Jingapore plaques removed from MRT stations

From ‘ Welcome to Jingapore mural a wordplay on artist’s name’, 9 Nov 2017, article by Lydia Lam, ST

Welcome To Jingapore, reads an explanatory plaque for a two-part artwork installed at two new stations on the Downtown Line. The line, which was a play on words, drew flak from netizens, with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) receiving feedback that the term “Jingapore” appeared to be a misspelling.

The Art in Transit work by local artist Jing Quek was made up of two collages installed at Tampines West and Tampines East stations, LTA told The Straits Times on Thursday (Nov 9). The pieces feature images of people, places and objects found near those two stations.

“The title ‘Welcome to Jingapore’ is a wordplay on the artist’s name,” said the LTA spokesman. “By combining his name ‘Jing’ and ‘Singapore’, the work was an attempt by the artist to portray Singapore through his eyes.”

The Chinese word “Jing” has several meanings, including scenery and sights.

LTA said it is in discussions with the artist, and the explanatory plaques that accompanied the murals have been temporarily removed. However, the art pieces continue to be displayed at the stations.

Photos of the plaque went viral this week. Facebook user Mark Tan Tk posted a photo of it on Tuesday, writing in Chinese: “Is it real or fake? Why is it Jingapore not Singapore?

The artist himself posted an explanation on Wednesday night, saying it was brought to his attention “that some people raised a fuss about the title of my artwork”.

If Jing Quek had put up ‘Jingapore’ nearer to Christmas, then people are more likely to let it go because ‘Jingle Bells’. But unfortunately some commuters are afflicted by a neurological disorder that prevents them from understanding the concept of puns. If you tell them the classic joke about Billy throwing the clock out of the window to see ‘time fly’, they’d probably give you a blank stare and ask if you’re ‘real or fake’ and demand an explanation for a clock defying the laws of physics. If you represent the nation in a sporting contest and have ‘SIN’ emblazoned on your shorts, they would curse you for tarnishing the country’s reputation.

There are worse forms of wordplay, of course.

11 years ago, STINKAPORE made its appearance in a blog titled ‘Disillusioned‘. Self-explanatory, it was also used in the literal sense by Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Sydney to describe the city conditions back in the 1930s when the pair paid us a visit.

SINKAPORE is another common variant, usually used to express how the country is going down the drain, with its hapless citizens affectionately nicknamed as ‘Sinkies’. One past Presidential Candidate actually mulled over this in a Facebook post.

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Inevitably, there’s also this – BLINGAPORE  , which, as you can guess, relates to the finer aspects of our glitzy cosmopolitan city, a jewel at the tip of the Asian continent.  Or how about complaining about this site for pets called SingaPAWS. Because it suggests that our country is going to, well, the dogs.

But what’s bewildering about this is LTA actually removing this despite explaining that this is clearly not a typo and that puns exist in this world. Look at fucking My First Skool , a mispelling which some complained as being ‘cruel and nonsensical’. Are LTA doing this just to appease a public already suffering under the ‘sad and embarrassing’ screw ups by SMRT management? Can I complain and get unlimited free rides for a month if I drop a 2 dollar note down the escalator grills? Instead of tongue in cheek artwork, maybe LTA/SMRT would prefer instead to install a ceiling fresco of a contrite CEO Desmond Kuek and team half-kowtowing to everyone to save them time from apologising or making excuses every time the train breaks down.

 

 

 

 

 

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SMRT giving amnesty to flood culprits

From ‘Some SMRT staff own up to lapses during amnesty’, 4 Nov 2017, article by Adrian Lim, ST

Staff from at least one department in SMRT have admitted to lapses in their work, in response to a company call to own up – without penalty – before a wide-scale audit is launched.

The Straits Times understands that the employees are from SMRT’s building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations.

It is unclear how many staff have come forward in the “amnesty” exercise that ended yesterday, and which is targeted at quickly plugging gaps in maintenance operations – one of which caused the flooding of an MRT tunnel last month, bringing down train services on a stretch of the North-South Line for about 20 hours.

…PeopleWorldwide Consulting’s managing director David Leong said: “From an HR perspective, it’s very poor people management. The trust between the management and staff is totally lost.

“It doesn’t lead anywhere… Are you going to retain the people who owned up and let them do the same job? Or are you enticing them to come out, to remove them later?”

This amnesty is a witchhunt disguised as a saintly pardon. It’s like the bad guy in movies saying he won’t shoot you if you spill the beans, but lets you suffer a fate worse than death if you do anyway. SMRT’s CEO being a military guy probably explains the strategy behind this snare. It’s like urging the enemy out from the trenches with promises of warm baths and a 3 meals a day as a POW.

