By: B Goode
As of today, the much maligned SMRT has been delisted. It doesn’t mean that the government is now running the company. God forbid that they would want their white attire to be soiled by the grease and the dirt that are now plaguing the entire system. In fact, the relationship between the SMRT and the LTA vis-à-vis the operation of the system is still as intricate as the rotijala that I had for breakfast this morning.
It just means that the government has taken ownership of the system and has outsourced its day-to-day running to SMRT. And this is a good thing.
In the past, in the dual-ownership model, the SMRT was plagued by what my civil-servant friends would call : `Tai Chi’, where both the SMRT and the LTA would inevitably push the blame of any problems to the other owner. The way the previous model was structured had made it almost impossible to pin any particular trouble to either the SMRT or LTA thus making any remedial action at the very least cumbersome.
Take for example an incident of a power trip. The LTA would blame the SMRT for a disruption in service. The SMRT on the other hand, would blame the LTA for not maintaining the electrical system which was under the LTA purview. Similarly, a lot have been said about the lack of maintenance as the probable cause of the dilapidated state of the SMRT train network. The question then would be, who was supposed to maintain what?
But all that should be water under the bridge now with the SMRT being delisted and thus totally managed, supervised and financed by the government. The government or in this case, the LTA will now be the sole owner of the system and they could thus have a better overview of the problems and they alone will decide on the best way to correct them.
I hate to say this but Minister Khaw Boon Wan should be applauded for this leap of faith. It takes courage for the government to quietly admit that their policy has failed. And it takes a courageous man to get the government to part with billions of dollars to acquire a broken system.
Whatever it is, this shows the government’s determination and commitment to see that the transport network is efficient and sound. Already the signs are good. There are looking for more engineers and the LTA’s management team is now packed with real engineers.
But change will take time. We can expect the usual delays and breakdowns as the system is being reviewed and modernised. But at least now, we only have one body to bitch about. And that is the LTA.
But we should all be comfortable in the knowledge that the MRT system will get better because whatever we may say about the government, when they set their sight on something, they usually get things done.