At the Ministry of Transport’s (MOT) Committee of Supply (COS) Debate 2020 on 5 March 2020, updates on several initiatives announced in the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (LTMP 2040), as well as new plans were unveiled. We summarise the latest Public Transport offerings as highlighted in this year’s COS Debate.
Impact of COVID-19
During the COS Debate, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan mentioned that the Government is tracking the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the transport infrastructure projects.
As of the COS Debate in March 2020, the delay to the project timelines is still manageable. However, the supply of construction equipment and materials could be disrupted if the outbreak drags on, which could impact the timeline for Terminal 5, Tuas Port, new MRT stations, and the next-generation ERP system. An example was given that new trains procured are being built in China.
Trains currently being built in China include:
RTS Link Progress
Mr Khaw gave an update to the proposed RTS Link which Member of Parliament Ms Cheng Li Hui asked regarding the progress of the project.
The project remains suspended until the end of April this year. Recent political developments in Malaysia will further impact the project. While we remain committed to working with Malaysia to find a way forward, the project cannot be suspended indefinitely. We therefore look forward to hearing from Malaysia soon.
During the COS Debate, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan stated that the government would spend 60 billion dollars to expand and renew the rail network.
For Rail Expansion, Mr Khaw shared the opening periods of the new train lines which were previously announced.
- Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 1 – Opened on 31 January 2020
- Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 2 – To be opened in 2020 “Within the next few months; single-digit months (as of March 2020)”.
- Remaining Thomson-East Coast Line Stages 3 – 5 to open progressively by 2024
- North East Line extension by 2023
- Downtown Line 3 extension by 2024
- Opening of Hume Station by 2025
- Circle Line Stage 6 by 2025
- Jurong Region Line by 2028
- Cross Island Line Phase 1 by 2029
These projects would contribute towards the subsequent growth of the Singapore rail network to 360km, from the current 230km.
For Rail Renewal, Mr Khaw shared some of the initiatives currently underway.
- The renewal of the North South & East West Lines would be completed by around 2023. The Bukit Panjang LRT would also be renewed by then.
- Aging train stations, especially the toilets and escalators, would be suitably refurbished & upgraded.
- North East Line & Sengkang Punggol LRT will be renewed in time.
In cost-related remarks, Mr Khaw stated that fare adjustments must be accompanied by serious cost management and containment through productivity-improving measures. He added that the authorities were reassured that local transport spending is on par with their foreign counterparts, but prudency remains essential to sustainable operations.
Mr Khaw brought up an example by Member of Parliament Mr Lim Biow Chuan, who represents Mountbatten, and requested for additional public bus services for his private estate residents. He said that LTA will evaluate his request seriously, carefully and fairly. Some private estates have shuttle services running in them, with Mr Khaw living in one such private estate. Recently, there was the first private estate shuttle bus that operated using electric buses.
In 2018, GrabShuttle operated the Cheng San – Seletar On-Demand Shuttle Bus Service using electric BYD C6 buses. Additionally, Bus Service 825 serving the Lentor private estate started operating with electric BYD C6 buses from October 2019.
Public Transport Commuter Satisfaction Survey
Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information, shared that the commuter satisfaction in public bus services continues to be high as part of the Public Transport Council’s annual Public Transport Commuter Satisfaction Survey. He attributed this to the Bus Contracting Model, with additional capacity added to more than 100 bus services under the model.
The authorities have also built, replaced, or upgraded 16 bus interchanges island-wide to accommodate the larger bus fleet and peak-hour bus waiting times for trunk services have reduced to 15 minutes or less today, from the 20 minutes or less in 2016. The hard work, the dedication and the commitment of bus captains made these improvements possible.
Cleaner and Greener Public Buses by 2040
In the 2019 COS Debate, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary announced that by 2040, all public buses would be upgraded to cleaner energy sources. This was also highlighted in the LTMP 2040 launched in May 2019.
This year, Dr Janil reaffirmed the commitment by stating that the Government will procure either electric or hybrid buses from now on, in line with the LTMP 2040 goal of a cleaner energy public bus fleet by 2040. In addition, Dr Janil mentioned that 50 diesel-electric buses were deployed since March 2019 and 60 fully-electric buses will be deployed progressively this year (2020). New bus depots will also be designed to support electric buses.
The last diesel bus procurement was for 100 Three-Door Double Decker Buses, which was awarded to Alexander Dennis (Singapore) Services Pte Ltd & ST Engineering Land Systems Ltd for 50 buses each in April 2019.
