Sunday 12 July 2015

Our Singapore: Was it the worst MRT breakdown? Here's how to tell

Remember in February when SMRT won some international award for “delivering value through risk management”?

You should because I wrote a whole column about it.

On receiving the award, SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek said:
“The rigorous judging process reaffirms that SMRT’s Enterprise Risk Management programme is truly world-class and delivers superior value for our stakeholders.”
Almost immediately after he said it, the train delays started — with four incidents in five days.

So by boasting about how “truly world-class” SMRT was, Mr Kuek jinxed it.

Last week, he did it again.

At the SMRT annual general meeting on Tuesday, Mr Kuek bragged about the award plus another one the company won for Best Public Sector Campaign given by the Singapore Institute of Public Relations. He said:
“These external endorsements are important signals that we are on the right track in bringing the group to higher levels of excellence in every field.”
Hours later, the North-South Line and East-West Line were shut down during evening rush hour, causing massive chaos across the island.

The lesson here is that for the sake of hundreds of thousands of commuters, Mr Kuek should stop gloating about how wonderful SMRT is. It’s bad luck.

If SMRT were a shopping centre, it would be Jem.

The Straits Times called Tuesday night’s incident “possibly the worst MRT breakdown Singapore has experienced”.

The other contenders for worst MRT breakdown were on Dec 15 and 17, 2011.

So how do you determine which MRT breakdown is worse than another, especially now that there are so many?

By the duration of the delay?

A three-hour delay in the afternoon between the Marina Bay and Marina South Pier stations probably wouldn’t be as disastrous as a half-hour delay at 6pm on a weekday between City Hall and Raffles Place.

By the number of people affected then?

The Straits Times estimated that more than 250,000 commuters may have been affected by Tuesday’s breakdown compared to the 127,000 and 94,000 affected by the two December 2011 breakdowns.

The trouble is, those numbers are at best estimations. We need something more definitive.

You could argue that Tuesday’s breakdown was the worst because for the first time, two MRT lines were affected simultaneously.

But you could also argue that the December 2011 breakdowns were the worst because a Committee Of Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong whereas so far, he is only “very concerned” about Tuesday’s breakdown.

On the other hand, it’s not fair to pit the two December 2011 breakdowns against Tuesday’s breakdown. That’s two against one.

To cut through all this muddle, I have come up with an authoritative method to determine which MRT breakdown is the worst — by counting the number of parody songs it has inspired.

I call it the Weird Al Yankovic Index.

Based on this index, Tuesday’s breakdown takes the crown with three songs.

First, we have these new lyrics by Mr Billy Teo for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody:

I would've love to hear Kanye West sing those lyrics at Glastonbury. That is, if he can remember them.

Next, Mr Brown wrote a parody song named called Tuck Yew after the transport minister based on Cee Lo Green’s Fuck You:

Finally, we have a song based on OMD’s Enola Gay called S.M.R.T. Meltdown by Oblong Dick.

Thank you, SMRT, for inspiring the Weird Al in us.

No, wait, there are actually four parody songs. I forgot to count my own.

Unlike the other three who used songs by foreign talent, I changed the lyrics to a local song. Why? Because I’m a patriot.

And it’s not just any local song but Dick Lee’s SG50 song, Our Singapore — just in time for National Day.

My version has different lyrics for the chorus:

Mic dropped.

I’m no Dick Lee or Weird Al Yankovic, but I believe my lyrics are an improvement over the original. JJ Lin should’ve used my version for his new NDP video.

I hope to get an award for it.

Oops, did I jinx it?

- Published in The New Paper, 12 July 2015

Dear Mr SM Ong

Saw what you said about SMRT and songs. I also did one on the might it broke down. Was on my fb cover

But my friends are the obedient sort and sniggered in private but did nothing else