As thousands of people turned up for a glimpse of Changi Airport's Terminal 4 yesterday, the Transport Minister warned that Singapore cannot afford to let its guard down on the aviation front. There will always be new players seeking to disrupt the industry, he said.
Speaking to reporters on the first day of a two-week T4 open house, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said: "We are quite good at it (aviation) and able to compete with the best in the world."
But Singapore needs not only to keep expanding its infrastructure (hardware), but also to focus on the soft skills, he said.
Although growth in the global economy is moderating, aviation continues to be "a very bright spark", he added.
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T4, which will feature new systems and processes such as body scanners, and rely heavily on self-service options to reduce manpower and enhance productivity, will provide good lessons for the development of Terminal 5.
T5, which will eventually be bigger than T1, T2 and T3 put together, is expected to open in phases from the end of the next decade.
Mr Khaw said: "That is the story of Singapore - anticipate demand and try to plan ahead. We don't always do it well... Sometimes we miss and infrastructure then lags a little bit behind demand, and then we have to play catch-up."
This happened in the case of housing previously and is currently the case with public transport. "Overall, I think Singapore has done not bad," he added.
For the thousands at T4 yesterday, the focus was on taking in the modern architecture and design elements. Highlights included a kinetic sculpture called Petalclouds, a heritage zone displaying the evolution of shophouse architecture from the 1880s to the 1950s, and an "immersive wall" depicting Singapore's skyline and regional landmarks.
Ms Patricia Chia, 28, a marketing and communications officer, was struck by the LED display in the heritage zone. She said: "It is very cool and descriptive, so we know Peranakan heritage better."
Pastor Joshua Tan, 60, who was there with 36 of his church members, was impressed by the fact that everything was automated at T4.
"But for the elderly, some may not know how to operate the automated system," he said.
When the terminal opens for operations later this year, there will be staff on the ground to assist travellers, Changi Airport Group said.