My Parliamentary colleagues and fellow Grassroots Advisers,Back
Friends and colleagues from the Land Transport Authority as well as other public agencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for joining us this afternoon at the worksite of the East Coast Integrated Depot. For many of you, this is probably an unfamiliar habitat, coming from the West and other parts of Singapore, not to mention the construction site. Let me explain our reasons for the choice of venue. Once completed, this will be the first facility in the world to integrate four depots – three for trains and one for buses – all in a single site.
2. The question is, why is this significant? A train depot is a critical component of our overall rail system infrastructure – it is where maintenance and repair works are done, and trains are stationed overnight, before moving out the next day for passenger service. At present, we have more than 400 trains in operation, supported by nine train depots all over Singapore. As you can imagine, the land take is significant; we must therefore employ innovative solutions to manage the increasing need for such depot space as our rail system expands.
3. When completed in 2025, the East Coast Integrated Depot will combine the train depots serving three MRT lines – the Downtown Line Depot which will be located underground, the Thomson-East Coast Line Depot which will be at-grade and the East-West Line Depot elevated. Through careful engineering and design, we are able to stack the MRT lines, each with different numbers of train cars, and have all three depots operate independently. This results in significant savings in both capital and operational costs through shared foundations and columns, and common facilities and systems. Most importantly, this will save us about 44 hectares of land, or approximately the equivalent of 60 football fields, freeing up for housing, commercial and other uses that benefit Singaporeans.
4. This project also vividly illustrates the central challenge that we face – in the Ministry of Transport and indeed as a whole society – that is, how to make the best use of our limited land resources to provide the essential transport infrastructure that will support the needs and aspirations of all Singaporeans?
Connecting people, places and possibilities
5. This was the central motivation behind the Government’s decision to invest in a mass rapid transit system. We first rolled out the MRT system in 1987 with five stations, from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh. Today, we have almost 190 stations across our six MRT and two LRT lines.
6. The case for that major public infrastructure decision, taken four decades ago, has been validated through the years, and informs our decisions to invest in our transport infrastructure for the future.
7. Transport infrastructure serves as a catalyst for development and growth, connecting residential towns, industrial developments and commercial areas, to support social and employment needs. Our plans for future developments must reconcile the growing and diverse needs for connectivity at scale, with our desire to preserve, if not enhance, the liveability of our city and urban landscape. A comprehensive rail system is the foundation for such a transport architecture.
8. So, we are expanding our rail network from 245km today by a further 50%, to around 360km by the early 2030s.To put it simply, in the coming decade, our rail network will expand at a scale unprecedented in our nation’s history.
Unveiling of the Cross Island Line (CRL) Phase 2 Alignment
9. This brings me to another important reason for today’s event.. Today, I am very pleased to announce that we have finalised the alignment for Phase 2 of the Cross Island Line. It comprises six underground stations at Turf City, King Albert Park, Maju, Clementi, West Coast, and Jurong Lake District. CRL Phase 2 will provide greater public transport access to existing and new growth areas in the west, such as Jurong Lake District and West Coast, and also strengthen the connectivity between the eastern, western and north-eastern parts of Singapore.
10. As our eighth MRT line, the Cross Island Line will significantly enhance the network effect of our rail system. It will have interchanges with all the radial lines, giving commuters more travel route options. Phase 2 of the alignment will interface with the Downtown Line at King Albert Park and the East-West Line at Clementi. This is in addition to the interchange stations along Phase 1 of the alignment, at Bright Hill, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Pasir Ris. Many Singaporeans will benefit from shorter and more direct journeys, and faster travel times. Today, it takes just over an hour via a rail-bus transfer to get from Hougang to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. With the CRL, this will be reduced to a 35-minute direct trip; a 45-minute bus journey from Bukit Panjang to West Coast today would be possible in 25 minutes via rail. So there are significant benefits in terms of time savings and convenience for commuters.
11. By connecting key commuting corridors across Singapore, the Cross Island Line will help to redistribute passenger movement across rail lines, thereby improving the overall public transport experience. And the wider and denser network will also strengthen resilience at the system level.
12. The Cross Island Line will also serve as a key enabler for our economy and plans for the future. It will support new and vibrant hubs of economic activities outside the Central Business District, this includes the Jurong Lake District, Punggol Digital District and Changi region, and it will also advance our polycentric urban planning strategy by bringing jobs closer to homes.
Choice, Climate, Cost
13. In many ways, our decision to build the Cross Island Line epitomises the benefits, costs, and trade-offs we must assess and accommodate in building our transport system.
14. Our starting point is to make public transport the choice mode of commuting. In this regard, the Cross Island Line will improve connectivity, reliability and convenience, and make the switch from private to public transport more attractive.
15. We also want to encourage public transport as it is an environmentally sustainable commuting mode that can serve our urban mobility needs. As an individual, if we choose to take the MRT instead of driving an internal combustion engine car, we can reduce our carbon footprint by almost 90%.
16. We also had to decide whether to construct the CRL above or below ground. This involved weighing the financial cost of an underground system, which is costlier to build, operate and maintain, versus the opportunity cost of building above ground at the expense of other land uses like housing and green spaces. In this context, the Cross Island Line is a massive undertaking, being our longest fully underground rail line, traversing the entirety of Singapore.
17. There was also the consideration of rising fiscal costs associated with our growing asset and operating base. Taxpayers, through the Government, currently subsidise public transport services by more than $2 billion annually. As we invest further in our rail and other public transport infrastructure, apart from the capital expenditure, the cost of asset replacement, operations and maintenance will inevitably rise. How we share that cost between commuters, as well as current and future generations of taxpayers; and how the government, public transport industry, and commuting public work together to build an efficient, inclusive and sustainable transport system, must be at the heart of our social compact going forward.
Moving forward together
18. Indeed, these challenges of “Choice, “Climate, and “Cost” do not just apply to our rail system but also to the myriad of other decisions that are needed, as we shape, re-shape and grow our transport system.
19. The Government is one key stakeholder in this endeavour. But our citizens, workers, enterprises, and industry also have an important stake and role. The Forward Singapore exercise is therefore a timely opportunity for all of us to come together to refresh our transport priorities. To that end, my colleagues and I, at the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority, have embarked on a series of dialogues with all stakeholders, which will continue over the weeks and months to come. I would like to thank the participants whom I met at last Thursday’s first focus group discussion for sharing their needs, experiences and ideas, as well as their vision and aspirations for our land transport system. It was a candid and invigorating discussion and there were very interesting insights and ideas that came from just that one focus group discussion. I think we are in for a very productive series of engagement sessions. The enthusiasm and positive energy was palpable, and I want to urge and invite all Singaporeans to participate in the upcoming engagements, and through other channels, so that we can jointly forge a social compact for the future of land transport in Singapore.
20. I want to conclude by thanking everyone that have been involved in making this project, both the depot here, as well as Cross Island Line, one that really meets our needs and aspirations – the planners, people at LTA, our contractors, and residents who sometimes have to endure some short term inconvenience for the longer term benefits, and indeed, all of you, for your collective support without which we would not be able to do the work that is so essential for Singapore’s future. I am confident that together, we can build a sustainable transport system that meets the needs and aspirations of all Singaporeans today and well into the future.
21. Thank you.