Friday, July 31, 2015

The Truth About The Leak

Desperate for an answer, SMRT's Desmond Kuek was obviously clutching at straws when he blamed a heavy downpour the night before July 7 for tripping the sophisticated train system. So obvious that he covered his own lie with a "could have, but then it is not something conclusive". Don't know, say don't know, lah!

The army general jetted in expensive experts from Sweden's Parsons Brinkerhoff and Japan's Meidensha Corporation - bill footed by Lui Tuck Yew's LTA - to check on the train power circuitry only to find that water ingress between the Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place stations had short circuited the electrical system. Of course the explanation is mired in gobbledygook:
"However, the weak resistance of an insulator can allow electricity to flow through the insulator to the ground, resulting in a higher than normal voltage difference between the running rail and the ground."

Engineers identify and resolve potential problems by use of diagrams. The one on the left illustrates the third-rail conductor system of the Ginza line of the Tokyo Rapid Transit Authority (TRTA). Their voltage is 600 or 700 V. The insulators - usually made of fast-drying non-conducting material such as glass, porcelain, or composite materials - support the current-carrying third rail at every 2.5 to 5 m. How such passive components can be easily "contaminated" as SMRT claims staggers the mind. Since we don't know, we can't quiz the engineering challenged CEO why all the 30,662 insulators of the North-South East-West lines have to be changed out, and ultimately charged to the long suffering commuters via fare hikes. Maybe they are all fakes sourced from a dubious vendor in China.

Can you spot the SMRT leak?
What we can ask is why a patrol officer had spotted the leak (Kuek uses "viewed" and "observed" to blur the distinction further) and could classified it as "non-urgent". Was the operator waiting for the ponding to rise to knee high level? Worse, the same leak spot had been "repaired" 2 to 3 times over the past 8 months. If their engineers can use cable ties to secure the claw for the third rail, why didn't they use chewing gum to plug the leak? Oops, almost forgot, gum is still banned.
Kuek's lame "gimme another chance" excuse is pathetic:
"So in this particular case and with all instances, as we categorise, we make it an effort to try and repair all leaks even though we might have longer time frame to repair those leaks, we try to repair them as quickly as possible."

Notice how Kuek and his army buddies always obfuscate the issues with pseudo-technical jargon. Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor) says that the more wild assumptions you tend to make, the more unlikely the explanation is. Credibility at our public transportation system is in dire need of a serious reboot.


  1. Reboot yes, but not rebuilt like what he'd proposed from scratch. Maybe that's why our defense budget is always on rapid rise.

    His explanations are smack of excuses. He is essentially denying that the leak has been "leaking" for a long time now, no one knows how long, but was not picked up and seriously ratified sooner. Corrosion doesn't just happen overnight due to a " heavy downpour" he lamely tried to cover up.

  2. Credibility is at stake indeed.

    Tokyo subways is 88 yrs, New York is 111 and London is around 150 yrs. Ours is barely 30 yrs old! Blaming on aging has no legs as it is more a neglect issue. Anyone who has been to hk or Japan knows breakdown or delays are very rare due to their impeccable engineering and maintenance regimen.

    What we need is deep skills , not deep pockets for the right person.

    1. The problem with having deep pockets is that you then believe you don't need much else. After all, you have the money to pay for whatever you want.

      It is one of the reasons we see no reason for maintenance. No need to take care of things. As if it falls apart from lack of care or if it doesn't work, we just junk the stuff and buy replacements.

      In the same way, there is no real need for people with skills. Dun have, then import/buy lah. And that includes experts for our security systems.

      The absurd dependence on money seeing us through everything is why we see no problem in clearing the few farms we now have. We can just import the food, no? We forget that in a shortage, there will be no fallback if sellers refuse to sell.

      Where's the self-reliance we are so often told we must have??? Where's the back-up plan? And this back-up includes politicians, others who can have a crack at governing besides YouKnowWho.

