Kampung Admiralty is on Track

Two years ago, I unveiled the plans for Kampung Admiralty, next to Admiralty MRT Station. It is an integrated development, a one-stop hub to meet the community’s diverse needs.


At the groundbreaking ceremony 2 years ago [Credit: MND]

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First-of-its-kind integrated development @ Kampung Admiralty

Besides two blocks of housing for the elderly, this 11-storey modern Kampung will have a myriad of amenities and facilities: a medical centre, eldercare and childcare centres, retail shops, a hawker centre and a Community Park, all under one roof. There will be something for everyone to enjoy.




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Laying a strong foundation for Kampung Admiralty

To support a car-lite Singapore, the development will have an underground mechanical bicycle parking system, a first in Singapore. The system can store and retrieve up to 500 bicycles. It provides a convenient and secure facility for cyclists to park their bicycles. And it optimises land use.




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Work in progress at the 7th storey

The project is taking shape. The foundation and basement have been completed: the achievements of 100 site personnel who put in a total of about 350,000 man-hours. They laid a firm foundation for Kampung Admiralty.

We have progressed onto the next phase of construction: with focus on completing the main building structure.



Community Plaza for activities

Community Plaza for activities

By September, the main building structure will be completed for our topping out ceremony. The remaining works will cover mechanical and electrical installations, landscaping and façade painting, which will be done progressively thereafter, for full completion next year.



I thank the team of engineers, site supervisors and workers who are working hard to realise our modern kampung. We have much to look forward to as we draw nearer to its completion in a year’s time!

Going from Good to Great

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I read the PTC’s Advisory Report and fully support their focus on commuters.

We exist because of the commuters. Fulfilling their needs is our mission. Not all wishes that were expressed to PTC can be fulfilled because what one person wants may contradict with another person’s aspiration. But we should do our best to reach a fair compromise. I also support PTC’s strategy to look to other cities for inspiration and learning points. Our problems are common and we should learn from each other.

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Receiving PTC’s inaugural Advisory Report

I read commuters’ strong feedback on making our buses and trains more senior-friendly, child-friendly and more inclusive. Our population is ageing and we need to up our birth rate. We must make our city the best place to bring up children and for our seniors. From a transport perspective, this means we will continue instilling a philosophy of making sure our seniors and disabled are able to use the transport network with confidence, while at the same time we embrace the needs of young families in their daily journeys. This philosophy starts from the beginning of a rail line or bus service with our transport planners and designers, and will be ingrained all the way through to our staff on the ground, delivering efficient, reliable service with a smile. As the PTC puts it, it is the small things which make a difference between a good transport system and a great transport experience. We have a good public transport system, but our job is to make the journey great too.

LTA will study PTC’s Report and strive to put into practice the many useful recommendations contained in it.

On track to better reliability

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Yesterday, the North-South Line (NSL) achieved 100 days without any major incident! It joined Downtown Line, which has passed the 178days’ mark and is working towards its 200-day milestone next month!


For us in the rail industry, clearing 100 disruption-free days is no mean feat: it requires everyone to do everything right.  Any misstep can cause a disruption.

SMRT Resleepering Works (1)

Photo Credit: SMRT

We have five MRT lines, with two having crossed the 100 days’ mark. The entry of NSL is especially inspiring as it is our oldest line. Its success gives us confidence that with hard work and strong determination, we will improve our rail reliability. But today’s success does not mean continued success. Any lapse, and we are back to square one, much like a game of snakes and ladders, and the clock is reset.

SMRT Resleepering Works (2)

Photo Credit: SMRT

All rail services experience disruptions occasionally. Our challenges however are especially daunting, as we are also expanding rail capacity (adding new trains and running them more frequently), upgrading the power system and replacing ageing assets, even as we seek to stabilise the existing system and make it more reliable. And many of these engineering tasks have to be carried out during the three to four engineering hours per day.

But our colleagues on the ground are undaunted. They are pressing on, and putting in their best efforts, all thanks to the continued support of commuters and residents during the early closure of the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL). LTA has also worked with SMRT to open a stretch of the NSEWL later on Sunday mornings, to provide our engineers with more valuable time for their works. We will monitor the effectiveness of this initiative and if needed, we may extend it further. We will try to minimise the inconvenience caused, and we hope that commuters will be understanding.

Downtown Line 2: Promising start

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Ridership on the Downtown Line (DTL) has been good and continues to grow steadily. It has risen by up to 30% since 4 Jan, the first school/work day of the year. DTL2 Promising start_PictureThis has also brought benefits to the rest of the network. Some 5% of commuters on the East-West Line, for instance, have shifted to the DTL. This has reduced crowding slightly at stations like Jurong East. Buses that ply the DTL2 corridor are also less crowded.

