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.


NEA making rain to wash off the haze just for F1

From ‘Cloud seeding rumours are false, malicious: MEWR Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’, 17 Sep 15, article in CNA

Rumours that cloud seeding is taking place to induce rain ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix are false, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said.

Addressing a WhatsApp message that has been making the rounds in Singapore, Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook on Thursday (Sep 17): “The National Environment Agency does not engage in cloud seeding and has no plans to do so. Singapore is so small that even if anybody tried to do it, the rain would almost certainly fall outside Singapore.”

He added: “Singaporeans should beware of malicious people spreading false rumours during a period when anxieties are heightened.”

The original WhatsApp message called for people to be wary of what it claimed were “chemically-induced rain showers”, purportedly meant to reduce haze levels in light of the coming Formula 1 race, which will be held on roads in Singapore’s Civic District from Sep 18 to 20.

In 2006, the NEA did in fact conduct a feasibility study on cloud-seeding to combat the annual haze scourge (S’pore may make own rain to beat the haze, 17 Nov 2006, ST). If you go further back to 1963 when the country was drought-hit, we embarked on the first ever rain-making attempt by sending a Royal Australian Air Force DC-3 up into the air. It is not known if that crew was actually successful, or the lack of suitable clouds to fertilise put a damper on their efforts. That probably works on the parched Outback, but not on our little pinprick of an island. Alternatively, you could try to pray for 4 hours, like what our Sikh community did that same year. I wonder what precipitated out of that. So, yeah, the possibility of us ‘playing God’ and dabbling in rainmaking is not as outright incredulous as the MEWR minister makes it seem.

Rumours of using this expensive technique, the science behind which is still rather ‘hazy’, to bring on the showers aren’t new to Singaporeans. We hear of it being done to deplete the clouds of their load so that the National Day Parade would be rain-free. But why hire a pilot and an aircraft full of silver iodide when you could do something far cheaper, and simpler, a method even endorsed by our PM himself: Making an offering chillies and onions to the rain deities.

Conspiracy theorists may recall how the US War machine supposedly weaponised the weather using aggressive cloud seeding over Vietnam. Code named Operation Popeye, the mission was to ‘reduce trafficability’ along infiltration routes. A war euphemism for torrential rain, floods and landslides. Apparently not everyone dreams of making it rain meatballs.

Cloud seeding by our neighbouring countries has also been linked with hailstones, a speculation that was firmly debunked by NEA for the reason that rain clouds formed by such seeding cannot travel such long distances to reach us. Till today, there remains no clear explanation for the freak weather we had post-haze in 2013. Not everyone complains about this ‘raining like ice cubes’, though.

Lui Tuck Yew’s resignation and the Singapore Boat

From ‘All have stations to man on the Singapore boat’, 13 Aug 15, ST Forum

(Steve Chiu Shih Tung): Though the major disruptions on the MRT lines were mentioned in Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew’s letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, we can only guess at what the real factors behind his resignation might be (“Lui Tuck Yew decides to leave politics“; yesterday).

But let’s suppose that the MRT breakdowns were the factors; we ought to contemplate how our responses to the breakdowns might have shaped Mr Lui’s decision to step down.

As citizens, we are all in this one Singapore boat. It’s a boat well envied by international watchers, but it’s a boat that’s already 50 years old, and we have a lot of infrastructure, like the MRT, that has been faithfully serving us for several decades now.

As this Singapore boat weathers all kinds of storms, we must realistically expect wear and tear, damage and even downtime to some of the key machinery running this boat, such as the MRT lines. The MRT is just a microcosm of the crucial machinery running this Singapore boat.

…Storms will come and, often, they are beyond our control. We would do well to rise above our frustrations in the face of inconveniences, recognise the efforts of our fellow countrymen and cheer them on, as they do their utmost to serve us all as we weather these storms together.

The writer has successfully used the pretext of our Transport Minister stepping down from his ‘poisoned chalice’ to display his knack for cheesy analogies. Firstly, to be more specific, Singapore is a SAMPAN, as described by PM Lee himself. Once you’ve got that boat analogy down, you need to make it rock, hence ‘weathering the storms‘. One may argue that a massive MRT breakdown is not a random act of God but an inherent system failure, a problem that Lui has supposedly ‘inherited’ from the past, according to Low Thia Khiang. Not surprisingly, ministers who once owned the transport portfolio decided to keep mum about Lui’s sudden decision, or Low’s suggestion that someone, somewhere along the line of the condemned screwed up. That includes Khaw Boon Wan (Acting Transport Minister circa 2003), and retiring ex Minister of Communications Mah Bow Tan (1991-1999).

