Sunday 2 March 2014

So was it a service disruption or just slow trains?

There’s an old saying by Confucius:
“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
I’ve read that on a signboard at the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

SMRT apparently took what Confucius said to heart after yet another train service disruption between the Yew Tee and Kranji stations on the North-South Line on Monday – except the company denied it was a service disruption.

To quote SMRT:
“There was no service disruption although trains ran at a slower speed.”

The negative response on SMRT Facebook page was almost immediate and some of it was kind of hilarious.
“This is like saying that there was no flooding, only ‘ponding’.”

“Good thing Pinocchio is not working for you. His nose would be longer than all your train tracks combined.”

“Eh SMRT, your CEO should have his pay delayed for a few months. After all, it's slow but not a disruption.”

Wait, do these Facebook comments count as cyber-bullying? A new anti-harassment law will be introduced in Parliament tomorrow. And none too soon.

If anyone needs protection from cyber-bullies, it’s the SMRT Facebook page. You can see more abuse here than in a Pasir Ris army camp.

Even an innocuous picture of a guide dog posted by SMRT last month drew such critical comments as “Can this adorable dog squeeze into our over-crowded train?” and “The dog is 100 times more reliable than the train.”

SMRT just can’t catch a break.

Last week was a particularly bad one for SMRT and commuters with train delays on Monday (as mentioned), Tuesday (between Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay on the North-South Line) and Thursday (between Paya Lebar and Dhoby Ghaut on the Circle Line).

Ironically, just five days before the Monday incident, The Straits Times reported:
“SMRT will continue to do 'everything possible' to improve the reliability of its rail network, said chief executive Desmond Kuek, giving his strongest comments yet on minimising train delays.”
Laugh until cry.

So was the Monday train delay a service disruption or just the trains running at a slower speed?

I wasn’t there – but my son was. I asked him what happened.

That morning at around 6:40, my son went to the Yew Tee MRT station to take the train to Yishun, which is six stations away. He is a first-year junior college student at a school there.

Everything seemed normal. The station was no more crowded than usual and my son didn’t have to wait long for the train.

The first sign that something was wrong was when the train arrived and didn’t stop where it was supposed to.

The train doors didn’t align with the platform screen doors. So the doors couldn’t open.

It took a while for the train to move to the correct position, and even then, the doors didn’t open right away.

But they eventually did for my son and other passengers to board the train.

Then the doors took longer than usual to close before the train finally moved off.

Everything seemed fine after that... until the train stopped unexpectedly not far from the Yew Tee station.

After a while, the train started moving again, then stopped again. And so on and so on.

At 7:08, the train was still starting and stopping somewhere between the Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations. Yishun was still six stations away.

That was when my son messaged his teacher that he was going to be late. He was supposed to be in school by 7:30.

I asked him if he was upset about being late, but he seemed rather zen about it. He said he just read the book he had with him, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

I’ve bought the Oscar-winning 1975 movie on Blu-Ray and hope to watch it with him after he finishes the book.

I asked my son if the other passengers appeared upset. He said they just looked at their phones and appeared “indifferent”, an indication of how commuters were resigned to train delays by now.

Indeed, less than two months ago, a train stopped on the same 4km stretch of tracks between Yew Tee and Kranji, and passengers had to get off and walk on the elevated tracks.

At least my son didn’t have to do that – although if he had walked on the tracks, he might have reached his school earlier.

Maybe to SMRT, it’s not a service disruption until someone walks on the tracks.

According to my son, the train took about half an hour to get from Yew Tee to Kranji. It usually takes only 7 minutes.

After Kranji, the train travelled at normal speed, but due to the delay, the stations were now very crowded. Free buses were made available at certain stations.

At 7:23, SMRT tweeted:
[NSL]UPDATE: Estimate 20 mins additional travelling time from #JurongEast to #Kranji towards MarinaBay due to track fault.

My son said he was about 30 minutes late for school.

Luckily for him, he didn’t have an exam that morning, unlike some Republic Polytechnic students who couldn’t sit for their paper because they were delayed by the train service disruption – I mean, the trains running at a slower speed.

Confucius said it doesn’t matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop, but what if you go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly…

It’s enough to make one go cuckoo.

- Published in The New Paper, 2 March 2014

Hallo Mr SM Ong

Enjoyed your Sunday piece
551 479 - that's Confucius life-span
I took A-level history and somehow, that has remained with me
When phone numbers had just 6 digits and local calls were free, I used to dial 551 479 (which rang) and asked for Confucius

Back to you(r piece)
I know the poster you mentioned
Years back, I sent a picture of it to TNP click
I said I 'hoped that wasn't going to be SMRT's new operating policy'

TNP didn't publish it

Remember how we used to say signing on with the army made the officers career soldiers?
Not anymore, it seems the average lifespan of the top brass is 2 years
Deduct 6 months for honeymoon period
6 for ROD (ORD) mood
And it's just one year

Same as the span of Ops Ready guys now

Take care