Friday, May 22, 2009

Downturn will not derail projects

Keeping status as top maritime, air hubs still a priority; rail and bus networks to be better

SINGAPORE is not pulling back on multi-billion- dollar projects in the transport and logistics sectors despite the global credit crunch.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim, in his addendum to the President's Address on Monday, said the Government remained committed to maintaining Singapore's position as a leading maritime port and enhancing its appeal as an air hub.

Mr Lim reiterated plans to double the MRT network by 2020 and to raise the standard of bus services. At the same time, the Government will continue to expand the road network and to look to new technologies such as satellite-tracked, distance- based road pricing to optimise road capacity.

'Despite the current economic downturn, the expansion of Pasir Panjang Terminal is proceeding without delay,' the minister said.

He said plans to build a new port operations control centre in Changi were also under way.
Mr Lim acknowledged that the international aviation industry has had its wings clipped by the economic slowdown that began last September.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is providing $200 million this year to help airlines and airport partners weather the storm.

Meanwhile, the Government will work to retain Changi Airport's edge as a key aviation centre.
'The corporatisation of Changi Airport will enable us to make a strategic shift from a position of strength,' Mr Lim said, adding that it allows Changi to respond more quickly to industry changes. And the airport will be able to attract and retain talent, as well as pursue overseas businesses and investments more freely.

The minister singled out the phenomenal growth of low-cost carriers in the region.

In the first quarter of this year, budget airline traffic at Changi grew 35 per cent over the same period last year, while full-service carriers suffered a 13 per cent drop. 'We will continue to nurture and help these carriers grow their operations out of Changi Airport,' Mr Lim said.

For instance, Changi's Budget Terminal was recently expanded to provide capacity for seven million passengers per annum, up from 2.7 million.

Turning to the Land Transport Masterplan, the minister said the Government's aim of delivering 'a high-quality and affordable land transport system' remained intact. The masterplan revealed last year calls for $50 billion or more to be spent on infrastructure projects over the next 10 to 15 years.

By 2020, Singapore will have about 280km of rail lines, almost double the current 142km.

The 33km Circle Line will open in phases, starting with Stage 3 (Bartley to Marymount) on May 28. Stages 1 and 2 that join the suburbs to the city are likely to follow next year. The rest of the line is expected to open from 2011.

Other projects like the Downtown Line, Eastern Region Line and Thomson Line will link the north, north-west and east to the city.

At the same time, the bar has been raised for bus operators. By August this year, at least 80 per cent of basic bus services will run at intervals of not more than 10 minutes during weekday peak hours, instead of the current 15.

Private transport is not ignored.

By 2020, a new underground expressway linking the Thomson area to the city - and running to the west of the congested Central Expressway - should bring relief to motorists living in the north.

Besides spending on hardware, significant policy changes have also been proposed to make the transport system 'people-centred'.

These include injecting contestability into the public transport market, where routes may be open to bidding by players other than the incumbents, so as to keep operators constantly on their toes.

A new financial framework has also been mooted. This allows new rail projects to be built as long as the overall network is commercially viable.

Before this, each new line has to be deemed viable before the green light is given.

The Government is reviewing steps 'to encourage Singaporeans to reduce their reliance on cars'.

Source: Straits Times, 22 May 2009

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