I have high hopes that DTL2 will encourage more motorists to give their cars a break. Schools in the area are already seeing fewer cars dropping off their students, making Dunearn Road and Bukit Timah Road noticeably less crowded in the mornings. Many shops and eateries along the line, in particular at Beauty World, after patiently putting up with the inconvenience during the construction of DTL2, are now enjoying booming business.

All in all, DTL2 has started very positively. I think it will be a game changer in our journey towards a car-lite lifestyle.

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Car-Lite Together


There is a growing consensus among developed cities that fewer cars mean less traffic congestion, less air and noise pollution, and more land for public spaces and amenities. Cities designed to encourage active mobility, such as walking and cycling, also improve mental and physical health, reduce stress, and build a strong sense of community. Overall, car-lite cities make for a better quality of life.

In Madrid, an increasing number of roads are reserved primarily for public transport. Many streets in the core downtown area have also been pedestrianized.

Meanwhile, Hamburg has developed even bolder plans – to make cars obsolete in the next 15 to 20 years.  It will do so by providing reliable public transport and creating a dense network of walkable or bike-friendly green corridors throughout the city.

Closer to home, Seoul tore down a busy, elevated highway in 2003 and restored the Cheonggyecheon stream underneath, turning the area into a delightful and green public space. Its plan is to reduce car usage by 30% by 2030.

Paris, the latest to join the movement, has just had its first car-free day in September. That day, the usual smog, traffic noise and stressed drivers that characterise the city centre gave way to clear blue skies and noticeably happier people!

There have also been reports that youngsters in these cities are less inclined to own cars or learn to drive.  Even in the US, home of the automobile, more and more people are eschewing car ownership in favour of shared services and public transport. This is in sharp contrast to many developing cities where the car remains very much cherished, including as a status symbol. These cities pay the price through congested roads and polluted air.


Source: Urban Redevelopment Authority

We too, want to move towards a more car-lite Singapore. We plan to reduce travel distances by bringing jobs closer to homes, with the development of regional centres outside the CBD, such as in Woodlands and Punggol.


We are also working hard to deliver a reliable, convenient and affordable public transport system. The Government is investing heavily, and major capacity and reliability improvements are underway. We will also make places and streets much friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.

 Our new housing precincts such as Bidadari and Kampong Bugis are being designed with convenient access to MRT stations and bus stops, as well as good pedestrian and cycling networks to support a car-lite lifestyle. Ang Mo Kio Town is a pilot project to see how we can adapt existing towns to be more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

Car-free zones have also breathed life into Haji Lane, Ann Siang Hill, and Club Street. We have received positive feedback from both businesses and the public and will extend this concept to other streets. And we have an annual PARK(ing) Day which is a fun event that allows people to enjoy the space reclaimed from street-side carparks, and raises public awareness about the possibilities of a car-lite lifestyle.

Our founding PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew had thought in great detail about what would make Singapore a pleasant, beautiful city to live in.  In 1975, he said in a speech,

“… Pavements must be designed to allow trees to grow, providing shade to pedestrians, and to cut down noon-day sunshine on roads. Pavements of granolithic slabs and concrete stifle trees. They must be forbidden by law.

 Some must be unceremoniously broken up.

 The objective is a city pleasant, green and cool, and safety and convenience for the pedestrian.”

That was how Mr Lee in his fascinating way saw things no one else saw in his time, and boldly transformed Singapore from a third-world to a first-world living environment.  Similarly, how Singapore shapes up in future will depend on us making bold choices and decisions today. Can we build on Mr Lee’s legacy of a clean and green city and his people-centric vision to transform Singapore into a city that prides itself on public transport, walking and cycling, instead of driving? We are not quite there yet, but I believe that together, we can make a car-lite Singapore a reality.

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Battling unknowns

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Trains are a significant cause of our past disruptions. We will spend over $1 billion to expand and upgrade our train fleet. These new trains will help address past train-related faults. 99 new trains will be delivered progressively from now till 2019. This is a considerable but necessary investment to improve our train reliability.

With these new trains, more trains can undergo maintenance during operating hours without affecting service standards. We can also have a number of “hot” stand-by, to be deployed quickly when a train breaks down.

But even with better trains, they still need to be properly maintained, so our focus on train maintenance will remain a perennial priority.

