Monday, December 11, 2017

Are we already a smart nation?

The minister in charge of the Smart Nation project said that we are already a smart nation. He quoted many new initiatives that have been implemented.

Do you agree with him?

Give your vote in

Long queue at opening of Gong Cha outlet

The tea outlet Gong Cha operated in Singapore previously but closed its operation on termination of its franchise agreement.

It reopened recently. It first outlet attracted a long queue with people waiting for many hours in the queue.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Is it good for people to queue for many hours at the opening of the Gong Cha outlet?

Here are the votes.

a) 33% said that the long queue generate publicity.
b) 24% said that we should look for a better system to handle the queue more efficiently.
c) 22% said the the people enjoyed queuing. It is a good way to pass the time.
d) 20% said that it might generate quarrels when some people perceive that other people are breaking the queue.

A total of 55% is happy with the current arrangement while 45% prefer a new arrangement to spread the crowd.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Police action agains illegal brothels

The police took strong actions taken by the police in conducting raids on illegal brothels.

Do you agree with the actions taken by the police?

Give your vote in

Recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Isreal

President Trump has now recognized Jerusalem as capital of Isreal. A few countries have issued statements against this decision. Riots have occurred in a few countries.

Will this decision lead to more problems ahead? Will there be more acts of terrorism?

Give your vote in

A strong fight between Comfort Taxis and Grab

We are likely to see a strong fight between Comfort Taxis and Grab for control over the taxi and rides market. Is this competition good for the public that uses the transport?

Give your vote in

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Will the strategic tie up with Uber be beneficial to Comfort Taxis?

Comfort Taxis entered into a strategic alliance with Uber to benefit from Uber's taxi booking app. I do not understand the rationale.

Comfort had an excellent taxi booking service using a call center. For a long time, it dominated the taxi booking market. Most taxi calls are made through Comfort.

When booking through apps became popular, Comfort already developed its app to provide this facility to its customers.

The main pricing scheme for Comfort is the standard taxi fare plus a booking fee. Comfort has also introduced its fixed fare tariff.

Comfort started to lose its market share only after Grab introduced its attractive promotions. Their customers could get a $5, $4 or $3 discount for each ride. This is very expensive for Grab and must have cost massive losses. It is not sustainable for the long term.

Grab also offered attractive incentives to entice Comfort drivers to move over to them. Again, this is done at a heavy cost to Grab.

Comfort could have responded to Grab by offering similar promotions to customers. They could have maintained their market share or suffer a smaller erosion.

Comfort could also have responded to the the loss of taxi drivers by offering incentives for their drivers to take bookings. They can also lower their rental rates and lock up their drivers on a 6 or 12 month contract.

By partnering with Uber, I suspect that Comfort is not addressing the root of the problem. Customers do not need fancy features. They want to get a taxi quickly and they want the fare to be lower. If Comfort could match what Grab is doing, their customers will still prefer to ride with Comfort.

Rejection of medical claims due to non-disclosure of past medical conditions

Many consumers had experienced rejection of their medical claims under private Shield plans due to alleged non-disclosure of their past medical conditions. In some cases, they were not aware about the past medical conditions or the need to disclose them.

Should MAS disallow insurers from rejecting claims due to alleged non-disclosure of past medical history?

Give your vote in

Low birth rate in Singapore

What is the main cause of the low birth rate in Singapore?

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Express and local services on subway system in New York city

When I first visited New York City almost 40 years ago, I observed that some lines of their subway has a local service and an express service.

The local service stops at every station while the express service stops at the major stations.

This arrangement requires two separate rails in each direction. Each station probably needs a separate platform for each direction with two rails for each platform for the local and express services.

It will reduce the travel time. A commuter can take the express train until the stop before the final destination and change to a local train for the remaining stops.

I wondered at that time why our MRT did not provide for this kind of local and express trains.

I guess that there is no need to use this approach for our MRT in Singapore. The distance is really quite short, unlike the transit systems in other major cities that cover a much bigger geographical area.

There is possibly another reason. The stations for our MRT system are about 1.6 km apart. Commuters have to take the bus to the destinations between the MRT stations. Perhaps our MRT operates like the express service in New York City and our buses provide the local service?

I wonder what is the average distance between the stations in the express service in New York City?

to websites

Many high volume websites face the challenge of designing a sign-in system that is secure (against hackers) and is convenient for users.

Google and Facebook met this challenge quite well. Their sign-in process is simple and quite secure.

Microsoft and Apple did it rather poorly. Their process is quite cumbersome.

