Published March 10, 2007

Big public transport revamp with population growth

Ministry plans to widen rail network and improve quality of buses and trains


A GROWING population requires big moves to improve the public transport system, particularly extending and improving the MRT, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said in Parliament yesterday.

Speaking during the debate on land transport, Mr Lim said he aimed to make public transport so attractive that it would be seen as not just catering to people with no other means of getting around, but converting those with access to their own private transport too.

To do this, the Transport Ministry plans to expand the rail network, give buses priority on the roads, raise the quality of buses and trains, enhance choices for commuters and improve connectivity and accessibility.

To expand the rail network, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is conducting feasibility studies for a new 33-station Downtown Line that will link the eastern and north-western corridors to Marina Bay.

Other possible rail lines and extensions are also being considered.

The ministry envisages that the current rail network of 138km will need to be at least doubled to cater for a 50 per cent increase in the population.

The expansion plans will take the MRT to areas that are currently not well served, enhance connectivity, reduce travel time, and relieve congestion on heavily used routes.

Other steps that will be taken include giving greater priority to buses on the road to help improve the reliability of bus services and reduce delays.

A pilot scheme for a full-day bus lane on Orchard Road will be extended next month to other areas in the CBD, like Eu Tong Sen Street, Hill Street, Victoria Street, Bras Basah Road and Somerset Road.

Other options to boost bus traffic efficiency include the possibility of making it mandatory for motorists to give buses the right of way.

The problems of crowding on buses and the MRT, long waiting times for buses and long journey times on public transport will also be addressed through more stringent quality-of-service standards for basic bus services.

To improve travel efficiency, the LTA is working with both the bus operators to bring in a system to display real-time bus information at selected bus stops. A trial system will begin from the middle of this year.

The LTA has also provided funding support for TransitLink to develop an electronic bus journey planner to ensure seamless and integrated services across the different operators.

There are also plans to expand the number of public transport choices available to commuters by allowing more premium bus services for commuters who want a more direct and comfortable ride.

In this respect, the Public Transport Council recently simplified its premium bus service guidelines to encourage operators to provide more services, a move which has been met with a good response.

There is also an aim to make the system barrier-free.

By 2010, as many as 40 per cent of the buses will be wheelchair accessible while efforts will be made to increase barrier-free access to the rail network.

The minister added that a study has been commissioned to look at the fundamental public transport industry structure and related competition issues as well as to see how the public transport system can be made more efficient and integrated, while giving commuters more choices.