Another major cause of past disruptions was track-side systems, such as the signalling system and third rail. To address this, we are restoring and upgrading the systems. By 2018, we will have new sleepers, third rail, and signalling systems for our oldest North-South and East-West Lines. We would have rejuvenated these older lines, which will then be as good as new.

Like trains, we also have to ensure stringent maintenance standards are adhered to. LTA is deploying more personnel to conduct more regular and tighter audits, as well as to better understand the operational realities.

Three months into the job, I am more optimistic that we know what we need to do. But there are still some wild cards. Unlike incidents that we can attribute to maintenance and ageing, there are some incidents caused by unforeseen factors. Mr Tan Gee Paw called them “rats”. They can cause system-wide disruptions. Unfortunately, they are also the most difficult to prevent.

Here’s an example of such a “ratty” problem: We have in recent years added significant capacity to existing lines by adding more trains, and also running them at higher frequencies. While LTA has ensured that these additional trips are kept within the power capacity that the system was designed for, greater power loading means thinner buffers for faults. Thinner buffers can become a breeding ground for “rats”.

To address the increased loading, LTA had been rapidly upgrading the power system (e.g. expanding the capacity of 10 electrical substations to better support the NSEWL). We would like to do the upgrade faster and complete it earlier, but LTA has the same constraint in the shortage of engineering hours (when train services cease) for these major works and maintenance. But LTA will do its best to speed up the work.

As you can see, “rat-catching” goes beyond routine maintenance. It has much to do with the design of the rail line and system, and a proper understanding of local ground conditions and creating enough buffers to cushion the unknowns. To battle the unknowns, we also have to build up an army of experts with years of experience. This takes time, but we are determined to get there.

One practical way to start off is to tap on the collective wisdom of the industry. LTA is setting up an Independent Advisory Panel for Power Supply, comprising experts from industry, academia and foreign operators, to:

  • Examine all recent power-related incidents,
  • Assess the resilience of the current power system,
  • Identify any potential system gaps and recommend mitigating measures, and
  • Determine the timing for the next power system upgrade.

“Rats” do not exist only in the power system. With more trains plying existing lines, wear and tear of the rail tracks have increased. LTA and SMRT have been carrying out a complete system check on critical components showing recent defects or failure, and are changing out defective and degraded parts ahead of schedule where required.

In addition, LTA will also set up a standing Expert Audit Panel (EAP), with members drawn from the German, Hong Kong and Japanese rail operators. They will visit us regularly, examine the reliability of our rail system, and help us achieve excellence in rail operations and maintenance. I have asked Mr Tan Gee Paw to chair this Expert Audit Panel.

Soon we will welcome the New Year. We are certain that it will be another hectic and busy year for us in the MOT.

We have to ensure Singapore remains a competitive global hub for the aviation and maritime industries. We will press on with the transformation of our public transport system, so that more Singaporeans can move around with ease.

In particular, our eyes remain focused on upping rail performance, minimising train breakdowns, and avoiding large scale train disruptions, while ensuring the timely implementation of several new rail lines.

It will be a busy year for sure. There may still be some disappointments and upsets. I hope Singaporeans will bear with us, and continue to give us your moral support. It means a lot to us working in the trenches and in the wee hours of the day.

Happy New Year, fellow commuters!

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Six days to enjoy free Downtown Line (DTL) ride

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DTL2 will start tomorrow, 27 December. We have been working hard and are doing all we can to ensure a smooth service, free from major incidents.

Our immediate priority is for a good start. My worry is that there may be severe overcrowding. It is a Sunday, during a holiday season, there is novelty value, and travelling is free. If too many rush in to be among the first wave of commuters, there will be overcrowding and long waiting time.

We will deploy extra staff to man the stations and many goodwill ambassadors to guide the commuters. We will do our best to ensure a pleasant service for all.

Commuters can help too. In particular, do note that free service will run for six days to 1 January. So please spread out, and there is no need to rush. DTL is here to stay, and there will be plenty of opportunities to experience its wonders, including the artwork in each station.

We will inform commuters of the level of crowdedness at the DTL stations. So do check via MyTransport.SG app and better time your trip accordingly. This way, all can enjoy the new DTL2 and get familiarised with the layout of its 12 new stations. I will be there tomorrow to observe; I hope it will be a good experience for all.

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Cutting teeth

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As a young, inexperienced father, my firstborn’s teething when her first pair of teeth cut through the gums was quite an experience as she became irritable and restless. My wife and I felt helpless, not quite knowing what to do to relieve our girl’s discomfort.

