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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Friday, November 24, 2017

Top priority for PM Lee

What is the top priority for PM Lee to address in 2018?

Five options are provided in The Wisdom of the Crowd. You can view the votes of the participants in

A more active role in Asean

PM Lee wants to play a more active role as chair of ASEAN in 2018.

61% of the people who voted in the Wisdom of the Crowd said that he should focus on solving the problems faced by Singaporeans daily.

Another 30% gave a negative view of his efforts. This made a total of 91% who do not like his initiative.

Only 9% said that his initiative will raise the profile of Singapore.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Revert to the old signal system?

Should SMRT revert back to the old signal system?

42% of the people who voted in the Wisdom of the Crowd said that we should continue with the new signal system and fixed the problems that arise. Another 33% said that it is not possible to revert to the old system now. This made a total of 75%.

The remaining 25% are in favor of reverting to the old system.

See a breakdown of the votes in

Accident in Joo Koon MRT station

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - What is your view about the train accident in Joo Koon MRT station?

68% of the people who voted expressed concern about the many breakdowns and incidents involving SMRT. Another 25% atttribute the problems to the "cultural issues". This make a total of 93%.

Only 7% express understanding and support for SMRT.

You can view the breakdowns of the votes in

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Allow the MRT to be closed in sections for thorough repair work

I proposed that a section (about 4 km) of the MRT system be shut down for about a week to allow for a thorough inspection, maintenance, repair and testing of all the components of the system.

During this time, 100 buses will be used to provide a bridging service to carry the passengers across the section that is closed down.

I would use this method to carry out the thorough repair work one section at a time and to complete all the work over one year.

Somebody asked - where can you find 100 buses?

I do not know why some people have a habit of looking for excuses not to take action. I checked Google and found that we have 17,000 buses in Singapore.

It should be quite easy to set find 100 buses that can be used for this bridging service. I am sure that the private bus owners would be delighted to provide this service, if the fee is attractive. We should also be able to use the public buses, as there should be some spare capacity.

Are the maintenance stff of SMRT productive?

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

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Asean should stay united

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - PM Lee said that ASEAN should stay united on issues of concern. What are your views?

75% of the people who voted said that this is not likely and gave two reasons.

You can see the breakdown of the votes in

Re-employ maintenance staff

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Should SMRT re-employ the maintenance staff that it retrenched earlier?

Most of the people who voted said that SMRT should re-employ these maintenance staff. They chose three options.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Monday, November 20, 2017

More taxes?

Is there a need for the government to raise taxes?

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Trans Pacific Partnership without America

I asked this question in the Wisdom of the Crowd - What are your views about the Transpacific Partnership without America?

41% of the people who voted said that it is time for the world to learn how to live without America. I take it to mean that they are in favor of the revised TPP involving 11 countries.

However, 34% said that the agreement is still not good for ordinary people and another 18% said that a TPP without America will not work. That made a total of 52%.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

Design of the Thale system

When one train collides into another train at Joo Koon station, the statement attributed it to a bug in the software where one essential element was removed.

This raised a bigger issue of concern.

It meant that the train did not have a local sensor to know that there is another large object ahead. It depend entirely on the software to control its movement.

Surely, this is a dangerous way to design the system?

The central control system should be responsible for setting the key parameters, e.g. maximum speed of the train, diversion to another track and other high level decisions.

The train should have its own sensor to avoid colliding with another large object ahead, which could be another train or a large foreign object that fell on the track.

The local sensors should also be responsible to stop the train at the exact spot on the platform and open the platform doors.

I do not know what are the benefits of using a central system to control the detailed aspect of the train, but I would consider the design to be unsatisfactory.

Why did we spend $195 million on the Thale system? What are the real benefits? They seem to create big safety concerns.

Do you agree?

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Increase in GST

When do you expect the government to increase GST?

Give your vote in

Prices at supermarkets

What is the difference in prices between Fairprice and Cold Storage supermarkets?

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Platform doors cannot open

There was an occasion where a SMRT train was delayed as the platform door cannot open. It was described as a "signal problem". This occured with the Downtown line, which was a new line.

We do not know if all the doors cannot open, or it only affects some doors.

If all the doors cannot open, the proper procedure is to proceed to the next station. It does inconvenience the passengers who wish to alight or board at the "faulty station" but it should not cause the whole line to be held up.

A better design is to have each door open individually, if the cabin is at the door. This is a local sensor. It is similar to the door of an elevator.

If some doors cannot open due to a faulty sensor, it should not affect the other doors of the train. The passengers can move to the doors that are operating properly.

It would be a bad design if the opening of the platform and train doors are controlled centrally. It is better for it to be controlled by local sensors.

I do not have information about the actual situation. Can someone enlighten me?

Tan Kin Lian

Cable problems in SMRT

I saw several postings about the problem faced by SMRT that cables are not labelled properly.

I searched Google and found that there are two types of cables - data cable and power cable.

I suspect that the problem probably lies with the data cable. Let me deal with it first.

I understand that there are equipment that allows two technicians to test the cables. One technican sends a signal down a cable and the other technician see which cable has the signal. The contact each other by mobile phone to coordinate their work.

