Apparently, there had been a fire at the Newton MRT station, so they stopped the train services along the red line. Fire seems to be a new reason for train breakdown - I don't quite recall that they specifically had fires before, but they do regularly come up with new sorts of reasons for trains to break down. So the experience is not that new. It's certainly not the first time I've experienced an MRT breakdown in the past three years or so.
Catching a taxi at Toa Payoh right then was impossible. There were hundreds of stranded train passengers milling out from underground, getting to the main road, and all of them were trying to queue and call for a cab at the same time.
I gave up and tried to catch a bus. It took me a while, because I am not familiar with the bus services in Toa Payoh (I hardly ever stop there, except when the train breaks down). Finally, I figured out what bus number I wanted to take, but when it came, I couldn't get on it, because it was too crowded.
In the end, I took another bus (SBS No. 105) to Scotts Road. That was not where I wanted to go, but I needed to get out of that crowded area at Toa Payoh. I had to stand all the way on the very crowded 105, but hey, at least I was on a bus that could actually move and it wasn't on fire.
Upon reaching Scotts Road, I tried to queue for a cab at the Far East Plaza taxi stand. But the first five or six of the cabs I couldn't board, as they were changing shifts and not headed to the area where I wanted to go. Finally I managed to get a cab.
I chatted with the driver and I mentioned that the train had broken down. Coincidentally he had just come from the Newton MRT area. He told me that he had seen some police cars and fire engines there, and there were lots of people getting out of the train station and trying to get a bus or cab.
The driver said that at the Newton MRT area, he had wanted to stop to pick up a passenger, but he didn't dare to. The reason was that there were lots of policemen and he was afraid he would get a summons for picking up a passenger at the Newton taxi stop. He explained to me the difference between a "taxi stop" and a "taxi stand". Even if there are 50 passengers queueing at a taxi stop, only three taxis can be there at any given time. If yours is the 4th or 5th taxi, you have to drive on. You can't stop even if it's for a few seconds.
When I finally reached work, I found that several of my colleagues were also late for work, thanks to the train breakdown. One of them had been stuck at Dhoby Ghaut MRT. He had actually managed to get onto the train, but it wouldn't move and for a long time, there were no announcements as to whether it would move or not. So he just stood there waiting and waiting and waiting, and wondering whether he should continue to wait.
Then I remembered this article which I had read on on Channel News Asia:
S'pore's productivity well below most developed countries: DPM Tharman
SINGAPORE: Singapore's productivity is well below that of the most developed countries, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, he noted that restaurants here are experiencing difficulties finding employees. Mr Tharman said some restaurants have raised pay to attract part-timers during the peak Lunar New Year season.
But most still have difficulty finding people, because the overall labour market is close to full employment. Mr Tharman said these are real problems for businesses, but the solution is not to ease up on foreign worker policies.
He said the solution has to be more fundamental."Fundamental", phui. "Basic" would be a better word.
Dude, don't get too complex. If 100,000 people in Singapore were one hour late for work this morning because the trains broke down, that's 100,000 man-hours lost.
How do you expect Singaporeans to raise their productivity, when your public transport infrastructure can't even get them to work on time?