Faster approvals for construction works impacting transport modes

The authorities are looking to cut red tape and shorten approval times for construction works that impact roads, rail and other transport modes by adopting initiatives proposed by a joint government-industry panel.

Architects, engineers and builders will also receive more training through courses and webinars to build their capabilities, including familiarity with technical and regulatory requirements for paperwork to reduce time wasted from incomplete submissions.

These moves will improve the quality of plans submitted to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), potentially shaving weeks off the approval process and lowering costs, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat yesterday.

To this end, a scheme where some plans can be approved more quickly will be extended to more types of projects, LTA said.

Currently, the scheme applies to simpler projects, such as plans for vehicle parking and street works that are more straightforward. About 10 per cent of plans received by LTA today fall in this category.

"We will also consider suggestions from the industry to progressively expand the scheme to include more complex submissions," LTA added.

Speaking to the media after a meeting with the Transport Infrastructure Collaboration Panel, which comprises representatives from the LTA, the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore, the Institute of Engineers (IES), the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), Mr Chee said the submissions made to the LTA can be uneven in quality and completeness.

Rejecting these applications and requiring them to be re-submitted is a "lose-lose" situation, he said. Many iterations may need to be made before they are approved.

"It's bad for the LTA not to be able to approve them (and) it's also bad for the applicant because they can't proceed," Mr Chee said.

"This could lead to a lot of delays and added costs."

To address this, the LTA has held webinars for industry professionals since last year, and released a series of guides to explain the principles behind certain requirements and to provide examples of good practices and common mistakes.

The topics covered include the design of vehicle access points to residential developments and the specifications for building covered walkways.

A new guide on loading and unloading bays was launched yesterday.

There are also plans to launch an induction course next year to help fresh graduates and those new to the industry familiarise themselves with LTA's rules and codes.

Mr Chee said the panel is looking at how the industry can better recognise those who have a good track record and attained the highest standards.

SIA president Richard Lai said another initiative that was discussed is to register qualified transport impact assessment specialists or engineers who specialise in road works with the LTA as this could further streamline the authority's approval process.

IES emeritus president Chong Kee Sen said communication between the industry and the authorities is key. "We want to get things done quickly, efficiently and safely, but the interpretation of regulations and the perspectives can be quite different."

Mr Lai gave the example of carpark design. "Nowadays, we are building on very small land spaces and we need to really optimise our land use as much as possible. But in doing so, we may infringe on certain codes.

"Through all these dialogues... we can work together to see how we can reach an agreement to get the best product out."

Mr Lai said the time needed to get plans approved can span weeks and months. "With these measures in place, definitely it will save the practitioner a lot of time and it will save LTA a lot of time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2021, with the headline 'Faster approvals for construction works impacting transport modes'. Subscribe