Sometimes you do pity and empathise with the Transport Minister. In the last year or so, after having been appointed Minister for Transport, Mr Lui Tuck Yew has been in the spotlight for his handling of the continuing spate of train breakdowns.
This past one week, the MRT system broke down 3 times. This of course follows the other instances where the trains stalled, leaving thousands of commuters stranded. Even the bus and taxi services couldn’t get commuters to their destination on time, if commuters were lucky enough to be able to get on a bus or a taxi.
Mr Lui’s latest (exasperated) demand for answers from the transport operators is understandable, even as the Commission of Inquiry into last December’s breakdowns take place. One wonders what answers the operators would give Mr Lui, other than what has already been offered.
A day before Mr Lui’s call for answers were reported, SMRT was fined a total of S$300 for not meeting service standards for its bus services. Yup, there is not typo there – the fine was S$300.
In 2009, SMRT was also fined S$100 for service lapses.
In 2011, SMRT was again fined – S$200,000 – but this time for lapses in security at its Bishan depot. In 2010, it was fined S$50,000 for another security breach, at its Changi terminal.
The question commuters have is when will all this disruptions to services end. Unfortunately, no one seems to have the answers. Neither is anyone, understandably, able to give any guarantees.
So, it is left to the transport minister to wield the big stick, not unlike a father going after a delinquent child. But Mr Lui has a big task on his hand, given that this “child” – SMRT – seems to have serious problems behaving or getting its work done right.
Nonetheless, I would be sympathetic towards Mr Lui. Sure, we all want him to resolve the problems as soon as possible. This is not an unreasonable expectation. He is, after all, in charge of our transportation. However, I would also be understanding that the causes of the problems could involve multiple aspects – from the technical to the administration and management of SMRT.
I would let the ongoing COI investigations carry on and hopefully the root/s of the problems can be discovered and rectification made.
In the meantime, I think Mr Lui deserves some credit for trying to get to the bottom of it all. In any case, I do feel Mr Lui is a more empathetic transport minister than his predecessor, Mr Raymond Lim, whose attitude and behaviour seemed to me arrogant and condescending.
This news report have stuck in my mind eversince I viewed it back in 2008. The condescension in Mr Lim’s words and the way he said them showed the utter lack of understanding he had about the concerns Singaporeans had. (In this video, he tried to explain why transport fares had to be raised and why there cannot be “totally free” transport unless GST was raised which, by the way, no one had called or is calling for.)
I am glad Mr Lui has been more patient and cordial in his explanation on the problems about the MRT system, especially in Parliament in January when he was assailed by MPs, including opposition ones, on the matter. He has also been more responsive than Mr Lim when the system breaks down, taking train rides himself and being on the scene when system failures occur.
One hopes that the problems will be resolved – not for Mr Lui’s sake but for the thousands of commuters who use the transport system each day.