TODAY Online - Govt's focus is on urging commuters to choose public transport, says Lui

Amid continued concerns over the ageing public transport system and the call for more support for private-car ownership, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday reiterated that the authorities’ focus is on enhancing public transport and getting commuters to opt for it instead of cars.


lui ftm pic

Amid continued concerns over the ageing public transport system and the call for more support for private-car ownership, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday reiterated that the authorities’ focus is on enhancing public transport and getting commuters to opt for it instead of cars.

Speaking at a community dialogue at Zhenghua division at Bukit Panjang — where traffic congestion and Light Rail Transit (LRT) breakdowns have been long-time bugbears of its residents — Mr Lui noted that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) works with public transport operators to tighten service standards each year, such as the requirements for service recovery during breakdowns.

And while up to 95 per cent of the operators’ profits comes from non-transport avenues such as advertising and rental, Mr Lui said the authorities pay close attention to ensure they are not “distracted” from their core mission of serving commuters.

“They know we are watching them carefully ... Every year, we make improvements (to the quality of service standards) … For example, in the past, trains sometimes ran at intervals of six, maybe seven, minutes during off-peak periods. Now, we require no more than five minutes,” he said.

Acknowledging that more work needed to be done to improve the reliability of train and bus services in Bukit Panjang, especially in light of the area’s growing resident population, Mr Lui reiterated SMRT’s recently announced plans to improve the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) system, which has been plagued with disruptions since it started operations in 1999.

Last Thursday, the public transport operator unveiled a slew of initiatives, such as replacing power rail brackets and hiring more operations and maintenance staff, to address the system faults.

Describing the BPLRT as due for a “mid-life overhaul”, Mr Lui said: “I think engineering systems are such that you really need to continue working on them. You never fully solve all the problems because as the network expands, as you put in more trains, you will find more problems coming up.”

While experts have suggested that a complete redesign of the system is needed, Mr Lui said the BPLRT was constrained by the area’s topography.

“As you slow down, you need to take tight curves … because that is the undulating nature of the Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang area. I’m not so sure that ... rebuilding the system completely ... can solve some of these topographical constraints,” he said.

In response to a resident’s concerns that the upcoming Downtown Line 2 may add to passenger loads on trains running on existing lines, which are already operating close to capacity, Mr Lui said more trains would be added across the board.

He added that the new signalling system would allow trains to be run at shorter intervals. The capacities of the Circle and North East lines will be ramped up by 60 per cent and 70 per cent respectively by 2016.

By 2019, about 57 trains will also be added to the East West and North South lines.

When asked by another resident if rebates could be introduced to make private cars more affordable to large families who need them, Mr Lui said the Government’s focus was on making public transport more convenient and comfortable, so more people would opt for it as a cheaper alternative to the car.

“If every household has a car … road capacity will obviously have to increase to cater to that, and that will be at the expense of bringing roads closer to where people live, doing away with parks, greenery … (For many people, a car) is probably ... more of a want than a need,” he said.

He added that those commuters who desire point-to-point convenience could opt for taxis and car-sharing schemes.

Source: TODAY Online