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Speech by Mr Lui Tuck Yew at visit to DTL1 Chinatown Station on 17 January 2013

17 Jan 2013 Speeches

GPC Members for Transport,
Mr Michael Lim, Chairman of LTA,
LTA Board Members,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.


1.     Thank you for joining me at the Downtown Line 1 Chinatown Station.

2.     Downtown Line 1 is on track to open by the end of this year. Downtown Line Stages 2 and 3 are also on schedule for completion in 2015 and 2017. The Downtown Line, at 42 kilometres in length, will be the most significant line to be added to our rail network since we started our MRT journey in the 1980s. It will also be the first of the new MRT lines resulting from the Land Transport Masterplan (LTMP) 2008, in which we mapped out our plans to double our rail network from 138 kilometres then, to about 280 kilometres by around 2020.

3.     With each new segment, commuters will experience greater connectivity and shorter travel times. DTL1 will increase the density of stations in the CBD area so that more than 60% of buildings in the CBD area will be within 400m of an MRT station. When Downtown Line 2 is completed, residents in Bukit Panjang will take just 30 minutes to reach the heart of the city, compared to 60 minutes today. I hope this will encourage even more car owners to make the switch to public transport, as travelling by rail then will probably be faster and certainly cheaper than driving.

Review of Land Transport Masterplan 2008

4.     Besides new rail lines, we have and will continue to enhance capacity in our public transport system to support added travel demand on the rail network. We have increased the number of weekly train trips by 30% since 2008. Over the next 3 to 4 years, we will be adding more trains and buses to our public transport system to shorten waiting times and reduce overcrowding. There will be 25% more trains for the North-South and East-West Lines, 60 to 70% more trains for the North East Line and the Circle Line, 70% more trains for the Bukit Panjang Light Rail Transit (LRT), and 40% more trains for the Sengkang-Punggol LRT. To complement the rail network, we have started to roll out the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (or BSEP), which will add significant capacity to the bus network over the next 2 to 3 years.

5.     But while we have made progress in the five years since we launched LTMP 2008, much more remains to be done. When I came to MOT in 2011, I asked LTA to undertake a fundamental review of the Masterplan because I saw further changes in our environment.

6.     First, our population and economy will continue to grow, and more people and goods will need to be transported. Public transport capacity to cater to this increase in travel demand requires time to build. It typically takes 10 to 12 years to plan, build and open a rail line. Therefore, we must plan well ahead, plan well and implement promptly.

7.     Second, commuter expectations and norms are changing. We need to take a more commuter-centric approach in how we plan our public transport system and policies. Clearly, not only do commuters expect to be connected to more places, they also desire shorter waiting times and more reliable services. We will also need to help shape these norms as they affect operational optimisation. These include more effective travel demand management, to spread out travel demand across more hours in the day, rather than bunching during peak periods. We will therefore do more to encourage commuters to travel outside the peak hours, and integrate transport objectives with workplace initiatives like more flexi-work and flexi-time arrangements. Finally, we also need to ensure that our transport system is responsive to fundamental demographic changes, such as an ageing population.

8.     Third, as we continue to grow our city, we will face even tighter land constraints, and difficult trade-offs that affect land use and carry cost implications. For instance, the Pearl Centre and the Thomson Post Office will have to make way for the upcoming Thomson Line. In building our public transport system, we will need to take in diverse views from various stakeholders, and carefully balance these views with the larger public good. On the other hand, our response cannot always be to build more lines, or build more roads. Today, the surface land taken up by roads is already at a very high 12%, compared, for example, to 14% for housing. We need to find other options, such as pursuing a more aggressively de-centralisation strategy so that there is a better geographical balance of jobs and people, and being more creative with our use of space in our bus and rail depots.

9.     As part of the Masterplan review, LTA reached out to Singaporeans from all walks of life to gather views on how to improve their travel experience. We collected more than 1,700 pieces of feedback, and met with more than 400 people in focus group discussions. Through the conversations, we identified three key aspects that commuters valued most. These are More Connections, Better Service, and An Inclusive, Liveable Community. Today, I will cover only the first aspect More Connections. At future events in the coming weeks, I will speak on Better Service and Inclusive, Liveable Community.

More Connections

10.   We will connect you to more places, where you work, live and interact. With the completion of the Land Transport Masterplan 2008 rail lines, almost everyone who lives or works in the city will be able to walk to an MRT station within five minutes. By 2030, we will have an even denser network of rail stations both within the city and outside. More areas, such as West Coast, Loyang, Jurong Industrial Estate and Punggol North, will be connected to the rail network. Besides faster and more convenient travel, we will also have a more resilient network that can better mitigate disruptions in our MRT system, and also allow us to shut down parts of the network for longer durations to carry out improvement works. Let me now take you through a preview of the future in 2030, on the new rail lines and extension lines that we will roll out.

