MRT Thomson Line(TSL) is a white elephant? It is better to invest in Pulau Ubin with a new MRT line and HDB flats

By Jackson Tan
Published by The Online Citizen on September 1, 2012
The construction of new MRT lines brings in many benefits, both in terms of GDP and promoting the development of residential and commercial areas. However, in the past decade or so, there seems to be a rising trend of building many MRT lines, the main reason cited by the government being to improve public transport network.  

East-West Line (EWL) – Opened in 1987 (26 stations)
North-South Line (NSL) – Opened in 1987 (35 stations)
North-East Line (NEL) – Opened in 2003 (16 stations)
Circle Line (CCL) – Opened in 2009 (30 stations)
Downtown Line (DTL) – Stage 1 by 2013, fully operational by 2017 (34 stations)
Thomson Line (TSL) – Stage 1 by 2019, fully operational by 2021 (22 stations)
That’s more than 160 MRT stations in a small red dot, a staggering figure given the small land area. At the same time, the current population tends closely to almost 6 million, and possibly 7 million by 2021, given the ‘relaxed’ immigration policy, with non-Singaporeans making up close to 40%. While it may be said that the construction of so many MRT stations is also to cope with the increasing population, there are some questions worth exploring.
  1. Using taxpayers’ money to cater to the needs of Singaporeans or more foreigners?
With decreasing birth rates among Singaporeans and increasing influx of foreigners, do the new MRT stations cater more to foreigners rather than Singaporeans?
  1. More MRT stations = more ridership = more revenue for operators?
Inevitably, with a rising population, there will be more people taking public transport, hence more revenue for public transport operators such as SMRT and SBS. Public transport should be based on public interest, but here it seems more of a private interest, a business tactic?
  1. More MRT stations to drive commuters underground?
With Singapore very urbanized, new MRT lines are fully underground. With traffic congestions aboveground a problem, the intention of new MRT lines may be to divert aboveground traffic to underground. Not a long term solution since the main reason of traffic congestion is the increasing population, hence if the government is sincere about addressing the issue, they should relook at the immigration policy instead.
In addition, there are also other concerns such as too much digging of underground soil which may lead to more surface runoff, air pollution to nearby residential areas and disruptions to accessibility when roads, especially those with heavy traffic flow, are diverted to accommodate the construction.
It is a fact that the real reason for so many MRT stations is to accommodate the increasing population, thus they do not meet a real demand in the first place but merely a response to the negative effects of the government’s immigration policy.

SINGAPORE – The new 30km long Thomson MRT line is set to open in three stages from 2019, and will have 22 stations – six of which will be interchanges connecting to all MRT lines and the upcoming Downtown Line (DTL).
Transport Minister Liu Tuck Yew announced the finalised plans for the Thomson Line (TSL) at a DTL event earlier today.

Fully underground, the new line is expected to be built at an estimated cost of around $18 billion and anticipated to have a daily ridership of about 400,000 commuters in the initial years.

