Remarks by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran at the Official Opening of the Singapore Rail Discovery Centre (SRDC)

21 Nov 2022Speeches

Mr Alan Chan, Chairman of LTA,
Mr Seah Moon Ming, Chairman of SMRT,
Partners and friends of the public transport system,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.      Good morning.  I am delighted to join you at the launch of the Singapore Rail Discovery Centre (SRDC) at Mandai Depot – the first gallery dedicated to the story of Singapore’s rail transport system. 

2.      The Centre is a joint endeavour of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT. It aims to showcase the heritage of Singapore’s rail system; pay tribute to the people behind this essential service; and chart our vision for a green, innovative, and inclusive rail transport system. 

3.      Simply put, the Singapore Rail Discovery Centre connects the past, present, and future of rail in Singapore.  

Showcasing our heritage

4.      The idea of building a rail network in Singapore dates back to the 1960s.

a.      The initial proposal was to construct two main arteries – the North-South and East-West lines – that would connect the four corners of the island.

b.      It would be the single most expensive project to be undertaken in Singapore. 

c.      There was nothing pre-ordained about this decision. There were intense debates on the pros and cons of a rail network versus an all-bus network.

5.      Ultimately, in 1982, the decision was made to invest in a rail-based public transport system to support Singapore’s growth.

a.       In 1987, the first five MRT stations opened, not far from here, between Yio Chu Kang and Toa Payoh.

6.      Since then, our rail network has come a long way.

a.      Today, we have 192 stations across our six MRT and two LRT lines.

b.     Earlier this month, we opened Stage 3 of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), whose Operations Control Centre is here at Mandai Depot.

7.      Today, our rail system is an integral part of the daily lives of millions of Singaporeans – connecting them from home to places of learning, work and leisure - in a safe and reliable way. Our rail stations have shaped the landscape of our neighbourhoods, and the patterns in our daily lives.  The story of our rail system is in essence the story of Singapore – one that must be remembered and cherished by all Singaporeans.

8.      It is this story that the SRDC aims to tell, preserve and pass on to future generations of Singaporeans.

Paying tribute to our people

9.      This year, we celebrate 35 years of rail operations in Singapore.  I would like to congratulate all stakeholders – especially our workers and industry partners - on this milestone.

10.     If we have a world-class rail system today, it is the result of the untiring efforts and toil of thousands, past and present.  It is also testament to the steadfast partnership between the Government, industry partners, and our unions, which has enabled us to weather the ups and downs and keep our trains running.

11.     Even during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic, we pulled together to keep Singapore moving.

12.     It is apt that the SRDC pays tribute to our people and their indomitable spirit. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your commitment and contribution, especially during this trying period. 

Charting our vision for a rail system of the future

13.     As we look to the future, rail will continue to be the backbone of our public transport system. 

14.     Over the next decade, with the completion of TEL and the launch of the Jurong Regional Line and Cross Island Line, our rail network will expand by 50%. We are also scheduled to start cross-border rail services with the RTS Link Project in about four years’ time. The progress of these projects is on track despite setbacks like the pandemic.

15.     As our network grows in scale, complexity, and ridership, it is important that we ensure that our rail system remains resilient and best-in-class. I believe that we can do so in three ways.

16.     First, we must strive to be a greener rail transport system.

a.     Rail is one of the most environmentally sustainable forms of transport.

b.     Compared to driving an internal combustion engine car, taking the train reduces one’s carbon footprint by close to 90%.

c.     The expansion of our rail network allows us to encourage greener commutes. 

d.     At the same time, we are working closely with public transport operators to further reduce emissions, by upgrading systems, using more efficient fittings, and tapping on renewable energy. 

17.    Second, we must continue to innovate.

a.     I am glad that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the rail industry, across all aspects – operations, maintenance, and service performance. Operations, because of the efficiency gains that we can achieve; maintenance, which is sometimes underappreciated, but is important because that is what ensures the reliability of our systems. Lastly, service performance, because that is the interface that we have with our commuters on a daily basis; how we can enhance that interface and customer experience must always be of high priority. 

b.     As technology develops, the railways of tomorrow will be even more automated. 

c.     Our teams must continue to upskill themselves, improve processes, and leverage digital technologies to sustain high-quality rail services. 

18.    Finally, we must build a more inclusive rail system.

a.     Public transport systems must serve everyone – including persons with disabilities, seniors and families with young children, all of whom have diverse needs.

b.     This will be especially important as our society ages.

c.     We have made good progress and will do more.  

i.     Today, all our train stations are barrier-free.  At TEL stations, platform seats have arm supports and back rests to support those with mobility issues.

ii.    All new stations have a Hearing Enhancement System at the Passenger Service Centre to enable sounds to be transmitted more clearly to commuters wearing hearing aids.

iii.   We have also introduced Heart Zones at 11 locations where commuters can connect to help those in need.  Heart Zones will be progressively implemented at all MRT stations, bus interchanges and integrated transport hubs, where practical. 

d.     Even as we invest in inclusive infrastructure, we must continue to work closely with community partners, social service agencies, and operators to cater to diverse needs, and cultivate a caring commuter culture. This is something that the Public Transport Council has been working hard on, but is not just about one agency or entity, but about the collective effort. 


19.    The success of our rail system today is the culmination of a variety of factors – the bold decisions of our pioneers, the tireless contributions of our workforce, and the daily commuting choices of Singaporeans over the past 35 years. That is the story the SRDC seeks to tell younger Singaporeans and future generations of Singaporeans. 

20.    Looking ahead, I hope the Centre will encourage more to join the industry, and inspire us all to strive for an ever more green, innovative, and inclusive rail system. Let us dedicate ourselves to making that vision a reality. Thank you.


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