I faced the problem when I changed to a new device (e.g. laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone) and requires to re-enter the passwords that were "remembered" in my old devices.

I cannot remember the passwords that were used previously, especially for websites that require a "strong password" and insists that it should be a "new" password that was not used before.

The websites of the government agencies in Singapore probably beat them all. They are the most troublesome.

Some people use an app called LastPass that remembered the passwords used before. I tried it, and found it to be more troublesome than helpful. So, I gave up on it.

There must be a better way to address this challenge.

The approach that I prefer is to allow the user to decide on the level of security that is really needed. For websites that do not contain sensitive information, allow them to use any password that they like. They can opt to use a strong password or even to have a 2FA authentication.

Should we keep the mandatory death sentence for drug offences?

Malaysia has changed the law to remove the mandatory death sentence for drug offences. Under the new law, the death sentence will be at the discretion of the judges.

Singapore continues to impose a mandatory death sentence for drug offences. Should Singapore changed the law to give the discretion to the judges?

Here are the views of the people who voted in The Wisdom of the Crowd.

a) 40% said that we should keep the mandatory death sentence to deter drug trafficking.
b) 36% said that this involves human lives. We should not impose the death sentence when there is an element of doubt.
c) 20% said that we should give the discretion to the judge to impose the appropriate sentence.
d) 4% said that we should keep the mandatory death sentence to remove the burden from the judges.

A total of 56% said that we should remove the mandatory death sentence and let the judge decide if the death sentence should be imposed on each individual case. The other 44% prefer that the mandatory death sentence be kept.

Should e-scooters be banned from the roads?

There were a few serious accidents and fatal casualties involving e-scooters on the roads.

Should e-scooters be banned from the roads? Here are the views of the people who voted in The Wisdom of the Crowd.

a) 43% said that e-scooters should be banned due to the many accidents.
b) 30% said that the riders should be required to get a licence.
c) 17% said the the vehicles should be licenced.
d) 11% said that they provide a useful form of transport and should be allowed on the road. There is no need for licence or other restrictions.

What should SMRT do about the frequent breakdowns of the MRT trains?

After installing the new signal system from Thales, the NS and EW lines of the MRT system experienced frequent breakdowns and a collision at Joo Koon.

Some people think that more time is needed for the new signal system to be tested. Other people think that sufficient time has already been given and that the frequent breakdowns are unacceptable.

What should the SMRT do about frequent breakdowns?

Here are the views of the people who voted in The Wisdom of the Crowd.

a) 58% said that SMRT should terminate the Thales contract and revert to the old system. This option is still available.
b) 16% said that SMRT and LTA should be given more time to sort out the problem with the Thales system.
c) 14% said that we should provide alternative transport to reduce the load on the MRT trains
d) 12% said that the breakdowns do not happen every day. We should continue to use the MRT system.

Sentence meted to couple who tortured the disabled waitress

A couple was sentenced to a total of 30.5 years for torturing a disabled waitress, who was their tenant, for 8 months and causing her death.

Was the sentence too lenient?

Here are the views of the people who voted in The Wisdom of the Crowd.

a) 49% said that the sentences were too lenient. They expected a longer sentence.
b) 34% said that this matter should be left to the judge as they had a fuller access to the facts compared to the general public.
c) 15% said that the sentences are quite long and are adequate.

I have observed in the past that many people in Singapore tend to take an extreme view. This is reflected in the 49%. In this case, it is balanced by other people who take a more moderate perspective.

Lessons from bubbles and ponzis

When a bubble burst, all the people who invested are caught. They cannot sell the assets that they are holding. Nobody wants to buy them.

This was the case with the tulip bubble, with the ponzi schemes and is likely to be the case with Bitcoin (when it burst eventually).

When people were investing in the gold bar ponzi scheme, many investors knew that it was a ponzi, but they thought that they could get out at the "right time". When they made the decision to get out, it was too late. Many other people also decided to get out. There were no buyers.

If you invest in a property bubble, it is not so bad. You can still hold on to the property and wait for the next cycle. You may have to wait for three decades, as has happened in Japan, and still there is no sign of light. This may apply to property in Singapore also.

Investors in bubbles and ponzis should learn this lesson. It happens all the time.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Should the citizenship be taken away for being involved in a crime?

A former S League player was given a citizenship. Later, he was involved in a global match fixing scheme. He went to jail. After that, his citizenship was taken away.…/gaye-alassane-singapore-ci…

Do you agree with the decision to take away the citizenship?