He said that Singapore’s sixth MRT line will run through the “north-south corridor, starting in the Woodlands North area, passing through the industrial estate of Sin Ming, down to the residential Thomson area and the shopping districts of Orchard and Marina, before ending at Gardens by the Bay”The six interchanges include the Woodlands and Orchard stations which connect the TSL to the North-South Line. It will also run through Caldecott and Marina Bay stations which will connect commuters to the Circle Line.
Outram Park station will link the TSL to North-East Line and East-West Line while the sixth interchange station is Stevens on stage two of the upcoming Downtown Line.
Minister Liu added that the Thomson Line would be a four-car system, instead of a three-car system, “allowing for additional capacity to cope with any increase in long-term demand”.
When fully operational, an estimated 60,000 households will be within 400m, and another 100,000 households between 400m and 800m from one of the Thomson Line Stations – about 10 to 12 minutes walk away.
Expected to be completed in three stages, the first stretch (three stations from Woodlands North to Woodlands South) is set to be completed in 2019.
The second stretch (six stations from Springleaf to Caldecott) will be completed in 2020 and the final stretch (13 stations from Mount Pleasant to Gardens by the Bay) in 2021.
Four lots will have to be acquired by the Government to make way for the new line. These properties include a post office along Upper Thomson Road and two landed properties along Stevens Road and Robin Close.
Pearls Centre at Eu Tong Sen Street will also be affected as a TSL tunnel will run under part of the building. It will be acquired and amalgamated with the adjoining State land for a high-density mixed-use development.
Draft Singaporeans, PAP is trying to build an MRT line that run through a “duplication” route that will not be productive until maybe 50 years later because it will immediately cause land prices to spike, to increase SLA’s land banking, but is there really a demand? This is a last straw attempt to continue the property bubble in Singapore even though everywhere else in the global world is slowing, definitely a bad investment. I really question this “white elephant”, on what basis is the government wasting taxpayer’s money on “investments” when it cannot even make sure it will be re-elected in GE2016? Trying to create “demand” out of thin air? Fat hope. Nobody in the right sense will think that MRT will solve all your transport problems, there must be a balance, and PAP is throwing away money like water by hiding so many bad decisions. Look at all the surrounding stations, most are all located at landed properties (how many staying there will take MRT when they can afford a cab or own a car?) and only Woodlands is there a ready high density, but how many really need to travel to downtown? The rest are connecting stations but will it really spike ridership? 400,000 daily users is just a projection out of thin air, by my estimates the figure is less than a quarter where half are thru connecting stations, and S$18 billion is a huge burden for Singaporeans if it does not pay off. Do you want huge increases in transport costs to recover the loss? How will it affect the livelihood of taxi drivers? About 35% of taxi drivers will lose their incomes when TCL is fully completed, but is it necessary? Are you asking the last batch of self employed Singaporeans to eat shit? We can easily delay the project when demand arises. Woodlands MRT should design similar to Tanah Merah MRT platform to link to JB, to be interconnected at Woodlands North MRT, and congestion during peak hours can be controlled by charging a penalty to discourage crowding. Even if you open the floodgates for Malaysians to come from JB, the very most you can bump up another 100,000 ridership daily.
My Assumptions;
If you take a radius of 10 mins walk around every station in TCL, you can roughly guess the number of families staying there by it’s density, the number of families that own a car that will NOT use the MRT and the remainder, even if everyone uses the MRT the number of trips that originates from that station and the number of trips that end there, it will not exceed the 400,000 daily trips that was estimated, most likely a far cry which will not justify the cost of building the TCL, unless all the landed properties in the surrounding area are repossessed to build HDB flats, which will take at least half a lifetime. Are you willing to pay double what you are paying now for MRT fares when TCL is completed but is making a loss to compensate?
Sign the petition ;
– Contributed by Oogle.

Panasonic Singapore exploited us: foreign workers

By: Kumaran Pillai, Terry Xu & Leo Khaw
Published by The Online Citizen on August 29, 2012
Chen (not her real name) paid S$3600 of her savings to an agent in promise of more money, better life and to escape from the communist regime of China. But now, she has found herself only the short end of the stick. She works for a meagre S$500 a month as a factory hand in Panasonic Singapore which is located in suburban Bedok. There seems to be an awful regret that she has spent her money on a lousy deal. She has learnt the hard way that her life isn’t any better in democratic Singapore either.

