Addendum to President's Address: Underused road lanes could be turned into cycling or bus lanes, says Ong Ye Kung

There is also scope to pedestrianise some roads with Covid-19 changing commuting patterns

The Government will also carry out its plan to expand the cycling path network from 460km now to about 1,300km by 2030. PHOTO: ST FILE

With the coronavirus pandemic reducing traffic on the roads and changing commuting patterns, certain under-used road lanes can be converted to cycling and bus lanes, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

There may also be scope to pedestrianise certain roads, said Mr Ong, as he set out his ministry's plans following the President's Address.

"The lower traffic and new travel patterns brought about by Covid-19 have opened a window of opportunity to re-imagine our road infrastructure," he said as he sketched out the possibilities.

Other cities abroad, including Athens in Greece, have moved to reclaim road space for pedestrians and cyclists, as the pandemic alters commuting habits.

The minister also noted that Covid-19 has led to increased adoption of telecommuting and staggered working hours.

"This has led to more sustainable travel patterns. We will explore ways to make some of these changes permanent," he added.

The Government will also carry out its plan to expand the cycling path network from 460km now to 1,320km by 2030.

Mr Ong said these initiatives will help Singapore in its goal to become a car-lite nation, along with other measures such as a zero vehicle growth rate and phasing out private vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040.

He also outlined other plans for land transport as well as the aviation and maritime sectors.

For land transport, he said Singapore will continue to work towards the vision of a city where 90 per cent of peak-hour journeys can be completed within 45 minutes. Within towns, residents should be able to reach their nearest neighbourhood centre in 20 minutes.

Resources will continue to be invested in the public transport system to maintain reliability, he added, while new MRT stations and lines will be opened almost every year.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) will also work with the Public Transport Council to improve public transport to help those with mobility challenges, said Mr Ong.

He added that expanding the public transport system to better serve Singaporeans requires major infrastructure and recurrent expenditure. "But this is essential public spending, which has to be carried out with financial prudence."

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On aviation, he stressed that reviving the Changi air hub in a safe way is a "top and immediate priority". Singapore will have to take further steps to resume services for passengers carefully and progressively, starting with countries or cities which have kept the virus under control, he added.

Since the pandemic struck, the airport has lost about 50 per cent of its air links and more than 95 per cent of its scheduled passenger services. "We cannot take our hub status for granted and assume that we will remain one when global air travel recovers," said Mr Ong.

While air traffic volume is down, Singapore will take the opportunity to develop a three-runway system for Changi, he added. It is reviewing the Terminal 5 project as well.

MOT will also help aviation companies to preserve their core capabilities and re-skill workers.

On maritime transport, Mr Ong noted that the sector has stayed relatively resilient despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Moving ahead, Singapore will continue to complete Tuas Port in the 2040s as planned, he said, while remaining nimble in adapting to trends like shifting global supply chains.

As for the Kuala LumpurSingapore High Speed Rail (HSR), Mr Ong said Singapore is in discussions with Malaysia on the project, which has been suspended at Malaysia's request till Dec 31.

"Singapore continues to believe that the HSR is a mutually beneficial project for both countries," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2020, with the headline Underused road lanes could be turned into cycling or bus lanes, says Ong Ye Kung. Subscribe