Give your vote in

Top priorities for PM Lee in 2018

What are the top priorities for PM Lee in 2018? Should they be reflected in Budget 2018?

Here are the views expressed by votes in a survey carried out in The Wisdom of the Crowd.

a) Improve wages and security of jobs - 38%
b) Reduce the cost of living - 30%
c) Solve the MRT problem - 17%
d) Settle his quarrel with his siblings - 9%
e) Play an active role as chair of ASEAN - 7%

The first two choices, totalling 68%, affect the financial well being of the citizens.

The likely increase in GST will make matters worse. It will increase the cost of living beyond the additional revenue that will flow to the government. It has an escalating effect. A 2% increase in GST is likely to translate to a 5% or 10% increase in prices in many places.

17% said that he should focus on solving the MRT problem. Perhaps he should just ask if the frequent breakdowns are due to the new signal system and if the teething problems are being sorted out, or remain unresolved?

Maybe, he can take the hard political decision to get Hong Kong MTR or Taipei MRT to manage the SMRT? That would be somewhat embarrasing for Singapore, but it could be not as bad as the frequent breakdowns.

How can he settle his quarrels with his siblings? It could be easy. He just need to disband the minsterial committee that looks into what to do with the house that Mr LKY lived in previously. He should just allow the house to remain a private residence.

Can he do much as chair of ASEAN? Will that help Singapore? We do not know. But he should not spend too much time on it, while there are so many problems to be solved in Singapore, right?

Should Jolovan Wham be charged for organising a silent protest in a MRT train?

Jolovan Wham is now being charged for organizing a silent protest in a MRt train. He arranged for a few young people to wear the tee-shirts and red a book on the alleged Marxist Conspiracy that occurred 30 years ago.

Should be he charged for this silent protest under a law that made it a crime for any protest to be carried out without a police permit.

Here are the views expressed in a vote in The Wisdom of the Crowd:

a) The public should be allowed to express their views and objections peacefully - 43%
b) The law should be removed as it goes against the constitutional right of free expression - 26%
c) The law should be applied only where the protest involves distrubing the peace - 17%
d) The law is quite clear. Any form of public protest is not allowed - 8%
e) He should be given a warning instead - 6%.

In summary, 86% find the charge to be in appropriate. Only 14% said that Jolovan should be charged.

Main causes of a high level of depression

What are the main causes of the high level of depression in Singapore? There was some international comparision that showed our level to be among the worst in the world.

According to this survey in The Wisdom of the Crowd, the top factors are, in this order:

a) High cost of living - 50% voted
b) Fear of losing jobs and high demands of the job - 36%
c) Relationship within the family - 8%
d) High demand from the education system - 4%
e) Gambling and debts - 2%

Once in a while, we read about suicides due to the stress from the education system and from gambling debts, but they account for only 6% of the total.

The most important causes are still the high cost of living and employement issues.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Should we worry about the increasing number of elderly in the population?

Should we worry about the increasing number of elderly in the population?

Give your vote in

Should condo owners be allowed to rent out their apartment under AirBNB?

Should condo owners be allowed to rent our their apartment for short term stay under AirBNB?

Give your vote in

Budget 2018 - Clearing house for Wallet Payments

At the National Day Rally in 2017, PM Lee suggested that we should promote e-payment, similar to the AliPay and WeChat Pay in China.

Several operators have since launched their platforms (i.e. e-wallets) to allow e-payment using QR Code. They include GrabPay, NETS Pay and DBS PayLah.

Each operator makes a special effort to market their wallets to merchants and hawkers.

I am afraid that the proliferation of platforms will not help in promoting the use of e-payments. We cannot expect a merchant to sign up with several platforms to receive e-payments from customers on those platforms.

I suggest that the Monetary Authority of Singapore or the Association of Banks set up a clearing house for e-wallet payments. If the customer and merchant are on different platforms, they can clear their transactions through the clearing house. This is similar to the current process of clearing cheque payments through a clearing house.

The clearing house can also be the channel for customers to top up their e-wallets from their linked bank accounts and for merchants to transfer money to their linked bank accounts.

By using the clearing house, the wallet operators will not be saddled with the cost of making separate linkages to the banks. This will reduce the infrastructure cost for the wallet operators and the banks.

I also suggest that all e-wallet operators be licensed by the MAS. A condition of the licensing is that the operator has to set up a trust account in a bank that contains the total balance of all the balances in their customers' e-wallets. This will give confidence to customers that their e-wallets will be safe and that they will not lose money when their operator fails

I hope that my suggestion will be helpful to promote e-payments in Singapore, reducing the cost of payments and increase productivity and innovation.

