Minister Khaw’s very disruptive statement about Cross Island Line

Minister Khaw spoke in Parliament yesterday to answer questions about the Cross Island Line. He explained that the line would have about 30 stations. Commuters would be able to change to other lines at about half of those stations. It would add to the resilience of the whole MRT system.

What I think that means is that it would give commuters alternatives in case there are problems with any other lines. If there are any massive disruptions on any other lines, some commuters could possibly continue their journey by switching over to the Cross Island Line.

That sounds like a good idea. And given that the line would increase the overall capacity to the whole MRT system, it seems that there is indeed value in investing billions of dollars in building the line. I think it wouldn’t be difficult to convince Singaporeans that the Cross Island Line is worth the money.

What is more controversial and would give the government a bigger headache is to convince people of the actual path that the line takes. Would it cut directly through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)? Or would it skirt around the CCNR? The former option may lead to irreparable damage to the CCNR, destroying the lives of countless animals. The latter option would lead to the displacement of a number of people and businesses, forcing them to live elsewhere.

Minister Khaw had said that he hasn’t made up his mind yet. He’s waiting for more information from the second phase o the environmental impact assessment. He also needs to weigh various other costs involved in skirting around the CCNR. These costs include the 6 minutes this option adds to the travel time.

About this, Minister Khaw said: “Some people say it’s just six minutes, but I’m not sure we can just brush aside the extra six minutes just like that because for MRT commuters, even an extra half a minute is terrible. We know this because when a train gets disrupted and there’s a one-minute delay, within that minute, they can send out maybe 100 tweets to flame LTA or SMRT. So one minute is a lot of time, let alone six minutes. That’s why in the rail industry, they define disruption as anything that causes a delay of more than five minutes and six is more than five.”

Wow. We now need a Minister to teach us, in Parliament, that six is more than five? And that additional six minutes of travelling time is a disruption? That is a definition of the word that I’ve never heard before. Incidentally, this is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “disrupt”:

to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way : to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)

We haven’t even decided what the “normal” travel time on the Cross Island Line is. How can there then be a disruption? What sort of logic is that? To try to support the assertion that commuters would mind an extra six minutes of travel using such sloppy logic insults the intelligence of his audience. I wonder whether he came up with that himself or was it from some civil servant…

Why did Minister Khaw see the need to talk about extra six minutes of travel time in such a way is beyond my comprehension. Could he not have explained that the extra six minutes would need to be taken into account in the overall cost-benefit calculus in deciding whether to cut through the CCNR or to skirt around it? Could he not then say that we still don’t have the necessary information to make a proper analysis, and thus could only decide if this extra six minutes is worthwhile when we have more information?

Or maybe he thought that Singaporeans aren’t capable of understanding something like that?

[Featured image: Screenshot of CNA video of Minister Khaw speaking in Parliament]

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