Similar to those in the bottom 20% of our general population here, her life in Singapore is down to mere subsistence levels. Her income of S$500 is insufficient to meet her monthly expenditure. She has worked out a frugal budget though, of $300 for food, $250 for rent and S$60 for transportation, which is $110 more than her wage.  To supplement her income, her employer has “generously” given out, in the past, additional allowance of S$150 for housing and S$30 for transportation. With a stipend of S$680, her head is just barely above water.
She works hard for the money
Chen has a three year old child and her two elderly parents to support back at home. The $60 surplus is inadequate to meet her total financial needs. She needs to work overtime.
And so, she works up to 100 hours in overtime in order to make about S$1200 a month. This is on top of the 44 hour work week, and she can end up working as many as 72 hours in a typical workweek. There are times when she does double shifts of up to sixteen hours at a stretch to meet the production targets set by the company. Nowadays, this happens at least four times a month.
The Ministry of Manpower guidelines for overtime states, “An employee can be required to work up to 12 hours a day if the employee gives his consent in writing” (here). Chen says that the workers did not give their consent in writing. The employment contract is in English, but according to Chen, no translation was made available for the Mandarin speaking workers.
Chen however, is not overly concerned about the long working hours, she is concerned that the 72 hour limit is too low and that 100 hours of overtime hours are insufficient for her to earn the extras. She is willing to work all her waking hours to make as much as she can. 
She is hopeful that hard work and determination can see her through all the hardships. She is hopeful that someday she’ll be able to break out of her poverty cycle. But for now, hope is all she has got.
Chen’s passage to Singapore
Her job agent in Hubei, China made her many promises. He told her that her she could save as much as $1200 a month and that she could become rich in no time if she were to do overtime in Singapore. So, she was asked to buy her own airline ticket and asked to pay S$3600 as agency fees before her passage to Singapore.
Chen was given a contract in Mandarin which said that she was not forced or coerced into signing it and she was going to Singapore on her own free will. She was not aware of her actual employment terms until she started work in Singapore. In fact, her current employment contract with Panasonic is in English and the company has yet to give her a Chinese translation.
When asked if she would consider coming here again, she hesitantly said in Mandarin, “I have to work close to half a year just to earn back the agent fees, of course I would think twice.”
Panasonic Singapore Vs Huawel China
There were 14 others we spoke to, who had similar stories to tell. One university graduate lamented about how he was short-changed. One said that China was better, and another said that things were too expensive here. But he also said the people here were cultured and polite.
The university graduate said that Huawei China paid about S$700 – S$800 as basic pay and he could easily make up to $2000 per month doing a similar job in China. He came here thinking that he could land a white collar job and was hoping to make about $3000 a month.
Union warns employees not to speak up
The workers were warned by the Union not to speak-up, negotiate or “create trouble” for the management. They were also told that Singapore government had very strict laws and “action” would be taken against those who spoke up.
Some employees received a pay rise of S$1.00 when they became too “vocal.” Another worker received a more “generous” raise of S$7.00 after working eighteen months here. The workers feel, perhaps justifiably, that the company was merely mocking their requests for better pay.
Assembly work at Panasonic Singapore
We learnt from the workers that Panasonic Singapore does assembly of refrigerators and air-cons which are exported out of Singapore.
They speculated that Panasonic continued operating in Singapore despite the costs, because of labour laws that permitted exploitation of low wage earners and a favourable tax regime.
Is it beneath Singaporeans to work in factories?
Listening to the plight of these workers, it has become apparent to us that these low wage workers are sometimes preferred, because of the lack of support and backing from unions and the industry bodies in Singapore for such workers. A Singaporean worker, on the other hand would probably have better access, though limited and perfunctory, to unions in Singapore. 
An MP has said that most Singaporeans do not take these jobs because we Singaporeans are concerned about our dignity and often do not take up menial jobs as we do not want to lose face. Having seen the ruthless exploitation and the wages that Panasonic offers, it makes us wonder if the MP has lost touch with reality and if he seriously wants Singaporeans to work under these conditions.
The way forward
In another TOC article written by Jolovan Wham, “Exploitation of Migrant Workers = Exploitation of Low Wage Local Workers,” he has clearly shown how such exploitation can lead to depressed wage conditions in Singapore.
These foreign workers are taking a big risk by standing up and speaking up against their employer and our system.
Therein lies a lesson for Singaporeans – there are things that we can learn from them – that we will only be able to find solutions to our social ills by surfacing them in the right forums, by standing up against incompetency in whatever form it may be, and by being the agent of change.

The fact that 80% of people says that their company cannot survive without foreigners shows that:-
1. Our government are not attracting the right industries to Singapore.
2. Education planning does not meet the needs of the job market. This means that although the government has 100% control of all the Ministries, they are not communicating. If these Ministries are communicating, then it is fair to say that jobs created are not the types of jobs wanted by Singaporeans or that salary is just too low.

In a free economy, if demand exceeds supply for any specific resources, price will have to increase and then substitution effect will occur. In this case, since demand for labour is high, wages must rise until a point where employers (taking into account productivity increases) will use machines and technology to substitute labour. This will ensure that fair wages are paid and that resources are use efficiently. The use of foreign labour should be for the purpose of creating additional jobs for Singaporeans ie in positions where no Singaporeans have the experience or where foreigners start new businesses here employing Singaporeans. In the former, such positions should be an interim measure and the role should be taken over by a Singaporean in due course.
In our current economic model, cheap foreign labour is an alternative to employing Singaporean. What this does is that it discourages employers from embarking on productivity resulting in inefficient use of our local TALENT.


Singapore has no laws to protect “low wage workers” and employers exploit this as there is no “minimum wage” policy where trade unions keep mum as they do not dare offend the government, that is why Singaporean’s wages is depressed as they cannot compete with foreigners, which do not require the 16% CPF contributions, where the foreign worker’s levy has not addressed the issue to put Singaporeans on the same footing as foreigner, if PM Lee doesn’t get it, ask all his lackeys to explain to him, what we as Singaporeans demand it is handled properly, or we will cause mayhem.
– Contributed by Oogle.