SOCIAL media was alive with barbed chatter about the collision between two SMRT trains at Joo Koon station this morning.
Coming on the heels of Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s speech the night before, thanking and saluting public transport workers for their contributions to society, the accident was another ironical takedown of the beleaguered rail service.
Wrestling with issues ranging from aging equipment to breakdowns, fudged reports and a general unwillingness to take responsibility, the ongoing sequence of incidents points to a public relations train wreck that continues to drag on long after the accident.
It will be interesting to see what the findings of this latest accident are going to be. Already there’s talk of “train fault” as a faulty train stalled at the station and was hit by the second train.
But the 25 injured and those inconvenienced by this will not be so forgiving. From delays, the system is endangering their lives, and this is a situation that has to be addressed with more than just promises.
Humility, not something you see in abundance at the leadership level, and accountability should be part of the public service manual as they face up to a population that justifiably demands excellence from a highly-paid leadership and civil service.
As the system continues to expand, the mix of old and new networks will pose an ongoing series of issues.
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Attempts to sort out the kinks in the system are far from smooth as delays continue to plague both new and old lines.
With the government making car ownership increasingly unaffordable with various tax measures — certificates of entitlement, electronic road pricing, road tax — and many public roads affected by long-term works, the train service would seem the logical means of getting about.
But that is not proving to be the case as delays are derailing the Republic’s reputation for efficiency.
Band Aids Or Remedies
Besides delay chits for anyone required to show them to prove the train made them late, this has caused the eco-system to find workarounds for systemic issues.
Students taking the O and A level examinations have been told to go to the nearest school holding these exams in the event of a train delay.
And with the recent accident, some parents are telling children not to take the train.
What recourse is there for the public when the system continues to fail them?
Perhaps commuters should consider taking up insurance to safeguard their physical wellbeing. Insurance companies may want to look into this opportunity.
Just as the authorities are quick to penalise those who fall foul of their practices and rules, perhaps it’s time it took a dose of its own medicine.
As delays continue to plague the system, and will continue for the foreseeable future, SMRT should develop a schedule of timely payouts to those inconvenienced by delays, breakdowns and injuries.
Maybe then the inconveniences may become slightly more bearable.
But, ultimately, please get things fixed and keep the trains rolling.
Image from SMRT commuter.