In a separate article, interviewed commuters were furious that those responsible would be given a second chance, but this gesture, like extending a greasy hand to someone hanging onto the edge of a cliff, can only mean that one’s career standing in SMRT is effectively over. And I believe those who owned up already know it, whether they end up with a stern warning or not.  Nobody expects a tea party with balloons and hugs of forgiveness.

Staff ferreted out by this so-called amnesty, supposedly without penalty, will be implicitly blacklisted and deprived of further opportunities within the company. The fact that management even needs to twirl a carrot to lure the culprits out from hiding suggests incompetence in governance and a dearth of ownership among workers. So, to quote something Trumpy, this makes ‘both sides’ look really, really shitty.

As the man in charge has said, all the fuck-ups boils down to ‘deep seated cultural issues’. Instead of pulling out all the stops with this fake magnanimity as a diversion from assigning blame, get to the core of the problem and fix it instead of dusting off table scraps.  I mean, that is your job after all, right?

UPDATE: Once the amnesty ended, SMRT embarked on a massive internal audit code- named ‘OPERATION OSPREY’, which sounds fiercer than the kinds of names we have for SAF mobilisation (Mighty Duck?). It was last used in 2001 by CNB to crack down on drug fiends, which gives you some idea of how the bigwigs view underlings who mess up, that they have to conjure an image of swooping talons snatching filthy rats out of their burrows.

13 staff including Vice Presidents from Maintenance were hauled up for disciplinary action, while SMRT maintains its deathly silence over the numbers ‘saved’ after owning up during the amnesty period (in the process exposing their colleagues). Meanwhile, the heads that matter remain firmly attached to their bodies, despite some talk of adjusting their salaries, while others roll.

 

 

MRT 20 hour disruption blamed on water pump

From ‘NSL train disruption: Malfunctioning water pump system to blame for flooded tunnel’, 8 Oct 2017, article in Today

A malfunctioning water pumping system allowed rain water to build up in the train tunnel near Bishan MRT station, which resulted in a massive disruption along the North South Line (NSL) at the weekend.

In a statement released on Sunday (Oct 8) evening regarding preliminary investigations into the disruption, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) noted that water had entered the tunnel through a portal opening near Bishan MRT station, where aboveground rail tracks make the transition underground.

It said that under normal circumstances, accumulated rainwater in the adjacent storm water sump pit would have been siphoned off by a system of pumps.

But as the pumping system had malfunctioned, rainwater overflowed from the storm water sump pit into the tunnel opening, and accumulating at the lowest point of the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations.

Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet, to attack the hard and strong,
Nothing surpasses it.
Nothing can take its place.
– Tao Te Ching, chapter 78, Lao Tzu

Another day, another breakdown, another lesson on MRT systems learnt the hard way, another cog to blame other than the management, the regulator or the ministry itself; Signal fault, track fault, cable tie fault, sump pit fault, portal opening fault, heavy downpour fault. Screw you Acts of God. Screw you all.

Just this July, a water leak was determined to be the culprit behind the double whammy breakdown leaving 200,000 commuters stuck. Even during the post-mortem of  the infamous Circle Line breakdown in 2011, the deterioration of a DC cable was ‘exacerbated by the presence of water in some cable pits’.  Are we in such a rush to become a Smart Nation that we’ve stupidly forgotten to attend to the very basics of water seepage prevention?

Kudos to the bus drivers and engineers for fixing the problem and their ‘all-out tireless’ work (according to state media). Trust Minister Khaw Boon Wan to guilt-trip us all for our constant complaining by citing tales of heroic, soggy courage, of our brave men and women knee deep in floodwater in the muggy dark of a tunnel as a diversion from his Ministry and SMRT leadership’s incompetence. How dare you call this the WORST BREAKDOWN in the HISTORY of the MRT, news media? All you do is sensationalise with your ‘facts and figures’, sitting in your dry cosy offices while our staff work their butts off!

Speaking of the minister, though he should really be wading with torchlight in cute yellow boots to inspect the damage with our tunnel heroes, he’s actually in Panama as we speak, according to his conspicuously silent Facebook page. Maybe he’s busy gathering tips on water management.  As the palindrome goes: A man, a plan, MRT still breaks down anyway.

Given how crazy the weather has been and is going to be, and how SMRT is still cocking things up despite repeated, useless fines, maybe what we commuters need is not mandatory digital literacy programs, but basic swimming lessons. Or emergency canoes in train tunnels.

Khaw Boon Wan thinks main media has gone tabloid

From ‘Biased figures on MRT breakdown rate’, 29 July 2017, ST Forum

(Chan Yeow Chuan): I was taken aback by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s statement that the MRT is three times more reliable now than it was in 2015 (Khaw raises bar on MRT reliability; July 28).

