SINGAPORE - An ambitious programme to build more covered walkways here will achieve a major milestone next Wednesday (Sept 19).
The last 150m of 200km worth of new walkways that have been added under the Walk2Ride programme since 2013 will be completed outside Tekka Centre in Little India next week. This is in addition to some 46km worth of walkways already built before 2013.
The programme is marking its 200km milestone in a ceremony that will be attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said of the milestone: "We know that safe, comfortable walkways are necessary to get Singaporeans to #WalkCycleRide and make Singapore car-lite. And in our tropical weather, they have to be sheltered too."
In a statement on Saturday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the $300 million programme has allowed more commuters "to enjoy convenient connections to our public transport nodes".
Launched in 2013, Walk2Ride sought to link commuters from MRT stations to residences and amenities such as schools and healthcare facilities within a 400m radius, as well as to bus interchanges, LRT stations and some bus stops within a 200m radius.
The LTA said it will continue to add to the network of sheltered walkways for future MRT stations or bus interchanges.
Before this, sheltered walkways were provided from transport nodes to schools and healthcare facilities only within a 200m radius. They were also provided within residential estates by town councils.
To minimise the inconvenience to residents during construction, as well as ensure the durability of the walkways, the LTA prefabricated all materials off-site to expedite the installation process.
The walkways were also standardised to allow modifications later on. They were made with galvanised steel and aluminium, which the LTA said are more durable and cheaper to maintain.
In addition, the walkways are supported on one post - as opposed to two - to maximise the space for commuters to use.
For Fajar Secondary School vice-principal Guinieve Yeo, the sheltered walkways put up at the start of the year near the school in Bukit Panjang have had a noticeable impact on her students: Fewer are late now.
"Even when it's rainy, they can come to school on time," she said. "They don't have to wait out a storm at a HDB void deck or the MRT."
In addition to connected walkways in the neighbourhood, the LTA "filled in" a 6m gap between an existing walkway and the school's.
Said Ms Yeo: "They don't have to sprint to keep dry in that last stretch."
Another beneficiary is full-time national serviceman Ferdinand Ezekial Francis, 21.
The lifelong Bukit Panjang resident can now make his way to South View LRT station from his Housing Board flat come rain or shine.
"I don't carry an umbrella, so the walkway has been good. If I miss the bus, I don't have to dash to the LRT or go through some leceh (troublesome) route through the various HDB blocks just to avoid the rain."
Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin, who chairs the government parliamentary committee on transport, said sheltered walkways are crucial to achieving Singapore's goal to be a car-lite nation. This is especially so for groups such as seniors or parents with young children, he said.
Asked about the effectiveness of the Walk2Ride programme, Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who had raised in Parliament last March the case of a walkway in her constituency ending 10m short of Khatib MRT station, said: "All gao dim (taken care of) already."
But Ms Lee hopes that the authorities can move on to a second phase of the programme.
"If we want to encourage residents to walk more, the Government can consider a Walk2Ride extension beyond the 400m radius to even 1km for some areas."