Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Crack In The System

The proverb, "A new broom sweeps clean", was intended to suggest that someone who is new in a particular job will do a very good job at first, to prove how competent he or she is. Too bad it doesn't seem to apply to the new army chief paid millions to run the train system. For starters, he didn't even bother to abbreviate his holiday plans when the rail system fell short again during his honeymoon period.

Neither, it seems, does it bother his buddy officers from the armed forces who signed on with the gravy train. The metallurgical crack in the rail was detected as early as 7.30 pm, but 4 hours later, the SMRT spokesman (probably one of those army guys) would only say, "We are still trying to find out more about what happened." Worse, the lame SMRT twit who tweeted at 8.30 pm, "unfortunately sometimes there are machine faults that we do not expect," failed to comprehend that a static steel rail lying on the ground is definitely not a moving machine component. Seng Han Tong, who drew lots of flak for criticising the English spoken by Malay and Indian SMRT staff, had apologised by saying that bad English should not prevent people from trying to communicate, especially in times of emergency. But that's no excuse for one of Lieutenant General Demond Kuek's expensive hires.

A cracked rail can throw a train, as in the Leeds to London derailment of October 2000 that killed 4 and injured 30. An expert at the Committee of Inquiry commissioned by the Government had actually warned that a faulty track could cause trains to derail. That real-world rail operators paid more attention to flaws on the tracks than power supply systems.

Flaws like the falling e-clips which were first reported at Commonwealth Avenue West, near the junction of Clementi Avenue 3, in February 2012. An LTA spokesman said at that time: "We have met with the engineers and maintenance staff from SMRT to discuss the measures to be implemented following these incidents. SMRT will be putting up temporary safety nets at the two stretches of the viaduct between Dover and Jurong East with immediate effect." Those disembarking at the Clementi Station will be able to verify that the "temporary safety nets" are still very much in place.

The humble e-clips are responsible for fastening the rail to the base plate so the rail cannot move vertically or horizontally. If the rail is permitted to slide through the plates then compressive or tensile forces build up to either cause a pull-apart (rail break) or a track buckle, which causes derailments. That's when the proverbial shit hits the fan.


  1. Hey Tattler, you are absolutely right about the purpose of the clips and the likely consequences if some are missing. It sure doesn't register a thing for those non-engineer trained army tua pek kongs in SMRT board. Let's just wait for the shit to hit the fan. Meanwhile I would advise those reading this blog to stay clear of MRT if you can. It is no joking matter for an entire train to derail and fall some 10m onto the ground below.

  2. Are going-to-retire Army Generals better experienced & equipped to deal with
    SMRT engineering problems than their own engineers with mechanical engineering background experience ?

    So why select from outside when promoting them from internal is the obvious solution unless they are telling us that either none of those from within the organisation are good enough or that those from the cronies are beter candidates ?

    So this is the brand of meritocracy that PAP wants us to believe is good for our country just like when the PM's wife regarded as the only best candidate available for our top investment job ?

  3. The luckless fella inherited all these shit from the previous sales girl CEO who happily cashed in all her bonuses. May not be his fault but then he is paid to do a decent job. Who then should be accountable for this mess we are experiencing now? Ex sales girl or ex general? or maybe engineers from SMRT.

  4. It seems to imply that they are still clueless as to what really happened, hence an official explanation like "machine faults that we do not expect".

    So if anyone is late as a result of any future train delay, remember to use the official "MRT machine faults that we do not expect". Nobody can ever find fault with that, can they ?

  5. Time to put up BIG net to catch falling trains..sigh

  6. The President cum CEO, Mr Kuek is currently very satisfied with the 10:1 ratio of 1000 compliments for every 100 complains that SMRT receives. Until shit hits the fan and turn that ratio around, he can sits like a king and pretend he is here to hear (the good stuff only).

  7. Maybe a more suitable title would be "The cracked pot in the system"
    This title gets right to the root of the problem.

  8. I just came from my usual lunch break - and saw the same bunch of SMRT staff alighting from their shuttle bus service to Junction 8, this bus is punctual with military precision 1pm sharp it stops in front of the Bishan Circle Line station to drop elegantly-dressed young employees of SMRT for their lunch break I wish their train was as punctual.

    On a more sobering issue and at risk of repeating the same comment: we have one or both problems with this PAP "system" of nurturing and selecting talent:

    a) even the "Best of the best", the one who finally rose to fill the top military job, has proven to be nothing more than a buffoon. Like Kuek, like beh, same that fatso who even Temasek elbowed out and now "running" NOL to the ground!

    b) or the familee and interested political puppeteers were only making sure, through this "rigourous selection of scholars at the ripe old age of 18 years old, and numerous peer-appraisals thereafter", that only intellectual spastics who cannot grasp a simple concepts of "moving" versus "static" parts, would fill the key posts so they would not threaten

  9. i think i better take bus now.

  10. The PAP had a choice between an effective PAP lapdog and an independent critical problem solver for the post of SMRT CEO and everyone knows which the PAP choose.

    So who is ultimately to blame for SMRT faults? The PAP of course!

    Vote them out in GE2016.

  11. "So who is ultimately to blame for PAP faults?
    The Singaporeans of course!"

    We voted these useless clowns into office.
    It's our job to fix the problems we created.

    Vote them out in GE2016.

  12. wondering if;

    any serious maintenance works carried out since the the train service started decades ago

    any proper documentations of servicing carried out by the technical crew

    any accountability for works done

    any supervision to ensure SOP are observed

    are time allocated for maintenance works sufficient to ensure a proper servicing

    are those test equipments required for maintenance in good working conditions, staffs properly trained to operate them

    and FINALLY, if those engineers and management know what "a proper maintenance schedule" is all about


    disclaimer: my personal view, not an expert viewpoint ...

  13. the MRT stations used to have "sterile" areas i.e. open spaces (I assumed these were reserved for emergency uses) in the past;

    are these "official requirements" in the past?

    now most had being converted to retail outlets, of course no problems if there is no official requirements for such provisions

    haha ... guess I worrying too much

  14. Will there be another COI? It seems the last one didn't quite put the management into "panic mode" to improve the overall hardware and allow such maintenance issues to be run on trial and error basis instead of proactive basis. Is the Quek still on leaves? He must be enjoying his holidays to the fullest with new exhorbitant perks. That reminds me that another perm secretary who said he can deligate his works and took 3 months to learn french cooking. Very extravagant lifestyle, serving the public is secondary.

    1. Our MRT problems ... like the rest of our country's problems ...
      Do you think these problems can be fixed by NatCONNING about it for the next 2 years?

  15. This is what happens when you have generals in charge. Today's paper reports:
    SMRT refused to give information on the number of cracks found on its tracks in the past.
    It also declined to provide photos of the incident site, saying it was a matter of "transport and national security".