However, after a more careful reading of the report, I realised that this conclusion was drawn from statistics that excluded delays caused by the new signalling system on the North-South Line.

Computing statistics this way is biased and unscientific.

I propose that delays caused by the testing of the new signalling system be factored in when calculating the mean kilometres between failures (MKBF).

If there has been a decrease in MKBF since 2015, this can be duly explained by the delays caused by the tests.

Calculating MKBF this way would give us a gauge as to how disruptive the tests of the new signalling system have been.

I support The Straits Times’ coverage of the recent breakdowns and delays of the MRT (Minister takes aim at press; July 28).

If these disruptions remain largely unreported or are glossed over by the newspaper, it could hurt its reputation and relevance as a news source.

Instead of expressing ‘grave concern‘ for the recent spate of breakdowns like his predecessor, Transport Minister Khaw opted for the deflective strategy of sympathising with SMRT workers and taking Trumpy potshots at the MSM.

“I don’t like the media reporting … Even our main media have turned tabloid. Yes, exciting and so on … frightening figures, headlines.”

“But I thought they were being unfair to the teams … working their guts out on this re-signalling project. They think it’s so easy, you know, like holding a pen and writing a few articles and get the signalling done. I wish it was so simple. If it was so simple, they don’t need us. We can ask the reporters to run the train system.”

This is the thanks you get for your not-so-subtle PAP propaganda, ST. All these decades helping to keep the PAP on its Iron Throne with your biased election reporting, and you get accused of distorting the facts. Which explains ST wasting no time publishing letters rebuking Khaw like the one above. At least Lui Tuck Yew knew better than to offend the PAP’s media mouthpiece.

In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, Khaw himself claimed that MRT reliability , defined as mean km between failure (MKBF), had increased 3 times since 2015, and excluded delays due to re-signalling because these happen ‘once every 30 years’. I assume this 30 years was calculated based on the very first train ride back in 1987, but it’s a statistical fallacy intended to mislead laymen into thinking that we won’t get another issue like this until 2047. Did Khaw learn anything from Yaacob’s ‘once every 50 years’ figure for freak floods?

But perhaps one reason why commuters still think the figures don’t reflect reality is how they experience a typical breakdown. A failure is defined as ‘a delay lasting longer than 5 minutes’, which means a train stalling for 4 minutes 50 seconds will not be considered as a significant delay. To anyone who’s suffered peak hour crunching, this feels like fucking eternity. So technically a train can continue to clock serviceable miles even if it stalls for 2 minutes every 5 stations and SMRT can continue to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Media will always be media, and sensationalism with catchy headlines and glaring images is simply business as usual, part of the arms race vs the scourge of fake news and social media. While the quality of our MSM can certainly improve, what we really need, as lifelong commuters, is that the quality of SMRT management and their overseeing Ministers improve as well.

Speaking of ‘exciting’ headlines, always remember this, Khaw.

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NSmen given free rides for NS50

From ‘Make it easy for NSmen to take free rides’, 26 June 2017, ST Forum

(Elvis Zhang Haowei): As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties. According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station. At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious. How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen? We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues. 

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse.  Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative. For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen’s entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Wearing a No.4 in public comes with a certain weight of responsibility. Muddy boots are a no-no, you can’t indulge in the basic vices such as chewing gum, smoke or drink alcohol. If a baby in the train is having cyanosis, bystanders look to you to save the day. If you take a seat and stare at your phone, some idiot will take a photo and complain about it on Facebook. God knows what would happen if you are found sitting down on the MRT floor – Someone may file a police report.

If you dress like a chow recruit on the train, passengers will instinctively run and hide, assuming that you stink after a day’s jungle training. In fear of contaminating the seats, you stand for the rest of your arduous journey from Tuas Link to goddamn Pasir Ris. Serving the nation forever alone.

Given the level of mental and physical suffering expected of a man in uniform, would anyone in their right mind don the No. 4 JUST for one day’s worth of free rides? Or pose as an imposter if they’re not actually NSmen? What’s the worst that could happen if you’re a non-NSman borrowing your buddy’s uniform for a free ride? You, *gasp* pay the fare, that’s what.

So yes, if you think about it, why reserve just one day (June 30) for NSmen to get unlimited free public transport if they wear uniform? Let’s salute our everyday heroes and give it to them FOC – or at least discounted rates – all day EVERY DAY, whether in uniform or in T-shirt and sandals. After all, they are practically volunteer train/bus marshals. If a fight breaks out between uncles over a priority seat, they’ll be there to intervene. If someone faints, they’ll attend to the victim. If some China national leaves a suspicious luggage near the toilet, they’ll tackle him to the ground with an anaconda chokehold. In fact, they are already talks of them being activated during a train breakdown to control crowds. I mean, you could stop paying THIS guy for his superhero services already.

