Looking forward: Happenings at home - Transport

Clearing the path to ensure smoother ride for commuters

Commuters taking a ride on the Downtown Line 2 last Sunday, the first day it was opened to the public. This year will see improvements to the nation's rail transport system, including upgrades to the signalling system along the North-South Line and t
Commuters taking a ride on the Downtown Line 2 last Sunday, the first day it was opened to the public. This year will see improvements to the nation's rail transport system, including upgrades to the signalling system along the North-South Line and the completion of the Tuas West extension.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

After the worst train breakdown in Singapore's history last year and a series of other rail disruptions, commuters are hoping for a much smoother journey this year.

Given the slew of measures - from new bus operators and better bus arrival standards to more trains and the upgrading of the rail system - in store for this year, commuters have plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

The Government is also expected to provide clarity on the private car hire industry, which has seen a boom with the popularity of apps such as Uber and GrabCar, as well as the use of personal mobility devices such as e-scooters.

  • The year ahead

  • • New bus operators

    • More trains

    • Regulations for private car hire services and mobility devices

Private car owners or those hankering to own one may also be eagerly anticipating the predicted flood of certificates of entitlement (COEs) into the market this year.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

After a duopoly of about three decades, two new bus operators - Anglo-Australian firm Tower Transit and Britain's Go-Ahead - will make their debut on the roads here from the second and third quarter respectively.

Tower Transit will run 26 services in the western part of the island, while Go-Ahead will handle 25 routes in the Pasir Ris and Punggol area, taking over from incumbents SBS Transit and SMRT.

Along with higher frequencies of buses under new standards, commuters can also expect some new technologies to improve bus scheduling and timeliness. The tender for the third package of bus routes will be called in the first half of this year.

The ongoing $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme, which has put around 700 more buses on the roads since 2012, will also add 300 more buses progressively over this year and next.

ROLLIN' ON

Upgrades to the signalling system of the North-South Line (NSL) are set to be completed by the middle of the year, so trains can run at shorter intervals of 100 seconds, from the current 120 seconds.

 

By the end of the year, all timber sleepers on the East-West Line (EWL) will also be replaced with sturdier and more lasting concrete ones - offering commuters a smoother and more reliable ride.

More trains will also be injected into the Sengkang-Punggol LRT, Circle Line, North-East Line as well as the NSL and EWL, which will boost capacity and offer commuters a more spacious journey.

Those working in the industrial estates in Tuas will also be relieved to hear that the Tuas West Extension, that will extend the MRT network in the west another 7.5km past Joo Koon, is set to be completed this year as well.

MAKING IT UBER CLEAR

The Government is expected to announce the results of a review on private car hire services such as Uber and GrabCar.

ASKING TO PLAY FAIR

The taxi community has called for the playing field to be levelled, as the drivers being hailed via these apps do not need to be licensed and their cars are not subject to the same regulatory standards such as for maintenance and inspections.

The taxi community has called for the playing field to be levelled, as the drivers being hailed via these apps do not need to be licensed and their cars are not subject to the same regulatory standards such as for maintenance and inspections.

Meanwhile, a new taxi app, the British-founded Karhoo, will also launch here early next year.

The start-up has already signed up two taxi companies here, the island's largest operator ComfortDelGro, and Prime.

The app lets commuters pick a cab across companies, based on criteria such as price, time of arrival and type of vehicle. They are given a choice of taxis nearest to them.

SCOOTING AROUND

By the second quarter of this year, cyclists and users of personal mobility devices such as kick-scooters will have a clear indication of where they can or cannot be used.

The rules are being developed by an expert panel led by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The panel was started in July last year and gathered feedback through focus group discussions and a nation-wide survey to come up with how to govern the use of these devices.

The formation of the panel was sparked by the burgeoning popularity of these devices to travel short distances.

Besides new-fangled devices such as unicycles and hoverboards, they include more conventional equipment such as e-bikes, electric scooters and wheelchairs.

TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY

Those looking to buy a new vehicle can look forward to a bigger supply of COEs during the next quota period from February to April, and hopefully for COE premiums to go down as a result.

The supply of COEs is expected to go up by as much as 50 per cent as this is determined largely by the number of cars scrapped in the preceding three months - which rose in October last year, with 7,025 cars taken off the road, 16 per cent more than in the month before.

On the roads, drivers will have to contend with some major construction work for the North-South Expressway (NSE), the country's 11th expressway.

The NSE will connect the city centre with towns along the north-south corridor, including Woodlands, Yishun and Toa Payoh.

Also, those heading to Malaysia may have to pay a little more if Malaysia rolls out its Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) scheme for Singaporean cars crossing the borders.

Cars were previously supposed to be registered by October last year but this was pushed back so that the Malaysian authorities could develop a radio-frequency identification tag that was clone- and tamper-proof, which will be stuck on car windscreens.

The VEP, which has a five-year validity, costs vehicle owners an administrative fee of RM10 (S$3.30). Drivers still have to pay an entry toll of RM20 to enter Malaysia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Clearing the path to ensure smoother ride for commuters'. Print Edition | Subscribe