Expanding our rail network

New rail lines to be built

11.   Cross Island Line and Jurong Region Line. We will build a major MRT line, the Cross Island Line (CRL), to run across the span of Singapore. Starting from Changi, it will pass through Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, before reaching Sin Ming. Continuing westwards, it will serve areas such as Bukit Timah, Clementi, West Coast, and terminate at Jurong Industrial Estate. Approximately 50 kilometres in length, which is about the entire width of Singapore, the Cross Island Line is targeted to be completed by around 2030. As another alternative to east-west travel, the CRL would relieve the load on existing lines such as the East-West Line and North East Line, bringing more options to all commuters and significantly shorter journey times. The eastern leg of the CRL will also include a segment that extends into the centre of Punggol. Residents in Punggol will be able to travel to Pasir Ris a popular and much demanded travel route in only 10 to 15 minutes, compared to a 40-minute bus journey today.

12.   The approximately 20-kilometre Jurong Region Line (JRL) will provide greater connectivity to areas such as Jurong West, Jurong Industrial District, West Coast, Choa Chu Kang and new developments in Tengah. It will connect these areas to main activity nodes in Boon Lay, Jurong East and the future Jurong Gateway. Opening by around 2025, the JRL will serve a diverse range of commuters, including students from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), workers in Jurong Industrial Estate, including those working on Jurong Island, and residents in the West. Commuters from the North will also be able to bypass Jurong East and enter the Jurong region directly via the JRL. This will not only shorten their travel times, but also redistribute ridership out of the heavily-used Jurong East Interchange Station.

New extensions to the Circle Line, North East Line and Downtown Line

13.   In addition, we will build extensions to the Circle Line, the North East Line and the Downtown Line. First, we will close the gap in our Circle Line, linking HarbourFront to Marina Bay Station with Circle Line Stage 6 (CCL6) by around 2025. CCL6 will provide another avenue for commuters in the west to travel directly to the CBD. With the new stations on the CCL6 and Thomson Line, we estimate that more than 90% of buildings in the CBD will be within 400 metres of an MRT station by around 2025. Finally, transfers to other rail lines via the Circle Line will also be much shorter. For instance, a commuter going from Kent Ridge to Marina Bay today has to make two MRT transfers via three lines. With the closed loop of the Circle Line, he can reach his destination in a single train ride, and enjoy about 15 minutes of time savings.

14.   Second, we will extend DTL3. This will connect the Downtown Line, East-West Line and Eastern Region Line. It will provide more travel options and better connectivity for residents and those working in the eastern corridor. More critically, this extension strengthens the resilience of our rail network, as commuters can more easily re-route themselves in the event of a disruption.

15.   Third, we will extend the North East Line by one more station to serve Punggol North. It will be built in tandem with the developments there, so that future residents in Punggol North will have train access to the city centre as well as other parts of Singapore. This will make Punggol North an even more attractive location to stay and work, which is part of the Governments overall de-centralisation strategy.

16.   Finally, we are studying the feasibility of adding a new station on the North-South Line in between Yishun and Sembawang, in anticipation of future developments in the area.

Doubling our rail network to 360 kilometres by 2030

17.   Together with the existing and committed rail lines, we expect that by 2030, we would have developed a very comprehensive rail network. When the new projects are completed, the size of our rail network will double from 178 kilometres today, to about 360 kilometres in 2030, which will give us a rail length that is higher than Tokyo or Hong Kong today, and comparable to New York City. Many more households will be served by the rail network, and about 8 in 10 households will then be within a 10-minute walk of a train station.


18.   Let me conclude. Our vision for land transport in the coming years is to have more connections, better service, and to support an inclusive, liveable community. We will invest heavily to achieve this. We will do our best to provide Singaporeans with a much better travel experience, and in doing so, contribute to a better quality of life for all of us. I hope Singaporeans will continue to support us and work with us as we strive towards this vision. I understand the occasional frustrations of commuters, and I give you my assurance that my team and I are putting in maximum effort to resolve them. The improvements in rail infrastructure will support Singapore's long-term development and ensure that the rail network will have more than the capacity needed to meet the expected increase in public transport ridership in the next two decades. We may not be able to effect all the improvements overnight, and so I ask that you bear with us in the process, but surely, over the next few years, in particular when the new rail lines and new trains come into operation, Singaporeans will feel a marked difference.