Forget about reserved gantries. NS50 committee, if you’re serious about recognising our NSmen, please issue a special access EZlink cum credit card instead of crappy vouchers. Give the poor sod below something to look forward to after 2 shitty years of NS.

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Walking on escalators should not be allowed

From ‘Don’t overburden escalators by walking on them’, 21 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Gan Kok Tiong): Escalators in MRT stations should not be functioning like staircases.

The main issue is that those doing so are overburdening the escalators.

Also, commuters who are right-handed will then be able to hold on to the railings on the right without having to move to the left to make way for those wishing to “walk” on the escalators.

Disallowing people from walking on the escalators will lead to normal usage of the machines, which would help in reducing the frequency of breakdowns.

Perhaps a professor of physics could answer the age-old question of what’s the best way to move people along an escalator. But in the absence of actual escalator studies, we’ll just have to settle for the wisdom of SMRT spokespeople. In 2001, SMRT in fact DISCOURAGED people from keeping to the left, as this would leave the right side underutilised and reducing rider capacity. Walking up an escalator was also deemed a safety hazard, especially when you’re on fast moving rides, though the worst thing anyone could do while on an escalator, whether they’re on the left, right, standing or walking, is to wear goddamn CROCS.

SMRT has changed their tune since. Today MRT signs remind you to keep to the left and allow others to pass. Keeping to one side of an escalator, analogous to responsible driving, remains a hallmark of a civilised society. We unwittingly teach our kids to do it and we growl at aunties for hogging the right lane when we’re in a rush. Unless there’s a drastic shift in commuter behaviour no one would want to stick out on the right side and face the wrath of a marauding escalator-walker. What SMRT needs is a lab, model escalators, and willing subjects to test the hypothesis that walking up and down an escalator on one side will eventually destroy it. But I guess they have other things to worry about, like managing mysterious signal faults for example.

Or, if you want to avoid having to deal with the ethics of escalator riding, have time and energy to spare, and not doing anything for the rest of the day beyond sitting on your arse in front of the office computer – take the stairs.

Metal detector gates in MRT stations

From ‘Install metal detector gates at MRT stations’, 11 July 2016, ST Forum

(Seow Joo Heng): Terrorist hits are becoming daily news nowadays, and they are inching ever closer to our homeland. It is not a matter of if they will happen, but when. We must act to minimise potential casualties in such an eventuality. We must provide a bulwark for one of our softest targets – our MRT trains and crowded stations.

Approximately 2.9 million people use the trains daily. The sheer numbers warrant our best protection efforts. There are bag-check counters at MRT stations, but they are ineffective as the checks are ad hoc. Only one person carrying an explosive device needs to slip through to create carnage in a packed train.

Similarly, the presence of armed guard patrols serves as a general deterrence. The patrols can handle altercations in open spaces, but their effectiveness is doubtful when the threat is in a packed train.

Metal detector gates are one idea to explore. They can be installed just before each fare gate.

No doubt, such an implementation will slow down passenger flow, but people will understand and get used to it, just as they readily accepted the inconvenience when airports started doing additional checks as a result of terrorist attacks.

For a start, we can have trial runs at a few train stations, to build up patience and foster such a culture before extending this to more stations. A side benefit of such a scheme could be a change in travel patterns, so people will travel during the less-crowded hours.

Metal detectors will no doubt deter terrorists from bringing assault rifles into the train. It’s also effective against lone wolf samurais.

BUT.

It also means you have to momentarily surrender your house keys, ipad, handphones, watches and goddamn nose rings before even tapping your EZlink card. We have ‘accepted the inconvenience’ of airport security because we don’t take plane rides every single day. Making us walk through a detector at least once a day as if we’re paying a visit to the President in his private suite is totally impractical, unacceptable, and frankly, rather lame.

Introducing another barrier to make MRT travel more irksome than it already is will only push commuters away from achieving our ‘car-lite’ ideal. To address a risk as remote as a drunk Hawkeye boarding the train with bow and arrows, the writer suggests an inexplicably expensive and cumbersome option that slows things down for everyone. If this rolls out, you’d have to start queuing for your train OUTSIDE the station, next to the bubble tea shop. Add a train breakdown and half your working day is already gone. The terrorists have won before even stepping out of their caves.

Terrorists think outside the box too. If they can’t bring in anything metallic, there’s the less deadly, but no less dramatic option of spraying ACID on everyone. In fact, someone already managed to lather a seat with corrosive fluids, burning someone’s buttock off in the process. And of course POISON GAS may make a comeback, a nod to the sarin attacks in Tokyo’s subway. If these murderers had the means they could kamikaze a damn helicopter right into a passing train without bothering about our metal detector gantries no matter how sophisticated they are.