Tan Kin Lian

Budget 2018 - Simplify CPF contribution

The following document shows how employers should calculate the CPF contributions for their employees. It contained 15 pages included tables in 11 annexes, numbered A to L. Click here.

It is a nightmare for a small employer to calculate the CPF contribution correctly for their employees. It is also costly for them to engage a developer to write the codes for the CPF contributions in their payroll systems.

I suggest that the government should simplify the contribution rates as follows:

a) Set up the table showing the "standard rates" for contribution rates applicable to employees in the private sector.
b) The contribution rates for older employees and permanent residents can be set certain percentages of the standard rates.

The public sector can be handled in a separate paper.

Tan Kin Lian

An alternative system for SMRT to consider

I question the decision to invest $195 million in the new signal system for the NS and EW lines.

I find the amount to be excessive. I also dislike the many instances of "signal faults" that caused the frequent disruption in the train services and the collision at Joo Koon station.

Under the old signal system, we did not have the frequent breakdowns that are occuring now.

Could this be caused by bad implementation? Did we rush to implement the new system without proper testing?

More important, will we be able to see the light of day soon. Can we get over the frequent disruptions? How long more do we have to wait to see the improvement in service that was expected from this large investment?

Another question is - do we have an alternative?

I believe that we have an alternative to the Thales CBTC system. I know that they are a reputable system and their system is used in many cities.

But I do not accept that we need to implement an expensive system just because it is used in other cities. The more important question is - is there an alternative?

What is the system expected to achieve?

Take the NS line. It runs for 45 km and has 28 stations. The average distance between the station is 1.6 km.

If we despatch a train every 2 minutes, the average distance between 2 trains is 2 km, based on an average speed of 60 kph. 2 km is a long distance. Even if we reduce the interval of the trains to 1 minute, the average distances is 1 km.

We like the trains to arrive at each station on time. There could be local factors that cause the train to be temporarily behind schedule. The can be rectified by getting the train to increase the speed until they are back on schedule.

There is the challenge to get the train to stop at the exact spot on the platform, so that they train and platform doors can open. I prefer that this be achieved using local signals and sensors, rather than rely on the central system to tell the train exactly where to stop.

There is also the challenge to get the train to slow down or stop to avoid collison with the train or another obstacle ahead. Under normal circumstances, this should not happen, as the trains are all moving at the expected speed and there is a distance of 1 or 2 km between the trains.

But we have to deal with the unexpected emergencies.

I prefer each train to have a collision avoidance system. This is already installed in expensive cars. I like a similar system to be installed on each train. Remember, this is to be used only in emergencies. It is not intended to regulate the speed of the train.

The speed of each train will be regulated by the central control system. This system has the primary goal of instructing the train on the speed that it should travel.

The central system should not be burdened with the task of getting the train to stop at the right spot in the platform (as it can be delegated to the local sensors and systems).

I have developed a prototype of a system that describes how my approach can work. They can be viewed here.

Operation of the system

Signals of the system

Monitor screen for simulation

If you have any feedback, send email to

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A better system of signage for MRT stations

The MRT station in Seoul uses a sensible system of signage.

They numbered their exits from 1, 2, 3, etc.

On passing the gantry, I can see a big signboard showing all the prominent buildings and the exit gate. Along the passage way, I see only the direction for each exit gate. The signage is small and easy to understand.

At some prominent places, there will be another board showing all the prominent buildings and exits.

I like the common sense of the people in Seoul. I hope that our planners follow their approach.

The algorithm for TKL train control system is working fine now

I managed to fine-tune the algorithm for the TKL train control system. It is now able to despatch a train every 1 minute and to have very few trains taken off the system, even if they have some train fault.

The monitor also display the trains that have a high percentage of being late. This indicates that the train may have some fault and should be inspected and repaired.

You can watch the monitor in

My system does not cost $195 million. It probably can be installed for $20 million and should not cause the kind of breakdowns that have been experiened recently.

Keep a driver in the MRT train and expand the duties

SMRT invested $195 million to install a new signal system. I suspect that the main purpose is to allow the trains to be operated without a driver.

I disagree with this approach.

I will make the train run automatically (but at a much lower cost) and still have a driver in the train. The driver will take over in case of emergency.

At other times, the drivers will be responsible to watch the TV monitors for all the cabins in the train and to act on any disorderly behavior or render needed assistance to any passenger.

