LTA plans new office in Bedok as staff strength grows

TO CATER to its burgeoning headcount, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will convert a disused school in Bedok into an additional office complex.

The authority has called a tender inviting builders to do the renovation work, targeted for completion by 2017. Works will include building an auditorium, club house, integrated traffic control centre and data centre.

When completed, the former Bedok Institute of Technical Education campus in Chai Chee Street will house some 1,200 LTA officers. Most of these are currently working in the authority's Hampshire Road and Sin Ming Road premises, including its road asset management and fare systems divisions.

"With the expansion of the rail network and improvements to the bus system, the Land Transport Authority will see a rapid increase in staff population in the coming years," an LTA spokesman said.

The authority has around 5,800 employees this financial year - more than double its staff strength when it was formed 20 years ago, and 60 per cent more than when it set up its Hampshire Road headquarters in 2004.

The Straits Times understands that the Bedok project is a stop- gap measure to cope with the current situation in Hampshire Road, which one officer described as "bursting at the seams".

In the longer term, there are plans for the LTA - along with several other government bodies - to set up a new office complex in Jurong East.

That is part of the national move to develop Jurong East into the next regional hub, freeing up land plots in the city centre. In the LTA's case, these include a North Bridge Road site currently co-occupied by SMRT Corp's head office.

However, the Jurong East plan is unlikely to happen before 2020, and there is an urgent need to find space for an expanded headcount that is expected to continue to grow.

Employees are looking forward to the new Bedok complex. One of them, principal manager Song Guek Oi, said: "When the Bedok office is completed, I can expect to save some time when I travel to work from my home in Simei."

She added: "The bigger office space will also ensure that we can work in a more comfortable environment."

In 2007, the LTA spent $15 million to increase capacity at its Hampshire Road premises, which was the site of the former Kandang Kerbau Hospital. That expansion plan came just three years after the authority moved to the old hospital grounds, which it renovated at a cost of $16 million.

The LTA had previously wanted to build a multi-storey headquarters complex next to Buona Vista MRT station. That development - which was to cost around $500 million - would have yielded 120,000 sq m of office space, of which the authority had planned to lease out about half.

But a public outcry over the project's price tag derailed that plan.

christan@sph.com.sg