The 50 diesel-electric buses are Volvo B5LH buses, while the 60 fully-electric buses comprises:
- 20 BYD K9 single deck buses
- 20 ST Engineering single deck buses
- 10 Yutong E12 single deck buses
- 10 Yutong E12DD double deck buses
Dr Janil said that initiatives to test autonomous vehicles (AVs) will pick up speed, with about 30 AVs are authorised for public road trials as of today (March 2020). The public road trials are conducted in a testbed that has expanded to areas such as the National University of Singapore and Jurong Island.
In addition, Dr Janil mentioned that around 6,000 visitors tried out the on-demand driverless shuttles in Sentosa last year (2019) with positive feedback and most visitors indicating that they enjoyed the ride.
The government will aim to progress to the next stage of trials with pilot deployment in the early 2020s. A Call-For-Collaboration was launched last year (2019) with keen interest from more than 20 companies. The proposals are currently under evaluation with safety and public acceptance as top priorities as the deployment of AVs are piloted in other areas.
Currently, some of the various trials involving autonomous buses in Singapore include:
- NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus Trial
- NUSmart Shuttle – Autonomous Bus Trial at NUS
- ST Engineering STROBO Series 12 Bus – Autonomous trial in Jurong Island
- Sentosa Autonomous Bus Trial (Ended in Nov 2019)
Safe & Inclusive Transport – Buses & Trains
Priority Cabin Pilot on North East Line
The Priority Cabin Pilot was first announced by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng during the Ministry of Transport Committee of Supply debate 2019 (COS 2019). In this year’s debate (COS 2020), he announced that the year-long Priority Cabin Pilot would take place on the North East Line (NEL) by end-2020.
As part of the pilot, the two centre cabins of all 49 trains on the NEL would be designated as Priority Cabins for vulnerable commuters such as seniors, expectant mothers, wheelchair users, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and parents with young children. Commuters in these cabins, which will be located near station platform lifts where possible, are encouraged to give way to them.
These 49 trains comprises of:
- 25 Alstom Metropolis C751A trains
- 18 Alstom Metropolis C751C trains
- 6 Alstom Metropolis C851E trains (yet to enter revenue service)
Signage and prominent visual cues will be placed in these Priority Cabins, to encourage commuters to allow vulnerable commuters to board and alight first, give up their seats to those who need them more and keep the wheelchair spaces free. In addition, video clips and station announcements regarding the Priority Cabins will be played at all NEL stations, while SBS Transit Customer Service Officers will also be on hand to guide commuters.
Expansion of MAVIS Trial
In January 2019, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched a six-month Assistive Passenger Information System (APIS) trial for commuters with special needs using an app called MAVIS, short for Mobility Assistance for the Visually Impaired and Special users.
Under the initial trial, 3 buses were equipped with APIS and were deployed on Service 139 serving Enabling Village till end-April 2019, and thereafter redeployed to Service 141 serving Singapore Association Of The Visually Handicapped (SAVH).
During this year’s MOT COS debate, Mr Baey announced that the trial would be expanded for 3 years to cover all buses deployed on Services 139 & 141, beginning from Q4 2020.
Hands-Free Ticketing Trial
Mr Baey also mentioned an upcoming hands-free ticketing trial by LTA, which supports the government’s effort to make it even more convenient for commuters with special needs to travel on buses and trains without the need to tap their fare cards.
Similar trials for hands-free ticketing were conducted in June 2018 and the recent tender for Hands-free Ticketing Solution for Transit (Phase 1) was recently called by LTA in February 2020. Tender documents cited by the Straits Times stated that the payment system would be installed on 6,000 buses and 400 MRT fare gates should it be implemented islandwide.
For the full update, refer to MOT’s website on the COS 2020 here.
- Committee of Supply Debate 2020 – MOT
- LTA to Launch Priority Cabins Pilot on the North East Line in End 2020 – LTA
- Factsheet: Assistive Technologies to Help Bus Commuters with Special Needs – LTA
- Speech by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee Of Supply Debate 2020 on Keeping Our Public Transport Amongst The Best in the World
- Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply Debate 2020 on Towards A Future-Ready Land Transport System
- Speech by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply Debate 2020 on Towards A Safe and Inclusive Transport for All
- Committee of Supply Debate 2017: Public Transport Offerings
- Committee of Supply Debate 2018: Public Transport Offerings
- Committee of Supply Debate 2019: Public Transport Offerings
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