Incidentally, just before Lui was tasked to ‘brave the perfect storm’, he spoke of poison mushrooms during his 2011 GE rally. And sick was what our aging MRT turned out to be. Despite having the cards heavily stacked against his favour, we got our Free early morning rides and a new Downtown Line due by the end of the year. Tower Transit London won a bus tender with the Government Contracting Model.  Naturally, with his boss reluctantly accepting his resignation, the accolades from co-workers came pelting like the gentle rain. He was ‘hardworking’, had a ‘heart’ for Singaporeans, and worked the ground like all Ministers should. He descended into the dark belly of the beast with the unwashed masses.  He referred to these niceties, in his own humble words, as ‘obituaries and eulogies without the flowers’. How accurate. We haven’t had such pleasant things said about a PAP politician since LKY passed away.

To say that things haven’t been smooth sailing for the former Navy Chief is an understatement. The hashtag #tuckyew has been trending on Twitter ever since 2011, first tweeted by a guy called Martin Wong: ‘Let’s trend #tuckyew’. For the past 4 years, any delay in train service, any instance of a SBS driver not understanding English, every time a bus gets so packed it passes us by as we flag for it,  someone tweets their frustration with a ferocious, tragically catchy ‘Tuck Yew!’. Alas, despite Facebook pages dedicated to ousting Lui out of the position, our PM’s stand on cock-ups under his Ministers’ watch has remained firm. In response to the Wong Kan Seng-Mas Selamat episode, he said that we should not encourage a culture where officials are forced to resign whenever something goes wrong, that this may appease the angry public, but ultimately leave the problem unsolved. Which explains why WKS is relinquishing his seat ONLY NOW.

An outgoing SMRT CEO, on the other hand, may get the most unceremonious of public farewells. Just ask Saw Phaik Hwa.  Current CEO Desmond Kuek also got rapped for declaring his $2.25 million salary. Nobody is going to send the SMRT CEO off with a bouquet and a heavy heart when they decide to step down, so maybe being Transport Minister isn’t quite the shittiest job in the world after all. Yet, for some reason, nobody tweets ‘PhaikHwa!’, or ‘BakChye’ (Desmond Kuek) when shit happens.

As for the Singapore boat, it’s probably less a case of a good man tossed overboard, but one setting sail for less turbulent waters towards the horizon. Here’s wishing Tuck Yew all the best in his future endeavours. To his successor, let’s pray that he makes good of his time in charge while walking the plank.

Air-con in offices like winter in Siberia

From ‘S’poreans find air-conditioning too cold’, 2 March 2011, Asiaone website

NEARLY half of residents in Singapore find air-conditioning in public areas to be too cold, and many have faced health issues because of this.

Areas such as offices, cinemas and schools are found to be too cold, according to a poll conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore for Earth Hour 2011.

The aim of the poll was to determine how comfortable people currently are with air-conditioning temperatures in the country.

Out of the 450 people polled, 52 per cent are not happy with the air-conditioning and three out of four respondents faced issues such as flu, cough, and dry skin.

Half of them compared the temperature in their school or office to “autumn in Seoul”, while one in four likened it to “winter in Siberia”.

Singaporeans may be well travelled but they’re hopeless when it comes to analogies, and I doubt anyone in the survey has ever experienced winter in Siberia, not to mention been anywhere near the region. Autumn in Seoul is over -romanticising it to the point of breezy stroll-in-the-park comfort, while comparing it to sub-zero Russian winters  is an exaggeration so full of  stark, shameful ignorance that screaming kids describing vaccination as having a spear impaling their buttocks are more believable compared to these weaklings, who probably suffer frostbite whenever they pick up yogurt from the freezer section of their supermarket even with mittens on. It’s also simplistic to blame the air-con as the cause of all our respiratory ailments, when the alternative of risking heat stroke and dehydration are consequences far worse than anything our air-con-pampered bodies can possibly endure.

Our artificial winters explain why winter clothing boutiques are open all year round, not that we are travelbugs, but they have a cardigan clientele who can’t get on the bus or train, work in the office, enjoy a movie or even be detained in a prison cell without piling on garments other equatorial residents would normally leave in their luggage until it’s the proper time to use it.. in winter countries. It’s only when the system breaks down on a sweltering day when we start appreciating a bit of Siberia in Singapore  and become all Goldilocks about it, blowing hot and cold and struggling to find a temperature that is ‘just nice’ because one man’s sauna is another’s Antarctica.  There’s so many things you could do when you’re freezing to prevent hypothermia (get out of the office, put on a coat, huddle over a hot cup of coffee), but not when it’s ‘as hot as the Kalahari desert’ (Probably not entirely an exaggeration on some days) without involving antisocial, unproductive acts like abusing the pantry fridge, taking all your clothes off, or just being in a sweaty foul mood for the rest of the day. Unless the temperature is so low that our eyelids form stalactites whenever we blink, such complaints about an invention without each we’d be slave to rickety fans all day should be given the cold(as Siberia) shoulder. Similar complaints about cold 30 years ago below( We are slaves to air con level, 20 Dec 1982, ST).

