Slow trains but 'not service disruption'. Really, SMRT?

There's an old saying by Confucius: "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."

I've read that on a signboard at the Tanjong Pagar MRT station.

SMRT apparently took what Confucius said to heart after yet another train service disruption between the Yew Tee and Kranji stations on the North-South Line on Monday - except the company denied it was a service disruption.

To quote SMRT: "There was no service disruption although trains ran at a slower speed."

The negative response on SMRT Facebook page was almost immediate and some of it was kind of hilarious.

"This is like saying that there was no flooding, only 'ponding'."

"Good thing Pinocchio is not working for you. His nose would be longer than all your train tracks combined."

"Eh SMRT, your CEO should have his pay delayed for a few months. After all, it's slow but not a disruption."

Wait, do these Facebook comments count as cyber-bullying? A new anti-harassment law will be tabled in Parliament tomorrow. And none too soon.

If anyone needs protection from cyber-bullies, it's the SMRT Facebook page. You can see more abuse here than in a Pasir Ris army camp.

Even an innocuous picture of a guide dog posted by SMRT last month drew such critical comments as "Can this adorable dog squeeze into our overcrowded train?" and "The dog is 100 times more reliable than the train."

SMRT just can't catch a break.

Last week was a particularly bad one for SMRT and commuters, with service delays on Monday (as mentioned), Tuesday (between Ang Mo Kio and Marina Bay on the North-South Line) and Thursday (between Paya Lebar and Dhoby Ghaut on the Circle Line).

So was the Monday delay a service disruption or just trains running at a slower speed?

I wasn't there - but my son was.

I asked him what happened.

That morning at about 6.40, my son went to Yew Tee MRT station to take the train to Yishun, which is six stations away. He is a first-year junior college student at a school there.

Everything seemed normal. The station was not more crowded than usual and my son didn't have to wait long for the train.

The first sign that something was wrong was when the train arrived and didn't stop where it was supposed to.

The train doors didn't align with the platform screen doors. So the doors couldn't open.

It took a while for the train to move to the correct position, and even then, the doors didn't open right away.

But they eventually opened for my son and other passengers to board the train.

Then the doors took longer than usual to close, but they eventually did and the train finally moved off.

Everything seemed fine until the train stopped unexpectedly not far from the Yew Tee station.

After a while, the train started moving again, then stopped. And so on and so on.

At 7.08am, the train was still starting and stopping somewhere between the Yew Tee and Kranji MRT stations. Yishun was still six stations away.

That was when my son messaged his teacher that he was going to be late. He was supposed to be in school by 7.30am.

I asked him if he was upset about being late, but he seemed rather zen about it.

He said he just read the book he had with him, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

I've bought the Oscar-winning 1975 movie on Blu-ray and hope to watch it with him after he finishes the book.

I asked my son if the other passengers appeared upset.

He said they just looked at their phones and appeared "indifferent", an indication of how accustomed commuters were to train delays by now.

Indeed, less than two months ago, a train stopped on the same 5.7km stretch of tracks between Yew Tee and Kranji, and passengers had to get off and walk on the elevated tracks.

At least my son didn't have to do that - although if he had walked on the tracks, he might have reached his school earlier. Maybe to SMRT, it's not a service disruption until someone walks on the tracks.

According to my son, the train took about 30 minutes to get from Yew Tee to Kranji. It usually takes only seven minutes. After Kranji, the train travelled at normal speed, but due to the delay, the stations were now very crowded.

My son said he was about half an hour late for school. Luckily for him, he didn't have an exam that morning, unlike some Republic Polytechnic students who couldn't sit for their paper because they were delayed by the train service disruption - I mean, the trains running at a slower speed.

Confucius said it doesn't matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop, but what if you go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly, stop, go slowly…

It's enough to make one go cuckoo.

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