Going Round In Circles

Anyone who’s spent enough time in Singapore, would know that apart from the recently completed phases/ segments of Downtown Line (DT-Line/ Blue line), the Circle Line (CC-Line/ Orange Line) is the newest fully operational line for train services. However, it being the spanking new line, has made headlines for all the wrong reasons – Failing repeatedly, is the cause for much angst & frustration for the dwellers of this island city.
Critics are quick to jump the gun, blame the incumbent & demand his resignation, citing a whole long list of poor management etc. And events lead to the possible complete buy-out by state, raising uproar for the investors who have lost big, in their financial misadventure. It seems all too convenient for him to be the sacrificial lamb.

To be fair, you will recall that the chap took over the reins from the outgoing lady boss, after the Circle Line works were already underway, and due for completion. Even if the new comer did play ball, the procurement & installations were already inked, and works were on schedule for completion.

It was only later, authorities uncovered some shocking discoveries, and was by then, playing catch-up to remedy defects (unfathomable how they’re there to begin with).

desmond-kuekIs he to be blamed for everything that’s on the table? Or, is there more than meets the eye?

Urban planning has the overview & grand scheme of things, it’s not like they can wantonly doodle on the map & plunge bob-head pins like it was a fictional game.

A lot of preliminary ground works, surveys & feasibility studies need to take place. And then, with the information gathered, they start charting the viable routes, weigh the cause & effects, costs estimates and many other issues before the design kicks off. Concurrently, there’s systems & material specification, design integration, and lots more civil engineering related stuff taking place.

With all that in place, the big wigs would have ascertained a certain ball park figure for a budget, and approval from higher echelons would have allotted a certain cap on the figure estimated.

From a macro perspective, everything that needs to be done is done. But, how then is it possible for the CC-Line to be consistently failing?

As it often happens, finger pointing suggests it’s an issue of inferior material, poor workmanship, or both.

Here comes the juicy part. Tenders are called, bidders offer their offers; referenced from the tender specification called. The panel of surveyors, consultants, engineers & developer would be in the know, of what the bidders are offering as alternatives, and due diligence would have been done, to ensure that offers satisfy certain criteria.

Let’s not kid ourselves, an apple will never be a pineapple, and vice versa. The designers, consultants & specifiers put in the man hours to scrutinize & specify certain parts/ systems/ material, for specific reasons. Unless it is something common enough to be substituted with cheaper alternatives, not everything can be substituted.

So, hypothetically, the price-tag for original tender specified, is at $7B, but in the good name of prudence, the tender may end up being awarded for something (much) less than the initial budget. And everybody starts popping champagne & celebrate HUGE cost savings, some people get promoted for a job well done… even before the soil breaks.

miller-lite-dominoesBecause of the earmark run of the mill promotion system, someone assumes the project from outgoing staff, and the new chap has little or no knowledge of what transpired previously. In good faith, thinking & believing that all is in good order, the flow of work follows the schedule.

The work completes on schedule, everyone’s happy, the big shots announce with confidence that the plan rolled out well, sprinkled with edification for some folks etc. The unsuspecting public assumes that all is fine, and daily routines shift to depend on the public commute.

And then, it fails. Seems apparent, will be a new norm for what could last for an unknown length of time.

So now, with a closer glimpse of how some (if not, many) project tenders flow (regardless public or private). Can you now call for the man to be crucified upside down? Or should more people be sent to the abattoir?
Such is the case of being penny-wise, and pound-foolish. Disagree if you may, deny if you will, but such practice is quite typical in many industry sectors. Ultimately, who are the ones that suffer the consequences?

Some say “expensive is not always good”, but there’s sufficient empirical evidence that says, “cheap can’t possibly be better”.

Recent news of Circle Line (CCL) Train disruption:
Train fault on Circle Line leads to delays
Train service on Circle Line delayed due to track fault: SMRT
Circle Line track fault causes 3-hour disruption
Morning rush hour delays on Circle Line for third day due to …
‘Intermittent signalling issues’ on Circle Line, causing delays
Frustrations mount as Circle Line delays persist for fifth day
Signalling fault causes delays on Circle Line during morning rush hour

About Alvin T.

i bring architecture/ developments to life when night falls, i see the world in a different light. Dedicated a chunk of my adult life towards my profession & passion, for which i'm grateful & proud to have accomplished. My past time, i hang our with my pals over food & drinks, break sweat over football, and pampering myself during 'me' time. Life's too short to hold back our expressions, speaking our thoughts add colors to the boring & mundane lives of the walking dead.
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