Mr Khalid Alhogail, President of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP)
Mr Alan Chan and colleagues from the Land Transport Authority
Members of the industry and all our delegates and participants from around the world
1. May I on behalf of the Government of Singapore and also my parliamentary colleague Senior Minister of State Amy Khor, first extend a warm welcome to the biennial Singapore International Transport Congress & Exhibition. It has been four years since we last hosted this congress in person. Today, we are thankful and it thus gives us great joy to once again bring together urban transport policymakers, researchers and professionals from all over the world to meet in person and exchange ideas.
2. The pandemic has been a severe test for the land transport industry internationally. But the crisis also brought out the best in the transport sector, which adapted rapidly to continue providing essential services.
3. Here in Singapore, public transport ridership has recovered to about 88% of pre-pandemic levels. We were able to ramp up capacity quickly while maintaining service and reliability standards. This successful recovery was possible only because of the close collaboration that we have between the unions, the industry and the Government, and most importantly, the tireless efforts of our dedicated transport workers.
Challenges of the Future
4. As we emerge from the pandemic, we must also prepare for the challenges of the future. Chief among these is climate change. Land transport is Singapore’s third- largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 15% of our domestic emissions. Making our transport system greener will therefore be crucial to achieving our national climate commitments.
5. Secondly, we have an ageing population. By 2030, 1 in 4 citizens will be aged 65 and above in Singapore. Seniors as a group have more diverse commuting needs. Some may need more rest stops during their journeys. Others may require barrier- free access. We must meet these needs, and this has always been and will continue to be a top priority for us.
6. Thirdly, our land constraints will only become more pressing. Today, roads already take up around 12% of Singapore’s land area. We have 1.4 million parking lots for a stock of about 700,000 vehicles, not including motorcycles and heavy vehicles. All this land that is used for roads and parking spaces thus come at an opportunity cost, in terms of space that has been foregone, that could alternatively have been used for housing, for businesses, for amenities like parks.
7. There is a common solution to these three major challenges, and that is to double down on building an inclusive public transport system and make it the dominant mode of transport. This is encapsulated in the theme of this year’s congress, “Heartbeat of Mobility – Towards a sustainable, resilient and seamless public transport”.
Public Transport for all, for a Sustainable Land Transport System
8. Public transport is not only the most efficient, but it is also the most environmentally sustainable mode of mass transport. Compared to driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, taking an electric bus reduces our carbon footprint by 70%; and taking the metro, or as we call it the MRT in Singapore, reduces it by almost 90%. Hence, Singapore Government continues to invest heavily in the capacity and reliability of our public transport system.
9. Central to these efforts is the ongoing expansion of Singapore’s rail network, which will reach 360km by 2040 – a 50% increase from today. We will be opening new MRT stations almost every year over the next 10 years. In fact, 11 stations under Stage 3 of our Thomson-East Coast Line will be opened later this month. This will significantly improve public transport connectivity between the North and the city centre. With our continued investments in public transport, by 2040, 8 in 10 households will live within a 10-minute walk of a train station.
10. Our public transport system must also be inclusive. We strive to achieve a seamless commuting experience for all, including the elderly and those with mobility challenges. We have made significant progress over the years. Today, all our public buses and trains are wheelchair-accessible. All our MRT and LRT stations as well as bus interchanges have at least one barrier-free access route for wheelchair users to commute independently.
11. First-/last-mile connectivity is just as important as the main journey itself. So we have been retrofitting more pedestrian overhead bridges with lifts, focusing on areas near healthcare institutions and public transport nodes. Where feasible, we also aim to have more at-grade crossings for pedestrians. We have equipped crossings with Green Man+, which is a device that provides our seniors and persons with disabilities with an extended Green Man time when he or she taps a card on the reader. It can also emit sounds to assist those who are visually-challenged. Innovative features like these can make a real difference to the lived experiences of commuters.
12. Moving forward, we will do more to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists in our town design and architecture. This may require repurposing some road space or reducing vehicular traffic.
13. While public transport will be the main mode of transport for most people, most of the time, we recognise that there will be occasions where commuters might prefer to use a self-driven car. For example, when making journeys with multiple stops or heavy loads, or when ferrying senior family members to medical appointments, or children to classes.
14. However, in the context Singapore, universal car ownership is neither attainable nor sustainable. As part of our car-lite vision, we have adopted a policy of zero growth in our car population since 2018. So in that context, one mobility solution that allows us to provide broader access to car services, when they are needed or essential, is car-sharing. LTA is studying how this can be further encouraged, and we are looking forward to also receiving ideas from the industry on how we can make this another important addition to our spectrum of transportation choices in Singapore.
Electric Vehicle Adoption to Green Land Transport Sector
15. Even as we invest heavily in public transport, our second key strategy for greening the land transport sector is vehicle electrification.
16. Our vision is for all vehicles to be cleaner-energy vehicles by 2040. The bulk of these will likely be electric vehicles (EVs). Electrification will contribute significantly to reducing our land transport emissions. For those who need to drive, compared to driving an ICE car, an electric car will reduce one’s carbon footprint by about half. The carbon abatement will increase even more as Singapore’s energy mix becomes more sustainable with a greater share of renewables.
17. I am pleased that EV adoption has been growing robustly here in Singapore. Electric car registrations in 2022 so far have exceeded 10% of all new car registrations. This is almost triple the adoption rate in 2021. In fact, this September, the monthly adoption rate hit a new high of about 19%, probably influenced by several factors including the availability of new models. When we factor in hybrids, almost half of our new car registrations in 2022 so far have been cleaner energy vehicles. So we are well on our way to our goals in 2030 and 2040.
18. In anticipation of, and in support of growing EV adoption, we have made it a priority to accelerate the deployment of the national EV charging network. Since the award of the pilot URA-LTA charging points tender last year, LTA has worked closely with charging operators to commence operations at more than 60% of the designated sites.
19. Building on this experience, in April this year, LTA issued our first large-scale tender for the deployment of EV charging points in nearly 2,000 HDB carparks; these have been divided into 5 geographical zones, with 2 tender packages in each zone; we therefore have 10 tender packages in total, each with a validity of 10 years. To enhance network resilience, the tender has been structured to ensure that each geographical zone will have two EV charging operators. Successful tenderers will need to deploy and operate at least 3 EV charging points at each HDB carpark by the end of 2025. This means that up to 12,000 additional charging points island-wide will be available, and it means we will be making every HDB town EV-ready. This will address any range anxieties. Beyond 2025, tenderers will be able to deploy and operate up to 12 EV charging points per carpark, in tandem with demand. We also retain the flexibility to scale up deployment even further in future.
20. There has been a strong interest in this tender from a diverse pool of 11 EV charging operators: both local and foreign. LTA will announce later today the award of the tender to five successful tenderers, and will be giving more details. We look forward to working closely with the appointed operators in the coming years to grow our national charging network and to catalyse greater EV adoption.
21. To conclude, a major transformation of our transport system lies ahead of us. Innovation and partnership between the public and private sectors, and internationally across borders, will be critical ingredients in this effort. Today’s Congress and Exhibition is an important platform for us to make meaningful connections that can spark new ideas and collaborations. I want to wish all of you a very fruitful day ahead, and also, it is my pleasure to declare the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition open.
22. Thank you very much.