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Speech by Minister Khaw Boon Wan at the Official Launch of the Land Transport Industry Transformation Map

12 Feb 2018 Speeches

Friends and colleagues,

1.     We are here to launch the Land Transport Industry Transformation Map. Within the transport sector, we have already launched the Aviation and also the Maritime Transformation Maps.

Land Transport’s Importance

2.     The aviation and the maritime industries have a clear external dimension. They connect Singapore to the rest of the world. Without Changi Airport and PSA, Singapore’s external space will be severely diminished.

3.     The land transport industry’s external dimension appears to be rather limited, to just the Causeway and the Second Link, and hence, only to Peninsula Malaysia or Johor. But this will be an incorrect and unfair characterisation of land transport’s contributions to the Singapore economy and Singaporeans’ well-being. In fact, if you read the Hansard on our parliamentary debates for MOT, I think 85 per cent is about land transport, and only 15 per cent is on air and sea sectors. But if you ask me, all three sectors are equally important.

4.     Indeed, an efficient and reliable land transport network is an important enabler for our economy. In many cities, traffic jams are a daily occurrence and have become accepted as the norm. It inflicts a high cost on our quality of life of our people, adds to business costs, and reduces our economic competitiveness. Often, among the many factors they choose to come to Singapore, MNCs would cite the ease of doing business. They can conduct several meetings with their regional partners and fly off in the evening. Whereas, for example, if they were to go to any neighbouring capitals, this would be an impossible task. That is why we have placed equal priority on all the three transport industries. In fact, modern transport and logistics is increasingly leveraging on multiple modes of transport. With advances in data science and data analytics, logistics firms are competing to make sense of data to optimise the routing of goods, so as to achieve a faster, cheaper and more reliable delivery outcome. A weak link in a transport mode will weaken the others. All the transport modes must be in top form, to achieve an excellent transport ecosystem. Although we have launched the aviation and maritime transformation maps separately, we need to see the linkages between the different transport modes, and the importance of synergising them must be fully borne in mind.

5.     Last few days, I was busy with the Singapore Airshow where I had discussions with the exhibitors. It was a clear conclusion that many of them are not in a silo sector. For instance, Thales, which serves the aviation sector, to a certain extent the maritime sector, and definitely, the rail sector. So my latest suggestion to the project manager of the Airshow is maybe we should have multi-modal content, especially showing where the different modes synergise and enrich each other. Increasingly I noticed that there are many air shows around the world, and everybody tries to compete. To keep up, we must always find ways to differentiate ourselves that our Airshow is different and is future-ready.

6.     In Singapore, our road, bus and rail networks support the efficient movement of people and goods across the island. The public transport network is the backbone. Every day, 5 million commuter journeys are taken on our public buses and trains for work, school and leisure. Over 123,000 people work in the industry, with more than 21,000 employed in the public bus and rail sectors. The industry contributes to about 1.1 per cent of GDP, but the wider economic and intangible benefits from enhanced connectivity are even higher.

Land Transport Industry for the Future

7.     In 2013, the Land Transport Masterplan visualised a people-centred land transport system by 2030, with more connections and better service for all. To achieve this, the public bus industry transitioned to the Bus Contracting Model in 2016, while most rail lines are now on the New Rail Financing Framework. This allowed more resources to be pumped into the public transport network. Since 2013, the Government has spent more than $28 billion on the public transport system and over 5,000 people have joined the bus and rail sectors. Beyond this, the emergence of the Private Hire Car (PHC) industry has also brought in more than 40,000 people to be PHC drivers.

8.     While we expect the land transport industry to continue to grow, resources are ultimately finite. Our population is ageing rapidly, while land and fiscal resources will become more stretched. Globally, land transport is being disrupted by new technologies – artificial intelligence, automation, mobile connectivity and Big Data. Some of these technologies can be very unsettling -  “As a worker, can I fit in? Will I Iearn what to do with this? Will I lose my job?” However, there is always the upside to things.  We can also positively ride on them to enhance our land transport system and create even better jobs. But everyone must be prepared to change and ride on this transformation.

9.     This is at the heart of the Land Transport Industry Transformation Map, or ITM, which the LTA, transport unions and industry have come together to jointly develop.

Land Transport ITM: Getting Ready

10.    Our Land Transport ITM seeks to transform the industry to ensure it stays relevant in supporting Singapore’s future growth and meeting commuters’ very high expectations. To do so, it must be: Technology Ready, Workforce Ready and Ecosystem Ready. 

Technology Ready

11.    First, the land transport industry will leverage emerging technologies to improve productivity and deliver a transport system that is safe, efficient, reliable and comfortable for commuters. It should be “hassle free” – and this was my favourite phrase when I was in MOH, i.e. let’s make sure our hospitals are “hassle-free” for users, patients, caregivers and staff. Being “hassle-free” encompasses many ideas because every weak link will make it a big obstacle, especially when we get bigger with complexes. For instance, Singapore General Hospital is like a city. How do you ensure you won’t get lost even though you are not familiar with the place? Both staff and signage have to be friendly and helpful so you won’t get lost. Ditto for the land transport industry – how we use first- and last-mile connectivity, which is often the weakest link. As a tourist in China, I have experienced fantastic development and I have personally taken various rails joining various cities. The journey is very comfortable. But going to the rail station and walking out of the station, it is a very different world. So whatever little time savings you achieved with the high-speed rail, you would get lost in the first- and last-mile journeys. In our case, it will be how we can make it more pleasant, efficient and hassle-free, so that by default, public transport will be the most preferred mode. My personal SOP is to take the MRT train to evening functions in the city as it is the surest way to reach on time and is hassle-free.