We subsequently became better at managing her younger sisters’ teething. All these happened decades ago 🙂

Well, I will soon experience my first rail line’s “teething” :(.

Cutting teeth_PictureCome 27 December, Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) with its 12 new stations will begin operation. LTA and SBST engineers have spent many months preparing and testing the entire system, from the operations control centre to the trains and tunnels. This includes a very large number of tests on the integration between DTL1 and DTL2. By the time of the opening, they would have chalked up thousands of tests.

Will there still be teething issues despite all the tests?

The engineers told me to expect a “bedding-in” period of several months before the system stabilises. This is common for all new lines. While they can perform all forms of testing in a simulated environment, they cannot fully replicate how the system will actually perform in a live environment involving thousands of commuters. (Remember Murphy’s Law again!)

What was DTL1’s teething experience when it opened in December 2013?

There were two disruptions in January and March 2014. One involved a train’s emergency brake and the other, a power trip. This time round, when we need to integrate a new stretch of the line with another that is already in operation, we can expect more challenges.

But we are working hard to minimise any disruptions in this teething process. We must also anticipate the worst, and have drawer plans for contingencies in the event that disruptions do occur. We want to be proud parents, not stressed-out ones.

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A worthy investment

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The first step to improving rail reliability is to know what causes disruptions. There are several reasons: equipment and component failure, operation and maintenance lapses by operators and contractors, passenger action, and design issues. A look back on major disruptions provides some clues. When external factors such as passenger action are excluded, almost half of the major disruptions on our oldest North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) were due to train issues, with other factors such as track or power faults causing the rest.

As with all machines, as trains age, we must work harder to keep them in good condition. Like those in London and New York, trains can last us twenty years or longer, if they are maintained properly and refurbished at the right time. Eventually, we must decide when to replace them with new trains. Fortunately, with time, better train models with enhanced reliability features have become available in the market. These trains are also easier to operate and maintain. Adding them to our fleet can therefore make a difference to the overall performance of the rail network and in turn, better our service delivery.

A worthy investment_picFrom this year to 2019, we will be adding 99 new trains: 57 for NSEWL, 18 for the North East Line and 24 for the Circle Line.  These new trains will have improved propulsion systems, and more reliable and durable AC synchronous motors which require less maintenance. The new NSEWL trains will also have electric train doors that need lower maintenance and will eliminate air leakage problems associated with the older pneumatic doors. The operations data for each train door will be logged and stored for the maintenance crew to pre-empt door faults before they occur.

As part of the train purchases, we post our rail engineers and technical staff to the overseas factories where the trains are being built, to monitor the entire assembly process and participate in train testing. This also helps our officers gain valuable experience and enhance their technical understanding of the trains.

These 99 trains will cost us over a billion dollars upfront, but they will be a worthy investment. They will be more cost effective in the longer run. Most of all, they will help us achieve higher rail reliability.

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Sailing ahead with the International Maritime Organization

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Earlier today in London, Singapore was successfully re-elected as a Member of the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). We have been a Council Member since 1993. With this re-election, we will serve our 12th consecutive term from 2016 to 2017.

The Singapore delegation here in London is honoured and grateful to IMO Member States for their support. Being a Council Member comes with heavy responsibilities, and we take them seriously and do our best. We will continue to be objective and inclusive, and always give balanced consideration to the different perspectives and concerns of IMO Member States and the industry.

First convened in 1959, the IMO is the United Nations’ specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. The 40-Member Council is the executive organ of the IMO and is responsible for supervising the work of the Organization. As shipping is a lifeline for Singapore, we joined the IMO in 1966, shortly after our independence.

Sailing ahead with IMO_PictureIn our early years, Singapore benefitted greatly from the training and technical assistance generously provided by developed countries and the international community, including in maritime affairs. With their expert advice and support, we were able to create good jobs, transform our city, and build a better home for Singaporeans. And Singapore’s port has become one of the world’s busiest and sits on a vital sea lane for global shipping – with 1,000 vessels at any one time in our port, and a ship leaving or arriving here every two to three minutes. Our maritime sector is a key economic driver contributing some 7% to our GDP, and a source of good jobs for Singaporeans, with more than 170,000 people employed in the sector.

Today, Singapore is able to give back to the international community by providing training and technical assistance and sharing our experiences with other States. The MPA Academy had repositioned itself as a full-fledged academy with a dedicated facility in 2014 to be better able to deliver our global maritime leadership training programmes.

The re-election is a confirmation that our efforts are appreciated by the international maritime community. I hope Singaporeans too will join hands with MOT and MPA to build an even brighter future for Maritime Singapore.

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