SINGAPORE: More than S$60 billion will be invested in the expansion and renewal of Singapore’s rail network over the next decade, said Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday (Mar 5).
“The hard lesson learnt by the problems earlier faced by SMRT is that we must invest in good operations and maintenance,” said Mr Khaw during the Committee of Supply debate for the transport ministry.
The rail operator has suffered a number of high-profile disruptions, including in 2017 when MRT tunnel flooding disrupted service on the North-South Line for more than 20 hours.
Mr Khaw noted the S$60 billion will go towards a number of projects - including the completion of the 43km-long Thomson-East Coast Line by 2024, as well as the building of the Jurong Region Line by 2028 and the first phase of the Cross Island Line comprising 12 stations by 2029.
Three existing lines - namely the Downtown, North-East and Circle lines - will also be extended by 2025.
“This will contribute towards the subsequent growth of our rail network to 360km, from the current 230km,” said Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.
He added that because of these rail expansion works, around 80 per cent of people here will live within walking distance of an MRT station by 2030.
“We will have achieved or exceeded the level of train connectivity enjoyed by the residents in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York today,” he noted.
Major renewal works on the oldest lines here - the 32-year-old North-South and East-West MRT lines, as well as the 20-year-old Bukit Panjang LRT - will also be completed within the next few years, he added.
“In time, we will also need to renew the next oldest lines – North-East Line and Sengkang-Punggol LRT,” noted Mr Khaw.
In response to media queries regarding the breakdown of how the S$60 billion will be spent, a Ministry of Transport (MOT) spokesperson said based on current projections, more than 70 per cent is expected to go towards the building of new rail lines and stations, while the rest will be for works such as renewals and upgrading.
MOT also noted the amount includes spending on the western leg of the Cross Island Line, for which part of the advanced engineering studies have already begun.
On the proposed Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link, Mr Khaw said it remains suspended until the end of April this year, though he noted the recent change of government in Malaysia is expected to further impact its development.
“While we remain committed to working with Malaysia to find a way forward, the project cannot be suspended indefinitely,” he said.
“We therefore look forward to hearing from Malaysia soon.”
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Even as it pursues the expansion and upgrading of the rail network here, Mr Khaw said his ministry will work with operators and unions to ensure optimal working conditions for transport workers, who form the “backbone of our transport system”.
Transport is “both capital intensive and skills-intensive,” he said, adding that this is why MOT’s budget is among the largest in the Government.
“To ensure sustainability, we need taxpayers and commuters to co-fund it. The question is how to share the burden fairly,” he said.