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Positivity not derailed by MRT disruptions

Groups use the Net to get commutes back on track; elsewhere, workplace sexism is no joke

When you are caught in a train breakdown like the massive one on the North-South Line last weekend, what do you do? Break into an angry tirade? Blame the authorities? Sigh in resignation?

Negative comments are now commonplace on social media whenever there is a train disruption. It is understandable when things do not go the way they should, especially in times of stress and urgency, that tempers flare.

But there are some Singaporeans who choose to take a different approach - taking things into their own hands, in a positive way.

Voluntary groups have sprung up online recently for people to provide support to one another in the face of frequent public transport disruptions. The groups give real-time updates, suggest alternative routes and call out to drivers to carpool.

Facebook group TATA SMRT, which stands for "The Alternate Transport Advisory & Singapore Magnificent Rescue Team" (but is also a cheeky way of saying bye-bye to public transport operator SMRT), was formed in August.

Spurred by the train delays affecting two MRT lines on Aug 18, the day of a PSLE exam, the group now has more than 4,000 members.

Voluntary groups such as Facebook group TATA SMRT, formed in August, have sprung up online recently for people to provide support to one another in the face of frequent public transport disruptions. SCREENGRAB: FACEBOOK/ TATA SMRT

"The frequent breakdowns and congestions are making many Singaporeans unhappy. I hope to do my part as an ordinary Singaporean to try make things better and also encourage others to do their part, and turn this hugely negative situation into a positive and heart-warming one," group founder Jason Cai tells The Sunday Times.

The 35-year-old IT engineer, who takes a shuttle bus from his Ang Mo Kio home to his workplace near Bukit Merah in the morning and takes the MRT and bus home, manages the page with four others.

Besides offering choices of different routes and crowdsourcing for help, the page also has a comprehensive list of bus services from station to station.

The page also states that it does not welcome "people who come in to spread hate or anger, or to discuss who to blame or share your political views".

"We just want to make things better, so less of the negative stuff and more of the positive stuff ya?" it adds.

Mr Cai says: "There is enough negativity in our community and I do not intend for our group to add to it. Also, we have so much more constructive info to share, than to keep going down the path of inciting anger and hate."

Indeed, tales of kindness are aplenty on this page and negative comments are non-existent (the administrators delete them).

During the train service disruption on the North-South Line last weekend, members were giving updates and offering rides during the 20-hour outage which the authorities have said was due to a malfunction in the water pumping system.

One member Denelle Tan posted: "I'm at Esplanade now, heading to Yishun to send a friend home. Can seat three more people, does anybody need a ride?"


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Mr Cai says: "It is heart-warming to see fellow citizens helping one another to make the whole situation much more bearable."

Land Transport Guru, a group run by five Singaporeans under the age of 25, notices the confusion that arises during train disruptions if bus drivers are unfamiliar with designated stops for bus bridging services. To help ease this, it has created online guides detailing the correct diversion route.

Interestingly, not all of these groups are based in Singapore.

Mr Samuel Liew, 30, a Singaporean Web developer living and working in Australia, set up MRTOK.com in July when he noticed several posts on social media platform Singapore subreddit amid the frequent train delays. Those posts were faster than the official sources, which sometimes do not report minor train delays.

Mr Liew says he decided to build a site that displays the real-time status of MRT trains from both official and social media sources.

The aim is to "have the most timely updates, without having to physically be there, to allow my family and friends back in Singapore to be notified of train delays".

He manages the site alone and it now has about 5,000 users daily.

So, amid the cacophony of loud negativity whenever there is a train disruption, there are many silent heroes like Mr Cai, Mr Liew and the folks behind Land Transport Guru and SG MRT Updates, who seek to ease the situation by pulling resources from the community to achieve a positive outcome.

So perhaps the next time you encounter a train delay, keep calm and think positive.


Sexism is a dirty word, whether at the workplace or elsewhere.

In news that broke last week and doesn't seem to show any signs of dissipating, award-winning movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by a string of famous Hollywood actresses.

The accusers who have spoken out include big names like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, and the list is growing even faster than the resignation list of US President Donald Trump's staff. Weinstein has denied the accusations.

Closer to home, broadcaster Mediacorp says it has taken disciplinary action against a cameraman who was accused of making sexist remarks to one of its TV producers.

The producer had made online posts alleging that a male colleague referred to a part of her body as the reason that she could not be a presenter and told her "girls shouldn't be too smart for their own good". He later said he had meant all that as a joke.

But it appears that it was not an isolated incident as other colleagues have since made allegations of inappropriate conduct by the same person and two freelancers who work in the same unit.

It is not just the glass ceiling that needs to be broken. It is time to smash the thinking that sexual harassment in the workplace is "just locker-room talk".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Positivity not derailed by MRT disruptions'. Print Edition | Subscribe