The early breakdowns are usually due to the operator being relatively naive. The later breakdowns are due to the expected wear and tear when the machine nears the end of its lifecycle.
By referring to the bathtub effect, Minister Lui is essentially telling us that the SMRT had synced the train systems so well that the old system was failing at the same time as the new ones were. The sides of the two bathtubs were in perfect alignment. Well done, guys! You were precise about this, at least.
There is actually another interpretation of the bathtub effect. This is a metaphor used more by environmental scientists. Essentially here, the bathtub represents that container where the water level is determined by the rate of water flowing in and the rate of water draining from it.
The ENV people know this very well as this is the cause of the frequent 'ponding' observed in recent times, during heavy rainfall.
This is actually a more important interpretation of the bathtub effect, because it explains so many of the problems we see in Singapore nowadays. So much of the Singaporean angst, whether it is about housing, transport, healthcare or education is really about the water level in the bathtub. The capacity of these systems are woefully inadequate compared to the demand. So the water overflows from the bathtub.
One can't help wondering why this is so. Considering the 'excellence' of our civil service and that the government has had uninterrupted power for such a long time, it seems a critical neglect that they have gotten the models all so screwed up. Why they did not anticipate the rate of population growth and did not build enough capacity to cater for this growth, I simply cannot understand. Was it because all these scholars were so blind that they did not see the threat of overflow? Or was it that they were all only concerned about short term KPIs? Let the bathtub overflow on someone else's watch!
So much for a government that claims credit for long term planning. So, thank you Minister Lui for sharing with us this important metaphor. Now we understand why the bathwater is ponding all over the living room floor.