ST Forum letter criticising LTA excuses on MRT breakdowns, receives outpouring of support and praises

In a Straits Times forum dated 10 October (Tuesday), Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuang wrote that in his opinion it is strange to read the excuses that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been giving for the shutdowns of Singapore’s train system.

He stated that first, SMRT said it was the signalling system’s fault. Then, it was the track’s fault.

“With Saturday’s flooding of the tunnel, resulting in a major shutdown of the North-South Line, it was the rain and water-pumping system’s fault (NSL services disrupted by water in tunnel; Oct 8),” he wrote.

He then said that the LTA and SMRT almost never admit that they could have been at fault, adding that it seems that no one in the managements of LTA and SMRT have been held accountable for all these persistent problems.

“When the SMRT management team was first appointed, I was full of hope and support for them,” he wrote.

“Surely, if there was anyone who could do the job, a group of army generals with experience in running a most efficient fighting force should be able to do it. But I have been sorely disappointed and disillusioned,” he added.

He then stated that with the privatisation of SMRT, the management is no longer subject to public scrutiny. Operating under a shroud of secrecy, the management continues to be rewarded despite the sufferings of commuters.

 Unanimous public agreement towards Mr Tay’s forum letter

Many readers agreed with what Mr Patrick wrote, stating that the board directors should take responsibilities.

Izwan Jay wrote, “‘In Japan, the CEO and board of directors will call a press conference and take a deep bow, and in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri’. But, who am I kidding. We are not Japanese.”

Cheng Chang Her wrote, “What can you expect when you put the elite from SAF together. They will put their skill into good use. Individual field craft skill set 1 – Take cover.”

Jason Lee wrote, “Try this in private sector and the management would have Long been fired. Well, civil servant has a no blame culture as long as SOP is followed and GLC head cannot be pulled down but transferred around. If you want to take private sector level of salary, start learning to take responsibilities like the private sector.”

Andy Tan wrote, “One of the best forum letters ever published. Sadly we are all very disappointed and disillusioned – the CEO Desmond Kuek is too quiet. We are waiting for an overhaul to the og structure and for him to be removed.”

Lion Roar wrote, “You nailed it!!!! Where is the Transport Minister and the SMRT CEO in all of this? Where is the accountability to the people?”

Zhaoxing Lin wrote, “Just last week, I praised the unsung heroes behind the scene for working overnight getting the track back on. There’s so much unhappiness over the failure of how things occurred. Even so if we take it as a nation, there must be accountabilities in these issues. Hearing MRT breaking down is far too many. At least someone come out and say something and address the nation. Keeping quiet is not the best option.”

Minsoon Lim wrote, “Unfortunately this is the state of our country’s leadership today. They collectively brand themselves as TOP talents and paid themselves astronomical salaries but have shown little accountability.
Just look at PM Lee hiding behind K Shanmugam defending what he himself has said you will know. Something which will never happen under LKY’s leadership and in fact none of these will happen.”

C. J. Goh wrote, “What can we expect from an expert excuse master moving from health to national development and now to transport. Has he committed hara kiri, a real NATO man who does not do what he tells others to do.”

Walter Lim wrote, “It is not the management faults because the workers did not do their jobs. Management always give such excuses.”

Neo Wee Wu wrote, “I can’t help but wonder. If we interpret the delays using dollar and cents, how much economic value has lost? Oh I forgot the economic value should not take into the account of the payout to the SMRT management otherwise the number will look very ugly.”

Lucas Low wrote, “Pumping system not working at all when needed is operational incompetence. Period.
I dare not think of the consequences of other potential emergencies that can happen in our road or MRT tunnels when emergency situations arise. For example, ventilators, Fire-fighting, standby power, flood control, etc.”

Jasmine Lim wrote, “I never see the paper general aka CEO Desmond Kuek making a statement or chair a conference. Hide behind Khaw Boon Wan who is equally useless and come up with plenty of lame excuses.”

Diana Ghim wrote, “The writer, Patrick, forgot to blame someone, the ex CEO Saw Phiak Hwa. She was too busy making money and neglected MRT maintenance. This is all her fault.”

Terry Lee wrote, “Blame the whole system. In the first place, these management people were not even conversant with the operating structure. The management is just like most Western Doctors – where there is a defect, just take care of that particular defect, omitting the root cause. Now they said the water pump defective, just replace the water pump. But, what is the main cause of the flooding? Definitely cannot be water flooding in for no apparent reason? It could be due to severe design deficiency in the very first place. Has anyone in the management looked into that? These so-called chosen elites are paid millions in salary, and they made a mess (and a great joke) out of themselves. Sad and shameful. Paper leaders.”

