SMRT breaks down, then lies: The new normal?

Beneath the idyllic exterior of the cosmopolitan city-state lies a grim reality: the trains don’t work. Well most of the time they do, but every two weeks or so, they cough, sputter and grind to a halt leaving tens of thousands of commuters stranded. Breaking down, it seems, has become the new normal. But what irks commuters even more are the lies.

On a rainy Friday night (Feb 19), SMRT did it again. Train service on the East-West Line (green) between Jurong East and Joo Koon was suspended for an hour from 5.43 pm to 6.42 pm.

Yes we get that SMRT is, on paper at least, committed to improving the reliability of its public transport services. We know that SMRT employees are hard-working people who are doing a seemingly thankless job (maybe you should pay them more). And we also get that when push comes to shove, SMRT can run slick ad campaigns.

SMRT, we understand that even though you pay your CEO $2.5 million, you demand high standards. We get that when your profits from the train service jumped from $3.2 million to $9.7 million in one year, you need to use those profits to reinvest it in upgrades. And of course when you give away more than half of it as dividends to shareholders, we understand that as a publicly traded company you have a duty to reward shareholders.

Singaporeans are very understanding people. 70% voted for the PAP. But you know what? Your train service still keeps breaking down. We can give you time, we can even give you money, just don’t lie to us, and at least show some improvement.

Back to Friday night. SMRT says only the service between Jurong East and Joo Koon is affected. Commuters disagree.

SMRT says free bus service is available. But what does available mean?

SMRT says service has resumed at 6.02 pm. Commuters call bullshit.

Then SMRT says service has resumed again, at 6.42 pm. Still bullshit.

SMRT has behaved like an employee that goes on sick leave every two weeks without warning, then lies about what it was up to. When Singaporeans find out, they can’t fire it. Instead, it seems that the more handouts we give it, the more it loses the incentive to work. We have become a welfare state for SMRT and eroded their work ethic. It’s a tragic irony.