SMRT needs only 400 drivers. They have a workforce of more than 5,000 people. They can reduce the manpower in the maintenance department by using "smart maintenance" concepts. Currently, they have 900 more maintenance staff compared to Taipei MRT which handles a similar volume of traffic to SMRT.

Allow platform doors to be opened

A few breakdowns were caused by "signal fault" which caused the platform doors to remain closed.

There should be a manual override to open these doors and keep them open until they are fixed. We did not have platform doors in the past.

The platform doors were installed to prevent people falling or jumping to the tracks. The risk is quite small even if the platform doors are kept open. For people who are prone to suicides, they can also jump from buildings, right?

Many train stations in other countries do not have platform doors anyway. It is nice to have this safety measure, but it is not essential.

This kind of problem is faced by Hong Kong's MRT. They have a 10 hour delay that occurred half a year ago, caused by the same kind of problem.

Why did the government decide to act against Li Shengwu?

Why did the government decide to act against Li Shengwu?

Give your vote in

Did Li Shengwu scandalised the court?

Did Li Shengwu scandalised the court by referring to a "pliant court system"?

Give your vote in

Will the current chairman take over as CEO of SMRT?

Do you expect Seah MM (current chairman) to take over as CEO of SMRT?

Give your vote in

Monday, December 04, 2017

Do we need an expensive and sophisticated train control system for the MRT?

Like Singapore, Hong Kong also paid a lot of money to upgrade their signal system. The average cost is about S$75 million per line. Singapore cost is about $85 million per line, but it is a few years later - probably due to inflation.

Hong Kong also faced problem with signal issues.

My common sense tells me that both countries paid too much to install a sophisticated system that is not necessary and is causing a lot of problems.

The trains run at a maximum speed of 80 kph. That is as fast as a car on the road. Allowing for the time for passengers to board and alight at each station, the average speed of the train is 45 kpm for the entire journey.

If the trains run every 2 minutes, the average distance between the trains is 2 km. That is a very long distance. Do we need a sophisticated and costly signal system to handle this operation?

I prefer to have an onboard collision avoidance system on each train. It will prevent collision.

Apart from this feature, I like to see a signal to tell a train that it is approaching a station, so that the train can slow down, and another signal to guide the train to the exact place to stop on the platform.

These signals are processed locally on the train and do not need to involve the control center.

The only control data that needs to be send by the control center is the speed for the train to take. This may be necessary to synchronise the speed of the various trains, and to ensure that they arrive punctually and are evenly spaced.

If the system is kept simple at the control center, the risk of "signal faults" would probably be minimised. Of course, we could still have local signal faults.

This is my common sense perspective. It can save a lot of money and give less breakdowns.

Should consumers shop for groceries online?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Should consumers shop for groceries online?

The views are quite mixed. However, the majority appears to think that it is a bad idea.

You can see the breakdown of the votes in

Is the government too intrusive?

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Is the PAP government too intrusive?

53% of the people who voted said that they are neglecting their duty to ensure that citizens have jobs to match the cost of living.

28% said that they are intrusive in the wrong issues, such as restricting freedom to express views.

15% said that they are neglecting their duty in the issues that need their attention.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Are we paying too much for the Thales system?

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - Are we paying too much ($195 million) for the Thales signal system?

67% of the people who voted said that we should have a commision of inquiry to look into the issue.

14% said that the sum is grossly excessive.

Nobody said that the money was well spent.

You can look at the breakdown of the votes in

Should e-bikes be banned from walkways?

Should e-bikes be banned from walkways?

Give your vote in

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Long queue at opening of Gong cha outlet

Is it good for people to queue for many hours at the opening of the Gong Cha outlet?

Give your vote in

Do we need so many security guards in Singapore?

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Do we need so many security guards in Singapore?

38% of the people who voted said that they are not effective in preventing crime.

30% said that they are unnecessary.

17% said that the higher cost of security guards will encourage management corporation to reduce their manpower.

This makes a total of 85%. Only 15% said that they serve a useful purpose.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

I agree with the votes. We tend to follow the past practice blindly, even though it did not serve a useful purpose. We need more people to be thinking and questionining.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Signals required under TKL train control system

The TKL train control system requires 3 types of signals to be installed along the track. The passing train should be able to read the signals and act on them.

Type A) This tells the train that there is a station ahead and the train should reduce speed.

Type B) This tells the train exactly where to stop so that the train doors and platform doors are correctly aligned.

