Singapore is world-famous thanks to its bustling business and stunning architecture, but as well as that, it is the brilliance with which its layout has been designed. The island country is unique in that it is fully urbanised, which raised challenges in its construction, such as how to make sure the city was pleasant to live in rather than overwhelming. This challenge was carefully addressed in its design; it was planned and constructed with the aim to arrange the city in a series of self-contained neighbourhoods, so that it is rarely necessary to travel far across the island for amenities. This connected series of units makes sure that Singapore feels warm and community-led, with residents knowing their neighbours and feeling situated within their local areas, instead of lost amongst a vast and unfeeling metropolis. The design also greatly reduces traffic, and as a result, public transport is the leading method of travel across the country.
Responsible for managing this necessity is Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA), a statutory board under the Ministry of Transport. LTA is responsible for all land-based transport within the city, including the planning, design, building and maintaining of all infrastructure and systems. The body’s aim is to not only maintain efficient transportation around the city, but to make its transportation as green and inclusive as possible. “We leverage technology to strengthen our rail and bus infrastructure and provide exciting options for future land transport, complemented by convenient options to walk and cycle.”
The LTA is constantly busy developing, maintaining, expanding and updating Singapore’s many transport systems. We looked at the organisation’s current slate of projects, both ongoing and set for the near future, and there was a multitude. Firstly, it has a number of projects seeking to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel from town to town. For example, the 21.5km North-South Expressway has been redesigned to support this greener travel, with cycling trunk routes that link up to Singapore’s wider cycling path networks, and also continuous bus lanes. Once completed, it will be the first of Singapore’s integrated transport corridors to feature these. Construction for the project began in 2017, and work is expected to conclude in 2026.
Then, there are numerous projects focused on the country’s rail system, both above ground and subterranean. These subterranean rail works are particularly challenging to achieve, as we have highlighted before when speaking with companies who specialise in this below-ground construction within Singapore; it is such an densely urbanised area that those working below ground must be careful not to interfere with pipes, electrics or the foundation of other buildings, and must leave the earth around it structurally sound. Perhaps the most challenging of its pending rail projects is Singapore’s Cross Island Line (CRL), a 50km line that will link major hubs throughout Singapore such as Jurong Lake District, Punggol Digital District and Changi region. The Cross Island Line will be fully subterranean (LTA’s longest underground line, in fact) and will be the country’s eighth MRT line. LTA described the project thus:
“When fully completed, it will serve existing and future developments in the eastern, western, and north-eastern corridors. The projected daily ridership of the entire CRL is more than 600,000 in the initial years, increasing to over one million in the longer term.”
The lengthy build has been broken down into three phases, with the first phase expected to begin in 2020 and be completed by 2029. This first phase will be 29 kilometres long, with 12 stations, and will benefit over 100,000 households, as well as reaching public spaces such as Changi Beach Park and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
“The CRL will be an important part of our MRT network, providing a faster commute between the east and the west. It will connect all of our existing radial MRT lines with close to half of the CRL stations being interchange stations. Besides relieving the load on several of the existing MRT lines, the CRL will also provide commuters with many more travel routes to get to their destinations, bring about greater comfort to commuters and shorten journey times.”
Another line expansion is planned for the Jurong Region Line (JRL), which will add 24 stations to the existing rail network. Like the CRL, the new line will open in three stages, the first opening in 2026, with the latter two opening over the following two years. This expansion will add to the number of destinations the rail network can reach, and will also improve its efficiency by providing an alternate route to many areas that were already accessible, therefore allowing commuters to pick the faster and more efficient route for them, and spreading out the demand on each line.
A key achievement for speed and efficiency will also be achieved with the Circle Line 6, a final project to complete the circuit on Singapore’s Circle Line. Truly a loop, the line will become an extremely easy method of travel for commuters moving between key areas of Singapore, such as the Pasir Panjang, Kent Ridge and key employment areas. “Expanding our rail network to areas such as the southern edge of Singapore’s existing Central Area, CCL6 will support direct east-west travel.” The 4km missing piece to the Circle Line is set for completion in 2015, and will bring the line’s station total up to 33, including 12 interchange stations with other MRT lines.
These are just a few examples of multiple such projects, but perhaps the most interesting of all is LTA’s work on a rail line that will travel beyond Singapore; the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). This project is a collaborative effort between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, aiming to create a seamless and easy way to travel between the two capital cities, from Kuala Lumpur’s Bandar Malaysia station and Singapore’s Jurong East. This sort of link would be a huge boon to both business and personal travel.
To complete this construction project, the LTA has formed a subsidiary called SG HSR Pte. Ltd. The subsidiary is wholly owned by LTA but will coordinate between the two countries, working alongside Malaysia’s MyHSR Corp. Construction on this project was suspended by the Malaysian government in September 2018, and is set to continue again in May 2020. Once complete, it is predicted that the line will reduce the travel time between the capitals of these two countries to 90 minutes.
Transport systems are the veins of a country, carrying the life force of its residents. The better the network, the more efficient and easier the flow, and the cleaner the impact, the healthier a city is, and LTA are tireless in preserving and ever-improving the health of one of the world’s smoothest and most efficient urban spaces.