WHITE PAPER ON POPULATION

Transport network to meet demand: Lui

THE population could go up by 30 per cent between now and 2030, and transport planners are ensuring that the rail network will double during that time.

In the short to medium term, the Transport Ministry will raise capacity, improve reliability and manage demand, Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in response to concerns of a repeat of transport congestion as the population grows.

"I am far more concerned and working to address some of the short and medium-term issues," he told a press conference yesterday. Over the past two weeks, Mr Lui has announced plans for two new rail lines and three extensions that will double the rail network from 178km now to about 360km by 2030.

Eight in 10 households will then be within a 10-minute walk of a station, more than the six in 10 now. To help them reach stations comfortably, 200km of covered walkways will be added.

Yesterday, he focused on immediate concerns like boosting capacity, starting with the Downtown Line that will open in stages over the next five years. "Even while it is a three-car line, it is going to add 50 per cent capacity to the East-West corridor," he said.

The North-South corridor will have finished re-signalling work too, adding about 20 per cent capacity during peak hours, while new trains on the North-East Line will be able to carry 70 per cent more passengers by 2015.

On reliability, Mr Lui said efforts are paying off: One train is withdrawn for every thousand train trips on the North-South and East-West lines, an improvement from before. Commuters' feedback also indicates that they have noticed an improvement over the past six months. He said the new target is to reduce the train withdrawal rate by a further 20 per cent by the end of the year.

His ministry is also looking into managing the demand for travel during peak hours, such as working with employers to introduce more flexible working hours.

It will also "watch very closely" the affordability of public transport fares, which have cumulatively risen by about 0.3 per cent over the last five to six years.

The White Paper on Population noted that demand for public transport was underestimated in the second half of the last decade.

It said: "As part of our population planning, we must therefore look well ahead and implement infrastructure plans in a timely manner."

chinlian@sph.com.sg