Type C) This tells the train the km point that it has just passed. The train will send the time and km point to the control center. These signals are installed every 0.5 km along the track. The train passes this signal every 20 seconds.

There will be redundancy of the signals. At each point, there will be signals being sent by four separate transmitters. Surely one of them will be received?

If any of the transmitter failed, it will not send any signal. The smart maintenance system will know which transmitter failed and can have it replaced.

All the signals send out a UUID to ensure that it is a valid signal. The transmitters are placed along the track and can only be read by the passing train.

The type C signals are used to compute the punctuality of the train and to adjust the speed, i.e. increase speed if the train is behind schedule and reduce speed if it is ahead of schedule.

The control center will also know the distance and speed of the preceding train. If the distance is less than 0.5 km, the following train will be set at the same speed.

There is also a collision avoidance system installed on the train. This is a last resort measure. No, not really the last resort. The last resort is a driver who can apply the brake manually.

The beauty of this approach is that it does not have to reply on GPS or radar.

Tan Kin Lian

TKL Train control system works perfectly

The TKL train control system works perfectly. It identifies the trains that have a fault and remove them from the track, so that the other trains can pass by and run on schedule.

How does it identify the faulty train?

The control system checks the punctuality of the train at every km of the track. If the train is behind schedule, it sends a signal to increase the speed. If it is ahead of schedule, it reduces the speed.

If the train continues to be behind schedule for 2 minutes, it is likely to be a faulty train. The passengers are discharged at the next station and the train is moved off to a side rail. This allows the other trains to pass by.

This situation can be seen clearly in the monitor screen here:

A train that is behind schedule for 0.5 minute appears in the screen. If this is a temporary situation, the train can catch up on the schedule and will disappear from the screen.

If the train is faulty, the delay will get worse, it will start to hold up the other trains. You can see up to 4 trains behind at 0.5 km interval.

When the faulty train is moved off the track, the other trains can move ahead and be on schedule.

The simulation despatches a train every 1 minute during peak hours. The control system works perfectly.

Tan Kin Lian

Friday, December 01, 2017

Torture of disabled waitress

Are the sentences given to the couple who tortured the disabled waitress adequate?

Give your vote in

Mandatory death sentence on drug offences

Malaysia has removed the mandatory death sentence for drug offences. They will let the judge decide on the appropriate sentence. Should Singapore adopt the same approach?

Give your vote in

A train control system at 10% of the cost and 2 times of capacity

I am giving a bonus to SMRT, LTA and to the transport minister.  They can use my TKL train control system at 10% of the price that they paid for the Thales system.

Here is the bonus.

My system can handle all the 3 lines (NS, EW and CC) in 2 directions, i.e. a total of 6 lines.

They can schedule a train to run every 1 minute during the peak hour and 1.5 min during the off peak hour. This is twice of the capacity of their previous system.

Anyway, the Thales system is now operating at a lower capacity due to signal problems.

Don't believe me?

Take a look at the monitor screen in

You can see some of the trains running slowly (due to simulated train and track fault) and holding back the following trains at a distance of 0.5 km.

When the faulty train is delayed by longer than 2 minutes, the central control directs the train to offload all the passengers and move to a side rail. This allows the following trains to pass and be back on schedule.

This can be seen in the monitor program. It is quite realistic.

If SMRT, LTA and Khaw BW wants to claim this bonus, they can contact me at

Tan Kin Lian

Why spend $195 million to eliminate 400 jobs?

I cannot understand the logic of the people in charge, up to the transport minister.

They spent $195 million to install the Thales system to allow a 20% increase in the number of trains running along the lines.

I think that their real purpose is to introduce a driverless system and eliminate 400 jobs of train drivers.

If the driver cost an average of $50,000 a year, the elimination of 400 jobs save $20 million a year. But the expendure of 1$195 million means that it takes 10 years to recover the cost of investment.

At the end of 10 years, we may have to spend another large sum to upgrade the signal system again, right?

Why try to eliminate 400 jobs when we are using 900 more maintenance staff compared to Taipei MRT for the same number of visitors?

After upgrading the signal system, we are getting more train breakdowns compared to the old system.

Adopt a smart maintenance approach

SMRT has 2,900 maintenance staff and handles about 2 million rides a day. This information is obtained from its train operations report.

Taipei MRT has a maintenace staff of 2,000 and handles the same number of rides. This information is obtained from a recent news report.

Why does SMRT need 45% more staff compared to Taipei MRT? Is it more inefficient and unproductive?