12.    One such technology is Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), which MOT and LTA have been working closely with the industry to develop in Singapore. We are quite clear that we have to be at the forefront. Every city is finding ways to leverage on AV. So we are working together with some of the best in the world as well as our local start-ups to see how we can anchor the technology here in Singapore. AV trials first began in 2015, and we have made good progress since. I was in Beijing for an ICAO-related function and US Secretary of State of Transport asked to see me; He wanted to know what Singapore is doing about AV after reading a KPMG report which puts Singapore on the world’s map. For instance, nuTonomy decided to start up some of their operations here after we facilitated and ensured our regulations are start-up-friendly. The technology is developing rapidly, and we are preparing for a pilot deployment of on-demand AV buses in a few years’ time for commuters in Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to completely change the way we travel, and I am excited by the possibilities and benefits they will bring to commuters.

13.    The adoption of technologies in the workplace, such as smart sensors and robotic drones will also increase productivity and improve workers’ lives. For instance, railway maintenance can be enhanced using condition monitoring instruments. These smart sensors monitor the performance of the rail network, and flag out anomalies so that they can be fixed before a fault can occur. Robotic drones will also take over dangerous or repetitive tasks. For example, rail and road tunnel inspections can be performed with greater ease and accuracy using aerial drones. Aerial drones are also deployed at selected Thomson-East Coast Line worksites to help our engineers monitor construction progress and identify defects through aerial footage. 

Workforce Ready

14.    Second, with the expansion of our public bus and rail systems, we expect the current workforce of 21,000 to grow by 8,000 new jobs by 2030. This is absolutely a sunrise industry where we need more workers with various skillsets. Technology will also hasten the move towards higher value-added transport jobs for more Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs).

15.    To ensure that our public transport workers keep pace with industry development, we will up-skill workers, and re-skill them. This will be done through our institutes of higher learning, as well as centralised academies such as the Singapore Bus Academy and Singapore Rail Academy. Over 2,200 participants have benefited from Bus and Rail Academy courses to date. Workforce development programmes will also be mapped to the Public Transport Skills Framework, which has been developed to provide a clear pathway for skills upgrading and mastery. We expect to launch the Skills Framework very soon. Workers need to be able to see a little into the future on the type of skills needed. So the framework, which is a joint effort among the academics, the industry, and the government, is our best projection of the future. While the future may turn out differently, at least we have a pathway forward to work towards to.

16.    LTA will also work closely with union and industry partners to identify manpower gaps and develop targeted transition measures for public transport workers who are at-risk of technological disruption. To meet the industry’s long term manpower needs, talent management and engagement efforts will also be enhanced to attract a pipeline of skilled workers and retain in-service staff. This includes structured internship opportunities for fresh hires, as well as job conversion and bridging schemes such as the Professional Conversion Programme for those considering mid-career change.

Ecosystem Ready

17.    Finally, to transform successfully, our local transport ecosystem must work together as one cohesive ecosystem. We must deepen the existing tripartite partnership between the government, union and industry. This, in fact, places Singapore ahead of many other countries. LTA will help shape the public transport ecosystem. Beyond its traditional role as transport planner and regulator, LTA will partner with agencies such as IE Singapore, SPRING and EDB to take on an industry development role as part of the ITM. I see LTA as a major platform and agency that will help push Singapore into this future I visualise and crystallise it under the car-lite narrative – to show that this is a possible future that Singapore could have and for car-lite to be the default preference for all Singaporeans. Everything must be in perfect condition, for example, bus, rail, first- and last-mile connectivity and the workers. If we could do all these, the future will be very exciting. It is totally within our grasp. This will entail LTA having a greater hand in developing and anchoring local manpower and enterprise capabilities, particularly in mission-critical areas such as the domestic rail sector.

18.    As a start, LTA will set aside $25 million over five years for the Land Transport Innovation Fund to encourage mobility-related research and technology trials. This is a very important component in all our ITMs – to look into the future and be part of that future. I think it will ensure a good future for Singapore as well as the economy. This is also an interesting field where you can make a difference in how people move about and their quality of life. This includes collaborative projects between LTA and local industry partners such as ST Kinetics, which is working on Autonomous Robot Movers for our train depots and augmented reality devices for railway training, maintenance and inspection.


19.    In closing, let me thank our union and industry partners for their strong support in drawing up this ITM. The content of the ITM is not earth-shaking as parts of it have already been discussed. But more importantly, it is the process of achieving this ITM. It is not an MOT or LTA ITM, but it is our ITM – unions’, public transport operators’, and the regulator working together to see what the future can be. Thank you and Happy New Year!