Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cable cars may replace free buses on Sentosa

ZIPPING around Sentosa Island will be made easier from 2011 with the launch of a new cable car service.

The new transport link may replace the present free intra-island bus service.

The above-ground system is part of Sentosa Leisure Group's (SLG) over $250 million plan to overhaul the transport system on the island to ensure that it can handle the crowds when Resorts World at Sentosa opens next year.

Currently, Sentosa receives up to 30,000 visitors daily during the peak season. But that number is expected to rise to over 100,000 people daily with the opening of Singapore's second integrated resort.

Mr Lee Chin Chuan, director of SLG's property business development, said the cable car system will offer a greener way of travel compared to the current diesel-powered bus fleet.

The new cableway system will be at most six to seven storeys tall, a third of the height of the current cable car system which runs from Mount Faber.

It is expected to take anything from 1,400 to 5,000 passengers per hour in one direction, moving at speeds of 4m to 6m a second. It will also offer express waiting times of 12 seconds to 15 seconds instead of two minutes to three minutes for the monorail and 10 minutes to 15 minutes for the bus.

Currently, four stations have been earmarked. Mr Lee did not discount the possibility of rolling out the system to the rest of the island or even to the mainland.

The cost of the project is not known yet. SLG has hired consultants to help determine the system's capacity and cost.

One other unknown: whether visitors will be charged for rides. SLG is still mulling over this.

The group is also exploring other possibilities like electric trams, mini railways and buggies. Plans to boost links to the island include an $80 million, 710m-long second bridge, being built by the casino-resort and expected to be ready by the third quarter of this year.

SLG has invested $25 million to build a new depot extension and to buy two cars to raise the capacity of the monorail from 3,000 to 4,000 passengers per hour.

It is also building a new boardwalk so pedestrians can walk to the resort island. Construction of the walkway is slated to begin in the second half of this year. It will have travellators like those in the airport to ease the 620m walk.

Teacher Chai Jiamin, 27, welcomed the new moves. She used to play beach volleyball at Sentosa regularly, but said that on weekends, traffic congestion can get really bad.

However, other regulars like 26-year-old Benjamin Lau, who runs his own IT business, said replacing the free buses with a paid cable car will not benefit visitors.

He said: 'I don't think it's practical to invest in a cable car system when there are already free bus and trams serving Sentosa.'

SLG's Mr Lee added that another key reason that is driving Sentosa's search for new modes of transport is to minimise the system's emissions and carbon footprint.

Source: Straits Times, 26 Feb 2009

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