I wish to suggest how SMRT can improve the productivity of its maintenance staff. It can make better use of data analytics to identify the equipments that need to be replaced or repaired.

How can this be done?

Most of the equipment or devices send some data to the server to indicate its status. An equipment that is not functioning will not send any data. By analysing the database, it is possible to identify the malfunctioning equipments. The maintenance and inspection work can be directed towards these equipments. 

This approach may not apply to every equipment. But it can be applied to some of the equipments and help to improve the productivity. It is the smart way, isn't it?

I would describe it as a "smart maintenance" approach. I suspect that Taipei MRT probably uses the data in this manner to identify what needs to be rectified. It probably accounts for their higher productivity.

I hope that SMRT will consider this approach.

Fee benchmark for medical procedures

The Ministry of Health will introduce fee benchmark for medical procedures.

This is a good step. It is necessary. It is long overdue.

I congratulate the health minister Gan Kim Yong for taking this initiative.

Wait a minute. He has been health minister for over 6 years. Why does he took so long to realize that a serious problem has to be corrected?

Never mind. At least he realizes it at last. Anyway, this is the standard of Lee HL's ministers. It is deplorable.…/ministry-of-health-to-intr…

SMRT should revert to the old signal system

There is something seriously wrong with the new signal system installed by SMRT. We did not have this kind of problem in the past.

I do not believe that a new signal system should cause this kind of frequent breakdowns and delays.
The SMRT trains run on two separate lines. They do not mix with other lines. The trains do not change from one line to another.

There is no need to introduce a complicated signal system for a simple operation and end up with endless troubles.

I suggest that SMRT should consider reverting to the old system. They can cancel the contract for $195 million to install the new system. They can look for a better alternative.

I read from Wikipedia that the old system can be reinstalled. See here.

Should e-bikes be banned?

Should e-scooters be banned from the roads?
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Should should commuters do about the frequent train breakdowns?

What should commuters do about the frequent breakdowns of the SMRT trains?

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Increase in GST

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - When do you expect the government to increase GST?

61% of the people who voted said that the increase will occur within two years after the next general election.

33% said that it will occur before the next general election.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Prices n Fairprice and Cold Storage

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - What is the difference in prices between Fairprice and Cold Storage supermarkets?

37% of the people who voted said that Fairprice is cheaper by about 5% before the rebate. 31% said that Fairprice is cheaper in only a few items.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Is there a need for the government to raise taxes?

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Is there a need for the govenrment to raise taxes?

54% of the people who voted said that the government does not need to increase tax as they have sufficient surpluses.

35% said that the government should be more prudent in their spending and should cut down on wasteful expenditure.

See a breakdown of the votes in

Are the maintenance staff of SMRT productive?

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Are the maintenance staff of SMRT productive?

55% of the people who voted said that the supervision of the staff is poor. 24% said that the staff morale is low. 21% said that they are new to the job.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Silent protest in MRT train

Should Jolovan Wham be charged for organizing the silent protest in the MRT train?
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A high level of depression

What is the most important cause of the high level of depression in Singapore.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A new signal system for SMRT

I have built a new signal system for SMRT.

The new system is explained in

1. This is a simulation of the North South Line of the MRT system in Singapore.
2. It dispatches a train every 2 minute during the peak hours and every 3 minutes during the off-peak hours and stops service between midnight and 6 am. The train travels at an average speed of 60 kmp and stays for 30 seconds at a station for passengers to disembark and embark.
3. The simulator varies the speed according to the condition of the train and the track.
4. A signal is sent to the control center showing the time that a train passes each km point along the track.
5. The control center calculates the punctuality of the train and increases the speed if the train is behind the schedule or reduces the speed if the train is ahead of schedule.
6. An collision avoidance device is installed on each train to ensure a gap of at least 0.5 km from the train ahead. If this distance falls below this gap, the brake is applied automatically.
7. If a train is 2 minutes behind schedule due to a train fault, the control center directs the train to be moved off the track so that the following trains can pass this faulty train.

The total cost of the system, including the devices on the trains and the tracks and the software for the control center should cost not more than $19.5 million. This is just 10% of the budget that was paid for the Thales system.

The Thales system has given a lot of problems and caused several breakdowns and a serious collision.

My system should perform better. However, I need SMRT and LTA to have an open mind an consider my system.

I have built a simulation to show how 60 trains perform on the two directions of the NS lines during the day. I have also built in the simulation for three trains, T1, T2 and T3, to develop train faults. The control center software was able to detect the problem and move them off the track. This allowed the remaining trains to perform normally. My system does not have the delays of several hours that is experienced now.

