In Parliament

Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport, Dr Amy Khor at MOT Committee of Supply Debate 2022 on Building a Transport System for You, by You

09 Mar 2022In Parliament
1.     Chairman, I will speak about MOT’s efforts to improve Singapore’s land transport system, in four aspects. First, I will touch on how we have transformed the taxi and private hire car sector and made it more resilient. 

2.     Second, I will share on how we leverage technology to improve the resilience and reliability of our road network, and how we prepare for new shifts from these technologies, like vehicle electrification. Third, I will explain how we are reshaping our transport infrastructure by focusing on people and sustainability. Finally, I will conclude by sharing about our continual pursuit to enhance safety on our roads.

Taxi and Private Hire Car Sector

3.     Our land transport sector has remained resilient through the pandemic. This stems largely from the courage and dedication of our frontline workers.

4.     Taxi and private hire car drivers took extra precautions such as regularly disinfecting their vehicles even as ridership plunged. To tide them through, the Government, associations and operators provided targeted financial support. Close to 50,000 drivers benefitted from over $390 mil of support through the Special Relief Fund and COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund.

5.     Today, the situation has improved. The number of trips is about 75% of pre-COVID levels, up from about 25% during the Circuit Breaker period. We expect this to rise further, but will continue to monitor the situation closely. If necessary, we will step in again to support our drivers.

6.     Ms Yeo Wan Ling will be glad to know that we go beyond financial support. We will improve our service delivery to drivers, with the launch of the digital vocational licences in the second quarter of this year. Prospective drivers will receive their digital licences in about half the time, from around 20 days today. Drivers no longer need to worry about losing their vocational licences, as they can easily access it through Singpass. 

7.     We also agree that drivers should feel safe. Indeed, taxi and private hire car drivers are covered as public service workers under the Protection from Harassment Act. We stand ready to support drivers who encounter abusive passengers.

A Resilient, Future-Ready Land Transport Workforce

8.     Chairman, our land transport system is in the midst of a major transition – towards vehicle electrification. A wide range of industries will be affected, and workers such as workshop technicians must upskill to remain competitive. 

9.     The Government is therefore actively consulting OEMs, fleet owners and other industry partners to better understand the training needs of these workers. The aim is to equip them with the necessary skills to seize these new opportunities.

10.    Our taxi fleet will also be increasingly electrified – at least half of our taxi fleet will be electric by 2030, up from about 2% today. To prepare drivers, LTA will launch an updated training curriculum for taxi and private hire vocational licences this month. The refreshed curriculum will cover electric vehicles and the latest on-the-road competencies, such as the use of mapping and navigational tools.

11.    Our public transport workers will also receive support to be future-ready. As Mr Saktiandi Supaat and Mr Melvin Yong would know, we want to ensure that public transport workers, young or old, are ready to seize new opportunities arising from the greening of our fleet. The Singapore Bus Academy has conducted 17 runs of cleaner energy bus training programmes since December 2019, involving over 550 workers. 

Leveraging Technology

12.    While preparing for the future, there are core functions that LTA must continue to perform, such as the maintenance of the expanding rail, road, and footpath infrastructure. As Mr Gan Thiam Poh shared, technology can help us be more efficient. 

13.    One example is the use of video analytics and artificial intelligence in the maintenance of our 9,500 odd lane kilometres of roads. LTA has trialled the use of high-speed cameras mounted onto a van to automatically detect and report defects on the road since 2020. Defects are automatically logged backend to enable targeted, predictive maintenance. When fully implemented, the technology-enhanced process can reduce manhours by up to 30%. 

A People-Centric and Sustainable Transport Infrastructure Design Philosophy

14.    Beyond leveraging technology, we will build more sustainable transport infrastructure, in collaboration with our communities.

15.    The greenest way to travel is by walking, cycling and using public transport. That is why we have several Transit Priority Corridors, or TPCs. These corridors incorporate bus, cycling lanes and footpaths for all.

16.    We will add another 60 km of these corridors by 2030, including the longest TPC along the North South Corridor. This may not sound like a lot, but each TPC will become the key thoroughfare for the neighbourhood. An example of an upcoming TPC is along Sin Ming Avenue, between Upper Thomson Road and Marymount Road. Wider footpaths, new cycling paths and bus lanes will be incorporated. Residents in the area can more seamlessly ride a bus, walk or cycle to the amenities near them such as schools and the Bright Hill MRT station. 

17.    Mr Cheng Hsieng Yao will be glad to know that we have made good progress in reimagining our road spaces.
18.    We widened the footpaths along a busy stretch of Havelock Road, where there are several popular eateries. Residents and visitors now find it a safer and more comfortable walking experience.

19.    We have also transformed the Civic District as we closed Connaught Drive, Fullerton Road and Anderson Bridge to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians can now walk freely and enjoy the picturesque landscape, as they visit key landmarks such as the Padang and the Esplanade Park or various art and cultural institutes. 

20.    All without having to worry about traffic and fumes. This has also opened up opportunities for us to work with stakeholders in the Civic District to bring new arts and cultural activities outdoors to further enliven the area.

21.    It doesn’t stop there. Residents in Tiong Bahru, a popular neighbourhood, can look forward to wider footpaths and more community spaces. Works will begin later this month. 

22.    With your permission, Chairman, may I display some slides on the LCD screens. We will convert the roadside carparks along Seng Poh Road to wider footpaths. This will create a safer environment for pedestrians, especially for seniors and children. We will also begin pedestrianisation trials for Eng Hoon Street to create space for community use. 

