SINGAPORE: The possibility of making Orchard Road a car-free space is being explored, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said on Thursday (Apr 13).
Speaking at the annual Tourism Industry Conference, Mr Iswaran said the shopping belt must evolve to sustain its appeal as consumer preferences and retail trends change.
As a start, plans to transform the precinct into a distinctive and vibrant shopping and lifestyle destination that offers a signature street experience within a garden were announced at the conference.
The Government will activate existing parcels of State land and is considering introducing a progressive road reduction programme to expand the pedestrian mall, the minister said.
The shopping belt could eventually serve as a multipurpose space where "diverse and larger scale experiential concepts can be introduced", he added.
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Lionel Yeo said the agency is already looking into plans to reclaim one lane on the road for pedestrians, and is working closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to ensure that public transport access to Orchard Road will be preserved.
"We believe there are ways in which we can do this that can still allow people who want to get to Orchard Road to be able to do so. At the same time, there are also alternative routes people can take if they just need to go from one part of the road to the other part."
Authorities also intend to trial the idea of having a diagonal crossing - also known as a scramble walk - at a major junction at the shopping belt, Mr Yeo said.
In addition, plans to minimise "visual and physical barriers along Orchard Road that divide one side from the other" are being considered.
STB said these infrastructure improvements must be complemented by experiential elements and more street-level pop-up activations, which can be done by allowing the temporary use of existing vacant sites such as the open-air car parks at Grange Road and Angullia Park.