Khaw Boon Wan on why he said yes to Transport Minister post

Mr Khaw said public transport issues can be resolved if Singaporeans work together.
Mr Khaw said public transport issues can be resolved if Singaporeans work together.ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

SINGAPORE - Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who will be the new Transport Minister, said he agreed to take up the challenge because Singapore's public transport network, including the MRT system, can be improved.

Mr Khaw, in a blog post on Monday (Sept 28) after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled the line-up for the new Cabinet, cited three strong beliefs for his decision to step into the hot seat despite his friends advising him against it.

"First, I believe in raising Singaporeans' quality of life further in a city where public transport is so convenient, accessible and reliable, much like public utilities, and that Singapore can be car-lite," he wrote.

He cited the example of European cities where "the young no longer bother to learn to drive".

"In Tokyo, New York, Sydney and London, it is common for bankers, lawyers, businessmen, students, hawkers, tourists and all, to walk, cycle, and take the trains and buses for most of their journeys. This is not yet our lifestyle here, but it can be," he added.

Second, he said Singapore's train lines can be made more reliable, even though some of the trains and infrastructure are no longer new. This can be done by focusing and investing in the engineering and maintenance department.


"In hospitals, we put our doctors, nurses and allied professionals ahead of others. In schools, we put priority in our teachers and principals," he wrote. "In public transport, we must put priority in our drivers, engineers, technicians and maintenance crew. They are our most precious. They deserve our 'sayang', as a clear corporate culture."

Third, Mr Khaw said public transport issues can be resolved if Singaporeans work together.

"That was how we tackled Sars, and the 2011 housing crisis. That is what I will bring to the table. Let's drop silos. The train reliability problem is not an SMRT problem, or an LTA problem, or an MOT problem; it is everyone's problem," he pointed out.

Appealing to Singaporeans for some "honeymoon" period when he takes up the Transport post on Oct 1, he said: "If my term turns out to be a thankless job, the loss is personal. But if we succeed collectively in transforming the city, the benefits will go to millions of Singaporeans. In such a cost-benefit equation, I will be selfish to say 'no' to PM."

He added: "I just hope that my heart, my own body train, can withstand the stress and do not breakdown."