This must be a first. The North-South and East-West lines of the MRT system has been halted totally, from 5.30 to 10 today, Sunday morning, 18th December 2011! It can only take the might of a government minister, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, the Transport Minister no less, to order this stoppage. Without a doubt this is to avoid a likely 4th break-down of the MRT system operated by the SMRT, if events of the past 3 days are any guide.
Yes, I haven't heard of the SMRT system stopping operations for such a stretch of time. Fortunately, this is Sunday, a non-working day. However, people in the retail and services trade will still have to make their way to the shops to ensure that they open for business at 11am. Well, these people will have to take the bus, if they know or remember which buses to take, that is. And you can't call in "sick" because this is the last weekend before Christmas, and businesses need all "hands on deck". Employees can't take the first train out at 10 because it takes time to travel, and they literally will not be able to open the store on time.
That said, I must credit Mr Lui for taking over this problem so swiftly. You need ministerial muscle for this - to call time on one of the most important infrastructure on the island - to do what needs to be done, something that SMRT, to its discredit and shame, seem not to have nor been able to do. He has reportedly visited some train stations, checked the signs, the staff, the processes, etc. - something that really is not his job. Any lesser person wouldn't have done this. Just delegate someone to do the legwork. Monitor from the comfort of an operations control centre. Remember, the elections have been over more than half a year, when he was often seen on the trains. But now we know that it was not electioneering gimick. This guy is serious. Remember, he cut short his meeting in Cambodia to give this problem his personal attention. After all, the problem affects thousands of people everyday, and the businesses that rely on people moving around uninhibited. Mr Lui has got his priorities right, which is more than what I can say for the management of the SMRT. This enforced stoppage must really be a slap in the corporate face of the SMRT and especially its manageement, led incompetently by Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa.
Let's hope that with this due diligence check, we won't have another massive breakdown of the train system any time soon. People are entitled to a merry Christmas and a happy new year.