Close enough. The range of accepted indoor quality is actually 22.5 – 25.5 according to NEA circa 1996 (Guidelines for good indoor quality in office premises). On a lighter note, 25 degrees also happens to be the ideal temperature to make love, according to a Thai professor (Singapore doctors pooh-pooh aircon sex claim, 22 June 1978, ST). If his theory were proven right (and there’s only one way to find out, with three basic experimental apparatus: air-con, remote, bed. The latter optional), perhaps we would do well to keep our temperatures slightly on the lower side in public places in case of any paradoxical shirt chucking at the slightest tweak upwards. On the other hand, it could also solve our nation’s most worrying fertility woes as we speak. Forget about baby bonuses or paternity leaves, just a few clicks of the ‘up’ button would do the trick.




Cheerleaders had absolutely no enthusiasm

From ‘Improve premier marathon’, 18 Dec 2010, ST Forum online

(Kartik Krishnamurthy): THIS year’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) was one of the worst organised marathons I have ever run. There were several reasons why this was so:

1. Cheerleading: It was a sorry excuse for cheerleading during the most gruelling period of the race – 8am onwards, when the sun was out. Some of the cheerleading tents had two, maximum four, people who had absolutely no enthusiasm. In fact, in some tents, people were just sitting, chatting with one another other, talking on their phones or even sleeping.

2. Running through the Marina Bay Golf Course: By the time the majority of runners reached this part of the run (around 28km), the sun was beating down hard on the concrete surface and there was just one drinking station along the way. The openness of the area (no trees for shade) and the heat off the concrete made it extremely difficult.

3. Drinking stations: In other parts of the world, volunteers stand on the outside of the drink tables, holding the glasses in their hands, so that runners can grab them on the go and not have to walk to the table, and push and shove to get a drink. It also ensures that runners continue with their momentum.

Just as Singapore will never have a football culture, likewise we will never produce excellent marathoners, for the very reason that we find it too hot, we’re spoilt, and we can’t reach our peak performance without having volunteers egging us on with shallow encouragement. Spare a thought for drink station volunteers, Kartik, especially if you’re talking about a record breaking 60000 runners. Not only do they have to endure the blistering heat, now they’re expected by runners the likes of you to perform butler services in addition to picking up your trash after you’re done with your sip of water. As for marathon conditions, the heat is really no excuse and people should jolly know what they’re getting into whenever they pay money to be physically tormented. I mean, just look at the Kenyans. Does anyone ever hear of them complaining about drink stations (Do they even need them?), or heat emanating concrete surfaces and ‘no trees for shade’? Really, the very act of grumbling during a run itself is sure to slow anyone down, which is fine if you’re not at that level of competitiveness and are one of those 60000 and counting people deceived into thinking long distance running is some kind of recreation of sorts. But if your lifelong dream is to be among the top 100’s of every international marathon there is, I’m afraid whining about cheerleaders with absolutely no enthusiasm will get you absolutely nowhere. Singapore has been hot ever since the end of the Ice Age, so blaming the weather for poor runs is just a case of abysmal sportsmanship, and it’s not like you could do anything about it anyway, short of airconditioning 42km of marathon route and having bubbly pom-pom girls spur you on every 5 km or so. Similar sentiments in this letter ‘It was a hot marathon’ dated 6 Sept 1984.





From There’s no way the air is good 10 march 2010 Voices Today online

FOR the past two days, the air quality on the East coast has been excruciatingly bad, yet the National Environment Agency’s Ambient Air Quality report… continues to publish an Air Quality Descriptor of “good”.

The air pollution is so bad, the ships out at sea can barely be seen, and there is a distinct smell of burnt wood in the air.

Ed:A classic case of forgetting all the other times the weathermen have gotten their forecasts right and harping on their cock-ups


From Tyranny of Clothes 20 July 1936 Letters to ST

Men should make a firm stand against the tyranny of wearing hot, uncomfortable and unnecessary clothes just because some women think that they are smart, when they themselves wear very rightly wear as few as possible.