Bukit Pan­jang LRT an ‘af­ter­thought built un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure’

Today - - HOT NEWS - KEN­NETH CHENG ken­nethcjw@me­di­a­corp.com.sg

SIN­GA­PORE — Derid­ing the Bukit Pan­jang Light Rail Tran­sit (LRT) sys­tem, Trans­port Min­is­ter Khaw Boon Wan yes­ter­day de­scribed it as an “af­ter­thought” that was built un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, re­sult­ing in a de­sign that makes for un­com­fort­able rides.

“No LRT is de­signed that way, in such a masochis­tic man­ner, where you force your­self up and down, twist and turn,” Mr Khaw, who is also Co­or­di­nat­ing Min­is­ter for In­fra­struc­ture, said at a cer­e­mony to mark the com­ple­tion of power rail re­place­ments on the North-South and East-West lines.

Of the few oc­ca­sions he rode the Bukit Pan­jang LRT, he added: “I won’t say I en­joyed the ride; it caused me dizzi­ness ... but that’s life.”

Mr Khaw pointed out that, un­like the Sengkang LRT net­work, which was built as the Sengkang es­tate was be­ing de­vel­oped and had a “much sim­pler” de­sign, the Bukit Pan­jang LRT was con­structed af­ter the town had been built ow­ing to “po­lit­i­cal pres­sure”.

But Mr Khaw was quick to add that the Govern­ment was not giv­ing up on the Bukit Pan­jang LRT, not­ing that re­li­a­bil­ity could be im­proved even be­fore re­newal works get un­der way, though he sought res­i­dents’ un­der­stand­ing and pa­tience.

He gunned for the Bukit Pan­jang LRT’s re­li­a­bil­ity to im­prove to 100,000 car-km be­tween de­lays of more than five min­utes by the end of this term of Govern­ment — the next gen­eral elec­tion is due by Jan­uary 2021. This would be dou­ble what the net­work achieved in the first half of this year.

Al­though from time to time, some would sug­gest scrap­ping the Bukit Pan­jang LRT and tran­sit­ing to an “all­bus” sys­tem, Mr Khaw noted that ca­pac­ity was an is­sue. “If an all-bus sys­tem can work, why did we bother to even build the LRT?”

In Oc­to­ber last year, rail op­er­a­tor SMRT said in a blog post that sev­eral op­tions were be­ing weighed to “com­pletely trans­form” the LRT line, in­clud­ing scrap­ping the net­work and re­turn­ing to the use of buses — though the Land Trans­port Author­ity had then said the idea was “not likely to be prac­ti­cal”.

Then, in Novem­ber, Mr Khaw said the sys­tem would be over­hauled, rather than ditched. A ten­der is set to be called this year to fully re­place its age­ing com­po­nents and up­grade its sys­tems, al­though no time­line has been set for this over­haul.

Launched in 1999, the Bukit Pan­jang LRT has been dogged by prob­lems. Last year, for in­stance, there were eight ma­jor de­lays lasting more than 30 min­utes. In 2015, the line, which has 14 sta­tions in a 10.5km-long loop, was hit by 10 such trip-ups.

In the first six months of this year, two ma­jor de­lays were recorded, with the most re­cent last Satur­day stop­ping ser­vices for more than six hours.

Plans for an LRT sys­tem in Sin­ga­pore were first mooted dur­ing a time when Cer­tifi­cate of En­ti­tle­ment prices were on the rise.

In Novem­ber 1994, about a month be­fore the Govern­ment gave the green light to build an LRT sys­tem in Bukit Pan­jang, then-Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mah Bow Tan, who was in charge of the trans­port port­fo­lio, ad­dressed con­cerns by Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment about the ris­ing COE prices by say­ing the “real is­sue is ... whether trans­porta­tion in Sin­ga­pore is ef­fi­cient and af­ford­able”.

“The only prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion for Sin­ga­pore, which is so short of land, is not more cars but bet­ter pub­lic trans­port,” he had said, adding that he had in­structed the Mass Rapid Tran­sit Cor­po­ra­tion to study the po­ten­tial of light rail trans­port, es­pe­cially as an in­ter­nal feeder ser­vice for new towns.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.