Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Train Cracks Cause Embarrassment, Not Panic

There are many times I wonder if a prerequisite to being a politician is having a screw loose in one’s head. I’m sure we can identify numerous instances when the messages coming from them just seem completely illogical, and we stop in our tracks (pun intended) to wonder what did we just hear.

According to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, going public for something that was “not a major event”, referring to the hairline cracks found on SMRT trains, would have caused unnecessary panic to the layman.

May I please ask, did anyone panic when Hong Kong news agency FactWire broke the news? Did anyone avoid taking SMRT trains the next day because of this news?

If Mr Khaw honestly thought that hairline cracks would have caused panic, may I ask him about trains stalling in underground tunnels that left commuters taking an excursion of their life time, on foot, through the bowels beneath Singapore, how would he describe it? Comparatively, this would be a monumental, heart-stopping event of epic proportions. Did anyone suffer some sort of medical calamity upon reading the news about train breakdowns?

That 26 out of 35 trains have cracks is definitely something newsworthy. Our main stream media is often filled with all sorts of stories of far lesser interest. Perhaps if the hairline cracks were of the “not a major event” category, it could have less prominent coverage. But it is, nevertheless, something relevant to many Singaporeans. It obviously is so, as we can see now. Anything bad about our trains is always big news.

We are talking about 26 defective trains. That’s almost like 75% of trains from that batch of 35 trains. Are the defects so minor that you could just ignore it? No. It was so bad that they had to take the trains out of service, and send them back to China.

If, may I ask, you found a hairline crack on the plaster wall of your HDB flat, one that you have already lived in for a few years, would you complain to HDB about it? Some won’t, but perhaps some will. Now, for those who would bother to go complain to HDB about it, do you think HDB would agree to do anything if the defect was merely superficial?

For the 26 defective trains here, the manufacturer is apparently going to rectify the defect. The trains have to be shipped back to China, and then back to Singapore, presumably at the manufacturer’s cost. This “not a major event” defect must be quite serious, no?

I don’t doubt about commuter safety despite the hairline cracks. I presume, in good faith, that SMRT should have pulled the trains out of service immediately if they felt safety was compromised. This issue is not about safety.

Instead, it is more about covering up an embarrassment. This “not a major event” defect involves so many trains, and it involves downtime until 2019. That downtime quite surprised me. It’s like sending your car to the workshop, because of a “not a major event”, but somehow requires a few years to rectify.

Thanks to FactWire, the news of the defects came out. Instead of apologising for not having been forthcoming years earlier, we are told it was better not to tell us because it would have caused panic. Yeah right. It would have caused nothing more than embarrassment to SMRT and LTA for all the train problems that angry commuters had experienced in those years.

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