Budget for transport likely to increase: Experts

Budget for transport likely to increase: Experts

As Singapore transitions towards being a car-lite society, experts tell Channel NewsAsia they expect the Transport Ministry to be allocated more from this year's Budget.

singapore cars file shot
File photo of traffic in Singapore. (Photo: Hester Tan)

SINGAPORE: With new train stations to be built and major road works to be done in the next five years, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) can expect to be allocated a significant amount in this year's Budget, experts told Channel NewsAsia.

The ministry's estimated expenditure was about S$11 billion in the 2015 Budget, ranking fourth behind the Defence, Education and National Development ministries.

Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport Sitoh Yih Pin said he expected that the MOT's budget would be among the top few ministries in expenditure dollars this year.

According to the MOT's Addendum, it will cost the Government S$36 billion to achieve a car-lite society for Singapore. The Government is expected to invest this amount over the next five years, as it seeks to improve rail reliability and make public transport the preferred way to get around.

“MOT has rolled out a whole series of plans and initiatives to make our transport system more efficient and more effective," he said. "These are big ticket items, they require a lot of expenditure."

The major items include building 30 more MRT stations as part of the Cross Island Line, plans to add a new MRT line or extension every year for the next five years and major renewal works for the North-South and East-West lines expected to be completed by 2018.

Two major road projects are also in the works. The new North-South Expressway will be redesigned to be part of a North-South Corridor, complete with cycling and walking paths. Two car lanes on Bencoolen Street will also become footpaths lined with trees and benches, with a cycling path connecting Rochor Canal and Bukit Timah to the CBD.

Meanwhile, Changi Airport's Terminal 4 and Project Jewel will begin operations within the next few years, with Terminal 5 expected to be completed in the second half of the 2020s.

The third and fourth phases of the S$3.5 billion Pasir Panjang Terminal expansion plans are also set to be ready by end 2017.

AN EMPHASIS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Analysts Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the upcoming Budget will reflect an intent to make public transport more accessible.

“At this point of time we already have the Thomson-East Coast Line, and the Cross-Island Line,” said Professor Lee Der Horng from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the National University of Singapore. “Even though there are some discussion at this point of time, but I think the overall emphasis in having more MRT lines, and in providing a much more convenient public transport to the residents in Singapore, I think this is something we can surely expect.”

"I expect that in this year we will continue in addressing the first mile and last mile issue - maybe not only by providing the covered walkways to the HDB residents but also by extending to the private estate residents,” he added, referring to the issue of accessibility between transportation hubs and passengers' starting points or destinations.

“If we are not extending the similar convenience in the form of the covered walkways to bring residents from the private estates to use public transport, they may forever be away from the public transport."

Prof Lee says this also means transforming the urban landscape: "When we are talking about a car-lite society, we also pay attention to the unconventional types of vehicles, say for example electric vehicles,” he said.

“And all these will not be driven by the conventional petrol or diesel, so we need to provide more charging facilities, also dedicated facilities for parking, either in the HDB or private estates."

But ultimately Mr Sitoh said one should approach any Budget with "fiscal prudence in mind".

"The golden rule of thumb for me is that we should never spend our children's money, we should never spend our grandchildren's money, we must spend what we can earn now,” said Mr Sitoh.

“Within the transport ministry there have been many requests for many amenities and facilities, but the bottom line, I'd like to ask myself, 'is it something we must have?' If it's something we must have let's plan and do it. But if it's something that is good to have, but not a must have, then we'll still look at it but maybe that can wait a little while."

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will present the Budget in Parliament on Mar 24, and also recently said that the Government would be "particularly prudent" with this year's Budget.

Source: CNA/mz

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