SMRT fiasco: My two cents worth.

The past week, there have been a lot of talk regarding the numerous train breakdowns that occurred on the Circle Line as well as the North-South and East-West Line. It caused a lot of problems for commuters and have raised a lot of concerns on how SMRT have dealt with the situation. Now, I’m not going to rant and complain about their performance lately and their handling of the situation, nor am I going to reiterate what happened this past week, but what I would like to point out is that sometimes, these things happen. The train network is almost 25 years old. Problems always arise as machines age, that is a fact. No matter how well we maintain, problems are bound to come in some form or another.

As much as I’d like to make Singaporeans understand, we still have to look at the other side of the coin. Singaporeans, live in a very efficient country. We like to do things fast, quickly, and without hassle. We take pride in that. The whole world knows how efficient we are. That is why sometimes, to let these things happen, it hurts our ego somewhat. I have read people’s opinion about how other train networks around the world operate. Worker strikes are common, breakdowns are rampant, and compared to what we have gone through, this is just a hiccup in my opinion. Still, that does not mean that we should rant a little about their service and performance standards of SMRT.

As mentioned, sometimes it’s good to make some noise towards SMRT. To make them ‘wake up their idea’ seems to be good for them in the long run. It goes to show how singaporeans actually take public transportation seriously and how much we take pride in us being efficient. I can’t blame them for how they behave, but, on a more basic level, I sometimes have to side with these people. Those people who fanned the heat towards SMRT are justified somewhat to keep the flame hot even after everything have settled down. Think of it; the development of this nation is built around the train network. A lot of people depend on service to commute to work daily. Cars are expensive, we are a small nation. We have to depend solely on trains and buses to get to places. It is almost become our basic right for the ability to travel around town. If SMRT is giving such service standards now and into the future, we will be crippled as a nation. A lot of productive man hours have already been lost. The intangible loss cannot be counted as well. The system of rails that we have built is not developed in such a way that there will be alternative routes or line networks to take if one is down. We have not matured yet to that of the London Underground for example, where you can hop on and hop off to an alternative line to get to you destination.

Even if you mobilize every bus in the country to keep it running, it is still a woefully inadequate system in the long run. On the flipside, is the government over-reacting in starting a public inquiry over the matter? No they are not. Is it necessary for the prime minister to intervene on such issues? I think it is. Public transportation, where millions of people in singapore, which is already the majority of the people of this nation that depend on it, will and always will be a national issue. It will always be a delicate issue that the government will have to face time and time again, because it has become so ingrained into singaporeans’ life as much as breathing, eating and brushing our teeth. Every day I take the train to school, but none of those days I stopped to ponder the fact that massive breakdowns would occur on a time when I commute daily to school. No one ever thought that a breakdown of such scale would occur, until today. It is like a wake up call for all commuters. A wake up call that one day, your daily routine will be disrupted on such a scale that you would never have anticipated.

Therefore, yes, its good to poke and make noise at SMRT, so that they will always be on their toes to maintain a good public image for themselves by always pushing themselves to greater service levels and reliability. But at the same time, we must also start to accept the fact that our train networks are getting old, and such breakdowns will occur more often in the future, and that we must adapt to it and not stand there feeling helpless and nonchalant about it. That works both ways for the people and the government.

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