Our MRT system design is fundamentally flawed and no amount of “extensive rcommendations to boost rail network’s power system” will prevent more frequent and regular major disruptions.
It was conceived way back in 1967 with construction starting in 1983. Operations started on 7 November 1987.
Things were initially fine until PAP decided to take an economic shortcut by replacing productivity with population growth. This is confirmed by URA’s 1991 Concept Plan where PAP decided to increase resident headcount by a whopping 20% in 10 years. Once this artificial demand had been created, additional housing, infrastructures, etc had to be constructed. Our GDP growth has been relying on such a shortcut for more than 2 decades. There’s no turning back.
Source: URA 1991 Concept Plan
PAP increased the number of PRs by 175,000 and foreigners by 443,000, bringing the total artificial population increase to 618,000 in 10 years (using figures from 1990 to 2000) link. But was our MRT system designed for such a drastic population increase?
The increase in resident population pales in comparison with the number of foreign workers. By 2030, the number of foreign workers would have increased by more than 2,500,000 since 1990. Double confirmed this was never taken into account during MRT planning stage.
As if suka-suka planning wasn’t bad enough, disaster struck when retrenched-from-DFS Saw Phaik Hwa was employed to run SMRT in 2002. Wasn’t there any other talent besides Saw, who didn’t have an engineering background and equipped with only retail sector experience?
When the population surged by another million from 2000 to 2010, Saw’s ‘solution’ was to work the system to death by adding “a thousand over trips on trains per week so that I have more trains to take away the crowd”. Saw somehow forgot an overworked system needed to be inspected more frequently and properly maintained.
Truth be said, Saw was only part of the problem: the real culprit is PAP, Saw’s employer.
Look at the list of PAP-appointed, overpaid scholars running our public transport system and it should be clear that we are inviting trouble.
1 – Khaw Boon Wan
Like every PAP minister, Khaw is a Jack of all trades. He was PPS to PM-now-MP Goh Chok Tong and Perm Sec at the MTI. As Health Minister, the issue of hospital bed shortage did not cross his mind. Khaw subsequently became the MND minister from 2011 to 2015 and his job – ramp up construction of public housing. Housing is a basic need which his predecessor scholar Mah somehow underestimated the number of units to construct by an embarrassingly huge margin.
Khaw’s prior experience in public transport: ZERO
2 – Josephine Teo
Before her back-door entry into Parliament in 2006, she was with the EDB and A*STAR. She is concurrently holding the posts of SMOS for Finance, Transport and in the PMO. Public transport experience before becoming MOS for MOT: ZERO
3 – Ng Chee Meng
Ex paper general Ng is concurrently MOS for Education (Schools) and SMOS for Transport. Prior public transport experience: ZERO
4 – Pang Kin Keong
Pang was the Director of ISD when Mas Selamat escaped in 2008. He was shortly transferred to the Ministry of Law before becoming MOT’s Perm Sec in 2012. Four years after the embarrassing incident, Pang was held ‘accountable’ with a promotion to Perm Sec, earning additional hundreds of thousands in tax dollars (similar to ‘punishing’ negligent SAF officer?). Transport experience before transfer to MOT: ZERO
5 – Chew Men Leong
Chew depended on tax dollars since day one of his military career. After 26 years in the Navy, Chew was promoted to CEO of PUB and 3 years later, CEO of LTA. Prior public transport experience: Kosong
6 – Desmond Kuek
Desmond was promoted to Perm Sec of MEWR after leaving the military in 2010. He was appointed CEO of SMRT in 2012. Prior public transport experience: NIL
When PAP appoints ‘leaders’ based on academic achievements, commuters should not be surprised by major disruptions. Logically, worse should be expected because the issue of accountability has not been addressed.
What really ails our MRT system? SMRT top management doesn’t even know! After 28 years in operation, why does SMRT need to seek the recommendations of a panel of experts – including 4 foreign ones – to make our system resilient? Any private sector CEO who is paid up to $2.5 million but doesn’t know his job would have been booted out years ago.
It is not difficult to see why our MRT system is broken and will continue to fail commuters: all the overpaid parachutists had ZERO relevant experience. Perhaps they only were expected to read up some manuals and SOPs? If the system was not designed for the current population and has constantly broken down, should commuters expect the replacement of parts to work wonders when the population increases to 6.9 million and beyond?
MRT commuters should expect only one thing: more major disruptions akan datang.