Got this piece of article in between talks… erm, coincidentally by the same minister who made the “taxi drivers now make S$318 a day” comment. I’m not trying to discredit him or do anything malicious… just that the previous article on how much taxi drivers earn put me in stitches. Seriously, it’s either the something was left out in his speech/comment, or the statisticians sabotaged him, or the reporters didn’t like him.

But for once, this seemed like good news. =)

IN what could well be Singapore’s most aggressive public transport infrastructure plans ever, the Government is spending $40 billion to double the MRT network by 2020.

By then, Singapore will have 278km of rail link, from 138km today. Its network density will rise from 31km per million residents today to 51km per million – surpassing what Hong Kong and Tokyo has today and comparable to current densities in places like New York and London.

Announcing these targets on Friday as part of a sweeping Land Transport Review, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said two new lines will be built – barely nine months after he gave the go-ahead to the $12 billion 40km Downtown Line.

One, the Thomson Line, runs to the left of and almost parallel to the North-east Line. It is 27km long and links Marina Bay in the south to Woodlands in the north. To be completed in 2018, it will have 18 stations, in places such as Ang Mo Kio, Kebun Baru, Sin Ming, Thomson and Kim Seng.

The other is the Eastern Region Line, which is a southern loop of the Downtown Line’s eastern wing. It is 21km long and links Marina Bay to Changi. This line has 12 stops in places such as Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Bedok South and Marine Parade, and is scheduled for completion in 2020.

‘We expect our rail network to carry three times as many journeys, rising from today’s 1.4 million a day to 4.6 million in 2020,’ Mr Lim said.

Existing MRT lines will also be lengthened. The North South Line will dip towards Marina South, with one station, and should be ready by 2015. Elsewhere, the East West Line will go west to serve the Tuas Industrial Estate. Also to be ready in 2015, it is 14km long and dotted with five stations.

More immediately though, Mr Lim said residents can look forward to riding one stage of the Circle Line from middle of next year. This stage is a five-station section linking Bartley to Marymount, with interchanges at Serangoon and Bishan.

Completion of the Downtown Line has also been brought forward by two years to 2016.

These accelerated plans are just the beginning. Minister Lim revealed that the Government will be working towards a new financing framework for rail infrastructure that will see future lines being built sooner. Instead of assessing the viability of new lines in isolation, the Government will now evaluate its contribution to the entire network. As such, future MRT projects could be implemented ‘a few years earlier… so long as the entire rail network remains viable’.

Like changes he announced for buses last week, the minister said the Government will introduce more competition to the rail industry. Operating contracts will be 10 to 15 years long, instead of the current 30-year tenures. This is to keep the operators on their toes so that they keep service standards high.

In line with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s promise that no one would be left behind, accessibility to wheelchairs and prams will likewise be speeded up. By 2010, access to MRT stations, taxi and bus shelters will be barrier free within a 400m radius. Because there are 4,500 bus-stops here, practically all walkways will be accessible to the handicapped, elderly and those using baby prams.

And by 2010, 40 per cent of public buses will be wheelchair accessible, with the rest to follow by 2020.

The minister took the opportunity to announce other transport-related initiatives during a visit to the Kim Chuan MRT Depot on Friday morning. These include:

• July: A single telephone number for booking a cab.

• March: Six-month trial for foldable bicycles to be allowed onboard MRT trains during off-peak periods.

• Next year: Better bicycle parking facilities at MRT stations, starting with Tampines and Pasir Ris.

• March: Road signs warning motorists of cyclists in popular bicycle routes.

• 2014: All taxis to meet Euro IV emission standards.

• 2020: All buses to meet Euro IV emission standards.

On what commuters can look forward to in the coming years, Mr Lim said: ‘By 2020, people who live or work in the city and those who shop and find enjoyment there will be able to reach an MRT station within 400 metres on average, a mere five-minute walk.

‘Travelling across the city will be a breeze, because we will have a dense network of MRT stations like what we see in London and New York today.’

He added: ‘With a vast rail network and a bus network that works in partnership with rail, commuters will have fast and reliable connections that bring them where they want to go. A gamut of transport choices including premium buses, taxis and cycling among others, will enable different needs to be met.’

The Minister said as society evolves and people’s needs change, Singapore’s land transport offerings must keep pace as well as encompass the diversity of needs and aspirations.

‘To achieve this, we will plan our land transport system around people, not the other way round. This then will be our touchstone in the planning of land transport policies going forward,’ he promised.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 25th January 2008



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