New Lift Enhancement Programme for HDB lifts to modernise for better safety

About 20,000 lifts are eligible for the new Lift Enhancement Programme.
About 20,000 lifts are eligible for the new Lift Enhancement Programme. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

SINGAPORE - A new Lift Enhancement Programme was announced on Monday (Sept 19) to help town councils modernise their existing Housing Board (HDB) lifts.

Under this programme, the HDB will fund about 90 per cent of the town council's costs to install the recommended enhancement features identified by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) last week.

About 20,000 lifts are eligible for this programme, which will cost around $450 million. These include lifts not yet equipped with some or all of the enhancement features, and have been in operation for 18 years or less - as of the date of commencement of the new programme.

More implementation details will be provided to the town councils in the coming months.

But the HDB added that town councils will have 10 years to carry out the modernisation works progressively, as part of their maintenance and lift parts replacement regime.

"Concurrently, TCs will replace older lifts with new lift systems progressively as they carry out cyclical replacement for these lifts," the HDB said.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (Sept 19) that the costs for such enhancements will "pose a considerable financial challenge" to the town councils.

Hence the new programme to help them co-fund the lift works.

"This is a major programme, which will involve significant government expenditure," Mr Wong said in a blog post.

"But given the importance of lifts in our daily lives and in our high-rise HDB living environment, the Government is prepared to commit to this additional spending and maintain high safety standards."

He added: "With higher expected long-term expenditures, town councils will likely need to contribute more to their sinking funds, and set aside more funds for future lift replacements through a new Lift Replacement Fund."

Mr Wong said that while the total sinking fund balance across all town councils is about $1 billion, it is not sufficient in the long run.

"This may sound like a healthy amount, but it is still not sufficient to cover the cost of future lift replacements which is estimated at almost $3 billion from now to 2035 (for some 11,500 lifts across all HDB estates)," he said.

"Besides lifts, there will be other cyclical maintenance and replacement works such as facade repair of HDB blocks, cyclical repainting, and replacement of water pipes/tanks. These expenses will also go up as estate infrastructure ages."

Mr Wong added that his ministry will be asking all town councils to prepare and submit their financial projections for their sinking funds over the next 10 to 30 years.

"These projections will enable us to assess the appropriate levels of contribution to the TC Sinking Funds and Lift Replacement Funds," he said.

"All TCs must take a long-term view and start planning now for asset and lift replacements in their estates," said Mr Wong.

"This is the basis of Singapore's success. We do not leave things to chance. But we look over the horizon, plan, and prepare for the future. This is the way to ensure a good and safe HDB living environment for all Singaporeans."

Last week, the BCA had recommended a list of items to modernise existing lifts here in order to boost lift safety.

This comes after a spate of lift accidents in HDB blocks in the past year.

The modernisation recommendations include protective devices to prevent unintended movement and overspeeding by lift cars and light curtain sensors for lift doors.

About a third of all the 61,000 passenger lifts in Singapore are found in HDB estates.