Robert Lim wrote, “Those in LTA and SMRT are cushy. Despite all the regular major train disruptions which affected thousands of people’s productivity, the staff still get the annual bonuses and PBs.”

Eugene Lin wrote, “Sack the entire SMRT upper management and spread the wealth to hire more capable on site staffs, all the high tier ball carriers.”

Joseph Kee wrote, “Perhaps, the Transport Minister should take the lead, instead of hiding behind your CEO and what nought. Follow Lui Tuck Yew foot step. Recognise it is a management issue, take ownership, apologise and step down.”

Ck Low wrote, “Singapore culture and educational system, never the leader is at fault, always other things at fault. Our next 50 years if we do not wake up our mind, Singapore will lag behind.”

Bruce Kky wrote, “LTA graduate engineers still getting around 6 months bonuses yearly despite all this rubbish they are giving to the nation. The top pay themselves well so they have to rate and pay the second in line more to shut their mouths, then second has to rate and pay third in line similarly in order. See the logic? Who cares about the rail? It is the money they are after.”

Cindy Soh wrote, “It seems like they have no responsibility. Just keep quiet and wait for thing to tide over and pretend nothing happen. Only collect their fat salary every month. Lucky there is no war when Desmond Kuek was chief of defence then, if not we do not know how the outcome will be like.”

Gilbert Rozario wrote, “Don’t you know? They are never wrong!” Even in a major screw up like the Mas Selamat fiasco, the underlings get reprimanded & even fired but the biggest screwup at the top remains untouched! They should learn about the concept of Ministerial Responsibility which is practised in the UK & other developed countries.”

Jack Mager wrote, “Do not put blame on a pump. As a senior marine engineer, I served on steamers as old 40 years , emergency and standby pumps had to be tested every Friday included the valves. It is your periodical maintenance management needs overhaul!”

Kita Loop wrote, “Those generals were specially selected. Only those with super thick skin were selected to be the elite. So they will continue to hold ground despite being so useless. Hope their children will feel shameful when face their classmates.”

Cecilialim Lim wrote, “Absolutely right. This is a price that we citizens pay when these top notch positions are given to the elites by our government. Hope someone will take ownership soon. Do not shirk responsibilities, please.”

T Max Khan wrote, “Do you think the management will take the blame? I doubt so because it is not them who maintain or repair the faults. It is the workers who is to blame. They will never take blame for all of this. They only know how to sit in the chair and taichi all way. That is the real world.”

Wong Lam wrote, “Sack Minister (for constantly hiding behind the scenes but emerges only when things get better). Promote and listen to those who were Hand in the repair.”

Some stated that this is how the Government and politics run nowadays.

Dave Tan wrote, “Its right up from the top from PM level where no one will held responsible for any lapses and faults.
The one who held responsible probably will be the engineer and the people.
This is the Government today.”

Cassidy Andrew Gow wrote, “It is a well known tactic that in politics, if you keep repeating something even if it is untrue, it will become the truth. And so if you keep reporting faults like it is normal, it becomes the new normal. After a while we will be wondering why other ‘backward’ countries’ train systems does not have ‘normal faults’ like the shiny Singapore model.”

Some also questioned the Government for the incidents recently and whou should held responsibility.

Simon Sew Han Liew wrote, “Recalls all failures records : Fire/smoke at Tunnel, Passenger trap in tunnel without ventilation required to break glass for surviving, flood in tunnel, circuit breaker issue and poor communications leading to 02 trainees to crash by revenue train , intruders drawing smrt trains, etc.
With so many incidents and poor records why LTA still allowed SMRT to operates new Thomson Lines?”

Anthony Zhong Kunda wrote, “Ever increasing fares, talking about increasing cost to maintenance, yet still always break down and ask why does people so obsessive with driving? Because the train is horrible. Simple fact.”

Thomas Yung wrote, “The standard of one production greatly impacted by 2 factors: the quality of the manpower (white collar to blue collar) and the quality of the materials (budget). So where goes wrong?”

Some also took this opportunity to tell others about the issue on the train platform.

Loh Jun Peng wrote, “Every morning the train from Marina Bay to Jurong East will stop at platform A. Those who have to take the train to Joo Koon/Tuas link will have to take the escalator/stairs/lift down and take the escalator/stairs/lift up again to platform D. As a result,it is causing a massive jam at platform A. It is very inconvenient for the elderly, pregnant and etc.”

Some also praised ST for finally publishing factual letters.

Susan Khoo wrote, “At last, The Straits Times has finally published a forum letter that is critical of our Government linked companies. Someone in ST has finally woken up from a deep slumber.”

Ethan Hek wrote, “Very well written and thanks for not publishing fake news. Finally there is some real and substantial reporting of nothing but the TRUTH!”

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