    2. This incident shows the importance and value of maintenance work or what we call Keep The Lights On type of jobs.

      Less focus on new projects /initiatives/ innovations please and bring back support for experienced staff with in-depth skills in the bread and butter core systems.

      We need critical functions up and running so please recognize these. Don't replace experienced staff with cheap "foreign talent" in EVERY job. Don't discard mature and experienced staff under the guise of wanting new fresh blood or exuberant ideas!

  3. Critics who say is the predecessor's fault and SMRT needs time to catch up with fixings is not wrong. But tell me why his salary didn't take as much time to rise leh?

  4. SMRT now uses patrol officers to inspect critical components? We are all assured of good service now. Maybe that is how you boost productivity - one man do 2 jobs, both of which the chap is unqualified for! Same policy from top to bottom then?

    For sure, fake parts come with poor quality, but doesn't mean cheap. Could have been sold at the price of the real thing.

  5. There are always potential hazards of electric shocks to passengers and working staff touching conductive surfaces of different voltage potentials in an electrified train system e.g. around the platform edge particularly between the platform screen doors and train. Provisions of touch voltage protection devices i.e. running rails to earth voltage limiting devices (64P relays) serve to minimise the dangers. By raising the setting of the 64P relay from 136V to 200V, this will increase the possibilities of frying the passengers and working staff.

  6. Q: What do you call an Aristocratic mess?
    A: HoLee Shit.

  7. Dubious vendors from China. Does that explain why the series of shoddy works and quality from the BTO and DBSS projects ? Local supervision in name, but inferior materials in delivery?

  8. Our HDB contractors used to be local and by the time they reached the top of their learning skills, someone at HDB started allowing PRC contactors to come in and bid for HDB projects. Suddenly no previous HDB experience track record is a pre-requisite. The result is shoddy work finishes. Those who have gone through with Home Improvement projects can testify to this.

    Is the same thing happening to LTA projects ? Suddenly PRC contractors can also bid for LTA projects. Is this the root cause they are not telling the people because cheap usually means no good? It seems the newer lines are also giving a lot of problems.

    How can they ever thought of appointing someone with retail or military experience to head an engineering train company?

    1. Continue to outsource every damn thing to foreign vendors and you will see lousy shoddy work.

      Don't blame the poor line managers for shoddy work when the management decreed the work to be done by outsourced cheap and unskilled workers.

      After all, management changes at the slightest hint of trouble. Heads step down and quit and who remains to clean up the mess!

      Everything will go to the dogs if this line of approach continues in Singapore.

  9. SMRT must the only lucky publicly listed company in the world to have its maintenance expenses paid from taxpayers' monies borne by Government including its new fleet of buses?

    1. err, no, in China, all listed "state owned enterprises or SOEs" can become listed companies; they pay token tax and dividends back to the state, and still get cheap loans from state-owned banks, do not pay rent on their premises and factories, and pass their managers are all state-appointed bureaucrats with great "perks". But of course China is a communist country la! Speaking of which, is the red dot copying China now?

  10. After Ah Loong became premier, social problems increased, the trains became more and more packed, public infrastructure started breaking down, everything became more expensive, Ministerial and public service pay kept going up while income gap widened, more freedoms were curtailed. The list goes on.

    The huge public outcry against SMRT, even over minor breakdowns and hiccups, is only a symptom and an outlet of the people's frustration and anger towards the Government and it's policies. You can throw billions at the rail problems, and solve them, but as long as this discontent is still there, it will find expression in other ways. There will be other Amos Yees and Roy Ngerns who will voice out. Prosecuting or suing them will not stop others, because you are only going after the symptoms, and not the underlying root causes.

    Therefore be very aware that unless the PAP changes, starting with the PWP, it will get a very rude awakening at the polls. Credibility at our ̶p̶u̶b̶l̶i̶c̶ ̶t̶r̶a̶n̶s̶p̶o̶r̶t̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶s̶y̶s̶t̶e̶m̶ Government is in dire need of a serious reboot.