Dear Editor,

I read with shock that the newly minted Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan can come up with such an immature idea given his million dollar salary and the amount of resources at his disposal. He said recently in a blog post that MRT station shopkeepers should help guide commuters to the right bus stop or right queue during a MRT breakdown. Khaw claims, this would reduce the confusion when another breakdown happens.

Already, the minister is preparing Singaporeans for yet another MRT breakdown. But besides that point, doesn’t the minister realise that even if commuters are directed to the right bus stop and right queue during a breakdown, the buses and taxis cannot come fast enough! So what if I am in the right queue when I still need 2-3 hours to get to my destination?

It is quite clear that $8 heart surgery man does not understand what it feels like to be in a MRT breakdown. Even if he said he would make SMRT pay shopkeepers for free food and drinks to be distributed to trapped commuters, I would say he is naive but populist.

Next, the idea is so impractical that Khaw still wants LTA to work with SMRT and SBS Transit to think through the idea. Another minister wasting public resources. First, shopkeepers are not incentivise to help commuters during a breakdown because this is a good time to make more money, especially if it is a F&B outlet. Second, with the large crowds, if shopkeepers are distracted, it may lead to store theft. Third, if the shopkeepers refuse to perform the role outlined by LTA, would government take action against them?

And the most shocking thing that the minister said was that every MRT station should have a “kampung spirit” like a close family. I would like to inform the minister that when the PAP government took the decision to privatise public transport and listed them as profit-making companies on the stock exchange, they have destroyed any “kampung spirit” left.

SMRT and SBS Transit have been relentlessly pursuing profits without reinvesting into the maintenance of the rail system. The government has not regulated them properly over the decades. The government removed bus routes that ran parallel to train services and allowed transport companies to run only profitable bus routes. I wonder if the PAP government thought of the “Singapore spirit” or “kampung spirit” when they did all these. So can the minister please fix the problem before coming up with another silly solution and another PR exercise.

KK Leong

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