23.    These ideas were shaped in consultation with the local community including residents, shop owners, and the Tiong Bahru Market and Hawkers’ Association. LTA will work with URA to co-create placemaking ideas with the local community that will be implemented through the Lively Places Programme. 

24.    Another identified area is Tanjong Pagar. URA had earlier announced the pilot Business Improvement District programme to drive placemaking efforts. To complement this, LTA will lead an inter-agency workgroup to study plans to enhance the pedestrian and cycling experience. Key areas of focus include connectivity to transport nodes, conversion of road spaces for wider footpaths and cycling paths, and community activities.

25.    These repurposing projects are connected by a common thread – the active input from local communities. Going forward, and in the spirit of inclusivity and citizen participation, this approach will be our modus operandi. 

Enhancing safety 

26.    Finally, enhancing safety remains a priority. 

27.    Illegally modified vehicles are dangerous to motorists and pedestrians, and many of them cause noise disturbances as Mr Gan pointed out. To ensure roadworthiness of vehicles and compliance to in-use noise emission standards, LTA mandates periodic vehicle inspections. 

28.    LTA also conducts joint enforcement operations with other agencies to flush out these vehicles. During a joint enforcement conducted in December 2021, LTA officers issued summons for 34 vehicles for offences including illegal modifications. Two workshops were charged last year for providing illegal modification services. 

29.    Our approach to safety must take cognisance of society’s changing needs. Given our ageing population, LTA has implemented Silver Zones at towns with a higher senior population since 2014. Key measures implemented include reduced speed limits, and narrower roads to slow traffic. They have proven effective, reducing the accident rate of senior pedestrians by about 80%.

30.    To date, LTA has completed 22 Silver Zones. LTA will implement another 28 Silver Zones by 2025, in towns such as Tampines, Ang Mo Kio and West Coast. 

31.    Agencies have also been working to improve the safety of workers transported on lorries. Mr Yong asked for an update on this.

32.    We understand the union’s and NGOs’ concerns, and likewise want to improve safety for workers. To protect lives and livelihoods, we need to take a balanced approach and make changes that are sustainable. This is why we consulted extensively on this issue, including with trade associations in the construction sector, such as Singapore Contractors Association Limited, the marine and process sectors, and private bus operators. 

33.    Indeed, their needs are different. Many small and medium enterprises, especially in the specialist trade, shared with us the constraints they face – they may need to transport a small crew with bulky equipment to several different locations in a single day. It will be operationally challenging and inefficient for them to use buses for workers, and separately transport their equipment in lorries.

34.    In addition, in our engagements with private bus operators, they have told us that there are simply insufficient private buses and drivers to transport the large number of workers in the manufacturing and construction, marine and process sectors, especially when other activities like tourism resume post-COVID.

35.    A full transition to buses, could require a doubling or even tripling of the number of large private buses in the industry today! Even if multiple and staggered trips are made, the demand for buses will still be significant. Furthermore, bus operators shared that the shortage of bus drivers would be an even more binding constraint. 

36.    These challenges are not all insurmountable, but we will need time to work through them with the industry and relevant agencies.

37.    The good news is that some firms have already shifted away from using lorries for some projects. For example, Tong Tar Transport was asked by a multinational construction company to ferry about 3,000 workers of their main and sub-contractors between dormitories to the construction site via buses.

38.    This was a large-scale endeavour that involved coordination among various bus operators, but shows that it is possible under the right circumstances. We encourage more in the industry to follow. We will facilitate the sharing of best practices, and will study the “conditions for success” to enable more companies to make the shift. 

39.    In the meantime, we have identified two areas to further improve the safety of workers on lorries: 

40.    First, the Government will require all lorries to be subjected to some form of speed management device. Today, speed limiters are already mandated for all goods vehicles with maximum laden weight, or MLW, of 12 tonnes and above. The Traffic Police, or TP, will be expanding the speed limiter regime to encompass all lorries of MLW above 3.5 tonnes. TP will be engaging the industry closely on this, and will release more details when ready. 

41.    Second, besides ensuring the relevant hardware is in place, it is crucial to ensure that lorry drivers operate safely behind the wheel at all times. MOM will introduce new measures to require employers to provide sufficient rest for their drivers, in particular those who play dual roles of a driver and ground worker. 

42.    MOM will also mandate that every lorry ferrying workers have a designated vehicle person-in-charge who will sit next to the driver. This person-in-charge will be empowered to stop the driver from driving if he deems the driver to be unfit for driving. 

43.    Some have also suggested requiring lorries to be fitted with seatbelts. We recently consulted the motor vehicle dealers and workshops again. Their feedback remains that retrofitting seatbelts would not be feasible and could in fact pose safety risks.

44.    How so, you may ask? Commercial lorries today are not designed for seatbelts to be installed in the rear deck, as the floorboards in the rear deck might not be sufficiently strong to keep the seatbelts anchored in the event of an accident. There are also liability issues for such modifications without the support of the lorry manufacturers. Without the industry being able to bring in lorries with seatbelts and vouch for their safety, it is not prudent to mandate this.

45.    Lastly, we have heard calls to mandate rain covers for lorry rear decks to shield workers from the elements. Most employers today already do so. But we will take this one step further. LTA, with the support of MOM, have decided to mandate the installation of such covers on all lorries used to ferry workers. We will share implementation details at a later date.

46.    We will continue to study further measures even as industries adapt and more companies move towards alternative modes of transport. Once again, I urge employers to do their part in ensuring the welfare and safety of their staff. 


47.    Chairman, in conclusion, we will improve our land transport system by adopting new technologies, upskilling our workers, and refreshing our approach to infrastructure design – all while maintaining safety at the forefront. Together we can look forward to a more sustainable, vibrant and safe land transport system!

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