It can be quite troublesome, if there are a few dozen cables to test, but it should be possible. The data cables in my home are tested by the technicians in this manner.

If there is a problem, it should be possible to identify the cable that is faulty. For example, we expect a signal to be received, but it was not. The signal is required to be sent from one end and to be received by at the other end. This can be traced and rectified. It is hard work but it can be done.

We still have the problem of the low quality of the cables. The longer term solution is to replace all the cables. In the contract to install the new cables, we should specify high quality cables and have a quality control inspection.

We probably do not need to have several hundred cables running all over the place. All the cables at each station should send their signals to a local server who can then communicate with the central system. Using this approach, we can handle tens of thousand of signals without using many cables.

Suppose there are 10,000 devices to be monitored in each station. All these devices send their signals to a server in the station. If any device is not working, i.e. no signal received or the wrong signal is received, the local technician can inspect the problem and fix it.

For example, if a local sensor is not working, it can be identified and fixed locally.

Take the case of the pumps that were not working in the flooded Bishan tunnel.

There must be some local sensor to detect the height of the water in the tunnel. If the water level is too high, an alert can be sent to the local server and the central server.

The central control room can check the monitor of the local station to make sure that the station staff is monitoring the signals.

The data that needs to be shared centrally can be send from the local server to the central server. These data are most likely to concern the trains passing through and also sensors on "foreign objects" that are found on the tracks.

I consider myself to be an expert in data base processing and storage. I understand what is needed to carry out the sensing and to send the data to a database for processing and for alerts to be sent out.

I wonder if SMRT and LTA have people who are able to use the data in a "common sense" way to handle the maintenance and inspection. Based on the problems that have occured recently, I think they do not have the experts who can take charge.

Maybe SMRT or LTA should contact me? I know that the new chairman of SMRT, Seah Moon Meng, is an expert in this area as well. I hope that he can address the issue. But he can also contact me to share ideas.

Tan Kin Lian

How to overcome problems with the MRT signal system

SMRT faced a lot of problems in introducing a new signalling system. It has led to many breakdowns and one serious collision due to "signal problems".

I asked the question - what are the signal problems. A few people explained that SMRT is trying to run two signal systems. The train has to change from one signal system to another system on the journey.

This is a bad way to implement the change. If I were consulted, I would never recommend this approach. It is based on my "common sense".

The experts may give some "technical reasons" for adopting their approach. They will find it very hard to convince me.

What is my approach?

Take a look at Google trying to implement a driverless car on the road. The technical problems that Google has to overcome is porbably ten times more complex that a driverless train running on a track.

How does Google approach it?

They develop a driverless car using sensors. The sensor will look for other driverless car on the road, but will also allow for manually driven cars and pedestrians and even dogs running on the road.

The driverless cars detect these objects and other driverless cars on the road.

If one lane contains only driverless cars, it can give the instruction for all the cars to travel at higher speed. If any driverless car has to slow down to change lane or avoid a "foreign object", the other cars get the signal and will slow down together.

The same approach can be used for the train system. It should cater for driverless train and mannually driven trains. It should also cater for people or dogs falling on to the track.

If all the trains are driverless, it is possible to get them to travel at higher speed. If some trains are manually driven, they will be travelling at a slower speed. The other trains will adjust their speed accordingly.

All the trains need to have sensors to detech "foreign objects" and to transmit their speed to the control room. The control room can then set the maximum speed that the train can travel.

If there is a stationary object ahead, the train has to stop. The speed of braking depends on the distance.

Under this concept, there is no need for any train to "change from one signal system to another system".

The AI in each train will take the data from its sensors, e.g. to look at "foreign objects" and use it to slow down when necessary. The speed of the train is sent to the control room.

The control room knows the speed of all the trains on the tracks and can indicate the speed that the train can travel. This speed has to be reduced, if necessary, based on any obstructions that the actual train may sense on the road.

Under my system, I would also expert some other sensors at the station and on the tracks to send signals of foreign objects on the track and whether these objects are stationary or moving. These signals can be processed in the control algorithm.

The ideal operating condition is that all the trains on the line are driverless and there is no foreign object. The trains can all travel fast and achieve the goal of 1 train arriving every 2 minutes at the station. We will reach this stage eventually when all the trains have been converted to the driverless system.

I may not be an expert in train control systems, but I have some "common sense". If any experts wishes to add their views to help the discussion, they are welcomed to do so.

Tan Kin Lian

Higher prices for HDB resale flats

Prices of HDB resale flats have increased. Is this good or bad for the public at large.

I asked this question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - Are you worried about the increase in prices of HDB resale flats?

84% of the people who voted said that the trend is worrisome. The government will use the higher prices to increase the price of new flats.

16% voted for three other options.

You can view the breakdown of the votes in

How to deal with crowded food courts

The Japanese has a system where customers stand and eat at food outlets. This takes less space. Customers also finish their meals quickly.

I offered this as an option to deal in a question in The Wisdom of the Crowd - how can we deal with crowded food courts?

Only 12.5% of the people who voted chose this option.

52% said that we should encourage customers to share tables at the food court.

Click here to view the breakdown of the votes.

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