Monday, 24 August 2015

SMRT/Signal Failure at Wembley Park

[New post: GE15: Singlish good, English bad]

Three things happened on 11th August 2015 which were sort of related.
  1. Husband came to give me a kiss and my mug of tea in bed (as usual) and said “the Met line is not running”. A signal failure at Wembley Park meant that all trains going east from where we live were … not going east. Husband had to take the overground mainline train, change to an Underground train and then trek across the Thames with thousands of other commuters.
  2. London Underground announced another TWO days of strikes. This was after a strike the week before which had caused a great deal of resentment.
  3. Over in Singapore Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced that he was going to be the ‘former’ Transport Minister.
When the recent NS and EW lines died my response was rather uncharitable, “Hello, Singaporeans! It is an old system. Deal with it!” At least it is not being sabotaged by overpaid train drivers and their trade unions holding the commuter to ransom.

We are talking here of Tube drivers who earn £50,000 a year. In comparison a nurse earns £22,000, a policeman £24,000 and a new university lecturer with a PhD starts at around the £30,000 mark. The benefits cap was set at £26,000 a year – the average salary earned by Britons.

Tube drivers also get 43 days of paid leave a year. That is another 0.83 day a week, on top of their two days off every seven days. Effectively Tube drivers work just over four days (4.17 to be exact) out of seven. I hope I have put that £50,000 in perspective.

What I thought most mysterious – and many others have already commented on this – was the number of people coming out of the woodwork to make kind, gracious and some might say cringe-worthy comments about how a wonderful and decent man Mr Lui is and that he should not be blamed for the fallout from all the train failures; failures he had inherited. 

Where was the support when Mr Lui was being ridiculed and castigated by the public in social media? (I must confess that during this period I had, for various reasons, stopped reading Singapore news regularly and had refrained from commenting on it for some time. Let she who is without sin cast the first stone.)

A successful politician does not only need to know how to make astute and often difficult decisions, he/she also needs to be able to convey to the electorate the impetus behind these decisions.

Our pioneer politicians learned as they went along, fuelled by little other than the mission of nation-building. The fire in their belly carried us along. We fell in behind them. (And look where they have brought us.)

As an undergraduate after the post-1984 watershed election I ranted about how the new batch of politicians were merely ‘technocrats’. They had the technical ability to get certain jobs done, but all seemed to have a charisma ‘bypass’, a lobotomy in the personality department, and were not able to enthuse the voters.

With Lui’s generation of politicians they seem to be just very nice scholars who can make things work, but only within very structured environments where the chain of command is very clear-cut. Despite not being shackled by a trade union as with the London Underground, the picture is emerging – or I can only conclude – that Mr Lui was too gentle with the heads that he should have knocked together to make the transport system work.

What to do? When you have grown up within a Confucian culture where respect must be accorded to some because of their prior position, what leeway had poor Mr Lui? (I subsequently heard that Mr Lui did not have as many stars on his epaulettes as the people whose heads he should have knocked. Would anyone care to set the record straight?)

The Transport portfolio is now a poisoned chalice. But really, we don’t care. Please do not play-play political football. Commuters simply want a transport system that works, and works reliably.

Is anyone out there, ex-Army, ex-Navy, ex-SS (ie Sheng Siong) or ex-whatever ready to deliver?

Meanwhile, back at the Tube, if I were the Mr Lui-equivalent, I would sack every striking driver and re-hire them on new no-strike terms. They are, after all, running an essential service.

24 August 2015 17.51
BREAKING NEWS - The Tube strike is OFF: Commuters given 11th-hour reprieve from four-day walkout as unions agree deal

As usual, brinkmanship. Or should it be "blinkmanship"? Who blinked first?

NB: RMT sets new walkout dates of September 8 and 10 if no deal is reached

No comments: