wasn’t opened. The reason given to the public then was “the population in the area had been deemed insufficient to make economic sense to operate”.

Now 8 years later, Chiam is gone, PAP has taken over and SBS has decided that there is now a ‘sufficient population’ to take the train at Woodleigh Station.

I’m shooting in the wind here, but my guess is that the ‘sufficient population’ in Potong Pasir who are rejoicing over the opening of the station are the same population who, to borrow LKY’s words, ‘repented’ and decided to vote for the PAP instead of the opposition.

Whether SBS was strong-armed  in to opening Woodleigh Station or not, my guess is as good as yours.

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SMRT CEO: I ‘push my way in to trains’ too

Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, CEO of SMRT Corp

In my previous post, I wondered if Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, CEO of SMRT Corp, ever took a MRT train during peak hour. Well, apparently she did.

In an interview she gave to Channel NewsAsia in respond to the uproar over the comment she made that ‘people can board train – it is whether they choose to’,  she was quoted as saying:

I am very aware it’s crowded. I take the trains all the time. I take the effort to go all the way to the northern towns to see how crowded it is during the morning peaks and I take the train with the people.
“It is crowded, but I push my way in. It is crowded, but when they are already running at 2-3 minutes (intervals), it’s the most that I can do. I cannot go faster than that without compromising safety and reliability
Noticed how many times she uses the word ‘crowded‘? And the highlighted comment which she says she ‘I push my way in‘?
I don’t know if her admission that the trains are crowded and that she is doing the same thing as her customers – pushing and squeezing in to packed trains, is music to the ears of the people her comment was directed at. I sure they are thinking: ‘Oh come on, Ms Saw, tell us something we don’t already know’.
For what it’s worth, I applaud Ms Saw for finally admitting the obvious – SMRT trains ARE crowded. But admitting the obvious isn’t what we, who take the train daily, want. What we want is a solution.
And for Pete’s sake, Ms Saw, you are the CEO. Please don’t tell us that running trains at 2-3 minutes interval is ‘the most you can do’. You are the one being paid a ridiculously high salary, so don’t expect us to fall for that line.

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SMRT trains are not packed, according to it’s CEO

People can board the trains – it is whether they choose to.”

Perhaps after looking at the picture below, one wonders what SMRT’s CEO Saw Phaik Hwa was thinking when she made the above statement.

Picture taken from Richard Seah

Ms Saw was responding to questions about crowded trains, in a Sunday Times’ article, which I strangely can’t find online, but I found a screenshot of it in The Online Citizen.

She ‘doesn’t think that trains here are as packed as Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai”, which brings me to the question if she has ever took a train during peak hours. Maybe not, since she doesn’t have to, since she’s SMRT’s Highest paid CEO.

I’m still seriously dumfounded as to why SMRT are not running more trains and reducing the waiting time. As Nelson Poon wrote in his blogpost titled ‘An open letter to SMRT CEO’:

…I am seriously infuriated with the trains coming at intervals of 4 ~ 5 mins between 7pm ~ 730pm while a lot of people are still just getting off work. While statistically one train coming at 4 ~ 5 mins and another coming at 2 mins gives you an average interval of 3.5 minutes a train, that is not the same as trains coming at a constant interval 3.5 mins. Running some of your trains at higher load than another is creating uneven wear and tear on your trains and the tracks and it definitely hurts your bottom line.

Guess it’s time for Ms Saw to take a train ride. During peak hours.

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Why SMRT’s apology is unacceptable

By now, Singaporeans will know about the vandalism of the SMRT train, given that thousands take it everyday. Which is why SMRT apology for the incident is unacceptable.

It is truly and really amazing how easy it is for Oliver Fricker and Lloyd Dane Alexander to break in the Changi Depot and vandalise the train. The authorities must have heaved a sign of relief that  it was just graffiti, and not a bomb. Apparently, they didn’t remember the Madrid train bombings.

Right now, the authorities are trying their best to move the spotlight out of the ‘splattered egg’ on SMRT face by hunting down Alexander and announcing to everyone who is listening that they are caning Fricker. Hell, his bail was $100,000.

But the real questions remain unanswered. Why was the depot so easy to break in, in the first place? For all the talk of how safe Singapore is, this incident has thrown a spotlight on Singapore’s defence vulnerability.  Just like how easy it was for Mas Selamat to escape. Recently, Indonesian police found a map of Singapore MRT network after raiding a terrorist hideout. So, why oh why, wasn’t the security at the depot beefed up?

SMRT’s apology and reason for the security lapse was laughable:

SMRT Corp. said it has beefed up security at train depots by adding razor wire to perimeter fences, more cameras and foot patrols by guards in response to the incident, which led local media to question the city-state’s preparedness against possible terrorist attacks.
“We deeply regret that a serious security lapse occurred in our depot,” Chief Executive Saw Phaik Hwa said in a statement. “Since the breach, we have taken immediate steps to strengthen our security to prevent recurrence.
My first reaction, and I’m sure my fellow Singaporeans share the same sentiments as me, after reading this was: ‘What? You jokers are telling me that the train I take everyday is so vulnerable to a bomb attack? Why wasn’t there more cameras, barbed wire fences and foot patrols in the first place?’
SMRT should be severely punished for this security lapse. After all, they are putting Singaporeans who take the trains everyday and who pay so much for the train fares and don’t make noise when SMRT raise the train fares as and when they want, at risk.
Just like heads rolled when Mas Selamat escaped, the same must happen at SMRT. Time for them to wake up.

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SMRT is ‘out of touch’

This will not be a ‘rant’ but an honest observation on my part.

As you all already know, SMRT has decided to fine those caught eating and drinking in MRT trains and stations on the spot. The first person they caught was a woman eating sweets. What a way to start their new ‘campaign’. As if raising the train fare isn’t enough, they are using this ‘campaign’ to justify the raise. As what my friend, Callan Tham from Trapper’s Swamp says ‘to cover extra operational costs’.

Its high time for SMRT to use the money we pay them to start doing their job. They should start paying their staff more money to get their asses of their office chairs to walk through the trains. People don’t only eat on the trains nowadays. They are having a party too! They are blasting their music on their phones like they are only one in the train and we can’t tell them off because there is no rule stating otherwise! Imagine tired office workers on the way home without their MP3s. They have to bear music ranging from techno to Bollywood. Shouldn’t this people be fined for disturbing the peace?.

This is what Chia Chun Wah, deputy director of Stations Operations at SMRT Trains, said

“We are trying to eradicate this (habit of) eating and drinking both in the stations and the trains. We have been doing a lot of advisories to the passengers.

“Obviously, there’s a certain limit where we can educate the passengers. Now we’re going to this enforcement scheme and trying to educate passengers further and to refrain from eating and drinking in the systems.”

So they want to ‘educate’ us eh? Isn’t education all rounded? Is eating and drinking worse than disturbing the peace?. Now its only blasting their music. If SMRT don’t stop that, people will probably start a riot on the train. By that time, eating and drinking won’t be your main problem.

I have a suggestion. Since some people are plain bored and obvoiusly can’t afford a ear piece, why don’t SMRT play music or radio stations in the train? That will prevent those who are caught eating from saying they are bored. Since we are all for ‘Supporting local talent’, why not play their music or their videos on the trains?. Foreigners take trains too don’t they?

Who knows? Maybe there’s a talent scout who’s bored on the train, about to reach for his potato chips and Mp3, looks up and sees, say, Electico singing? For that 30 mins in the train, he or she will probably be entertained and the potato chips forgotten.

 

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