Pity Mr Lui but he deserves some credit

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.



  1. He has no sympathy from me, although agree with you, he’s come across more emphatic than all his predecessors combined. However, the political climate has changed, and thus he has to make more efforts in communicating with citizens these days, unlike earlier era.

    Having said that, I am reminded that

    1) he was quick to reject nationalization & first to come out and defend SMRT/PTC suggestion to raise fares as soon as election was over. We have argued that transportation (i.e. buses situation was pretty dire by then) should be improved first because justifying new fares. He declined, and it was the other way round….we pay first, and they promise better services later. Then what happened to Dec and now? Have both SMRT & Buses situations improved or deteriorated? Did commuters have alternative choices?

    2) when $1.1b was injected to help the ‘privatized but profitable’ company, people questioned why? Once again, he was quick to the defend – that if Govt didn’t help them out, they will go bankrupt!! Where is the logic in that, other than it was already very clear the people (top fat cats) are already morally bankrupt Executives who are taking everyone for a ride!! This is only a transport company who is very profitable but needed bail-out from taxpayers. Imagine if we have a lehman-housing-type of crisis, all our money in SWF will also be use to bail-out these company just to prop them up?!!!! What message are we sending here?

    Is time people look at the issue with more critical eyes, than to buy all the wayang put up by politicians who play pity-party along with the real victims – the commuters here!

  2. Hey guys it’s only been about a year since elections. I think certain things like rectifying the situation is easier said than done. I’m not pro-pap but perhaps we could give our MPs the benefit of doubt? Mr lui has indeed been more responsive and trying his best but only will time tell how effective his work and efforts are. I guess we shld wait a little more. although I myself am getting frustrated and worried about the inconsistencies about the transportaion now.

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