I hope that SMRT and LTA will at least monitor my simulation.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Here are some options before raising GST

Someone asked me - is it fair for the government to raise taxes when they are using only half of the investment income from the reserves. Should they use all of the income before they start to raise taxes? What is the rationale for using only half of the income?

Here is my answer.

I support the rationale to use only half of the investment income. The other half of the investment income should be retained to preserve the real value of the reserves.

Over the long term, the average investment yield is 6%. Half of this yield, say 3%, should be considerd as being contributed by inflation. The other half can be considered as real income.

However, before raising taxes, the government should look into the following items rigorously:

a) Are we spending money prudently? The spending of $195 million for the new MRT signalling system is an example. Is this spending prudent?

There is just one of many cases of big item spending. We need a system to evaluate the spending to be prudent and necesary. We should avoid wasteful spending.

b) Should a part of the proceed for land sale be used to fund the infrastructure spending, rather than rely on taxation?

c) Should additional taxes come from the wealthy and the high income earners, rather than from GST, which hits the lower income hardest (even though some of those affected are compensated by GST rebates).

Shop online for groceries

Should consumers shop for groceries online?
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Is the government too intrusive?

Is the PAP government too intrusive? Give your vote in

Are we paying too much for the Thales signal system?

Are we paying too much ($195 million) for the Thales signal system?

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How to fix the problems with the NS and EW lines

The NS and EW lines had broken down frequently.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - What is the best way to fix the problems with the NS and EW lines?

50% of the people who voted said that SMRT should recruit more engineers and technicians to carry out the repair work at night. (I learned recently that SMRT had 45% more people on maintenance compared to Taipei MRT which carries a similar number of passengers).

The other people voted for three other options.

You can see the breakdown of the votes in

Should Khaw BW continue as transport minister?

The performance of the MRT system worsened considerably after Khaw BW was appointed as minister of transport. He was supposed to lead the change to solve the problem.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should Khaw BW continue as minister of transport?

62% of the people who voted said that he should resign. Another 20% said that he should commit hara kiri - which is a worse outcome for him. This made a total of 82%.

Another 18% said that he should continue to turn the situation around.

See the breakdown of the votes in

Is Singapore maintaining a high standard of integrity and non-corruptibility?

In the past, Singapore has a global brand name for a high standard of integrity and non-corruptibility. Are we maintaining this standard or have we slightened in recent years?

I posed this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd. 78% of those who voted expressed serious concern that the standard had slackened considerably. Another 14% said that we had slackened by not to a serious extend. Only 9% said that we are maintaining our standard.

See a breakdown of the votes in

Saturday, November 25, 2017

An alternative to the $195 million system

LTA and SMRT spent $195 million to install a new signaling system for the NS and EW lines. The aim is to allow more trains to run on the line and to reduce the interval from 120 seconds to 100 seconds. I find this reduction to be quite small.

I understand that in some cities the train run at 1 min intervals during peak hours. This can be achieved without installing an expensive system.

If there is a 1 min separation and the train travel at 60 kpm, there is a distance of 1 km between trains. We do not need an expensive system to manage the movement of the trains.

This is how I envisage that a system could be constructed. I would install a "collision avoidance system" in each train that will achieve the 0.5 km separation. If the train in front is more than 0.5 km ahead, the train at travel at the "full speed" of 60 kpm. If the distance falls below 0.5 km, the following train will slow down.

We also need the train to be able to detect a sensor on approaching each station and slow down its speed and come to a complete halt on the platform. We also need each train to receive a signal from the control center to slow down or speed up or to move off the track.

I would make a guess that the cost of installing the intelligence in each train would be $50,000 to $100,000.

We have 200 trains on operating on the NS and EW lines. A budget of $10 to $20 million would be sufficient to equip these trains.

We will need a central system to monitor the passengers in the stations and to send out more trains during the peak periods and reduce the trains during the off peak period. The control center should also give instructions for trains to move off the track, if they are not working well.  Perhaps this central system can cost another $10 million.

I would still employ 400 drivers for the 200 trains at a budget of $50,000 per driver. This will cost $20 million a year and give employment to 400 people. As the trains are virtually automated, the driver does not have much to do, except in an emergency. I would assign to the drivers the general duty of "keeping an eye on the train".

Do we need so many security guards in Singapore?

Do we need so many security guards in Singapore. With increase in the wages, should the management corporations review the need for these guards?

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