Delivered in Parliament on 10 May 2021
Madam Deputy Speaker
The main thrust of the Land Transport Authority (Amendment) Bill before us is to bring about greener and more sustainable transport options in Singapore, focusing on enhancing our land transport infrastructure to support electric vehicles in particular. Such a move is overdue and is necessary given the climate emergency we are facing.
While the measures in these Bill are an appropriate first step, there remain key gaps that we must address in order to secure a more sustainable and environmentally-secure future for Singapore.
My remarks and clarifications today relate to two key areas: first, building an equitable and sustainable electric vehicle infrastructure, and second, stepping up efforts to promote additional green transport alternatives.
Developing EV Infrastructure
The core of the bill focuses on enabling the LTA to promote the use of electric vehicles in Singapore through facilitating the development of and standards for an EV charging infrastructure. The stellar rise of Mobility-as-a-Service has given its role more urgency, underlining the importance of having the LTA play a role in building up a sustainable mobility ecosystem that can minimise the environmental impact of our transport system.
For this to be achieved, new, lower emissions mobility options must be widely available — to all. I note that there is no provision in the Bill that directs the LTA to ensure that charging points for electric vehicles in public areas — including HDB estates and public vehicle parking facilities
— remain widely accessible. The Bill also does not prescribe the role of
the LTA to ensure that charging points are made available in a manner that is affordable to the public, including ensuring sufficient competition in the market to encourage fair pricing for consumers.
While these may be seen as operational matters, the principle of equitable access to chargers should be enshrined in law. The convenience and benefits of owning an electric vehicle must not be reserved only for residents who live in landed properties, as they can easily purchase, install, and access their own charging points in their properties.
I note that the RFI being conducted by the LTA right now does consider deploying 60,000 charging points by 2030, including 40,000 points in public and HDB car parks. Yet there are less details about how and where these points would be located.
I would like to ask the Minister: Can the government provide a commitment that building equitable access will be the cornerstone of the LTA’s approach to our EV transition? What specific payment and funding models are being considered to ensure that the final user will be extended affordable prices? Would the government engage residents deciding the location of charging points and pricing and publicise the results of this engagement? What regulations can be put in place to prevent ugly behaviours such as charger and space-hogging which deprive other users of the chance to charge their vehicles?
Getting our EV support infrastructure right from the very beginning is especially important as the continued growth in Mobility-as-a-service means that many drivers and users of mobility devices depend on their vehicles for their livelihoods — they conduct deliveries and transport
passengers, and should be able to continue doing so without having to worry about finding an available charging station to spend 30 minutes charging up their vehicle in the middle of their work day.
Moving on from equity to sustainability, we should also ensure that there is sufficient consideration for how we would manage the inevitable growth in electronic waste from expired electric vehicles, and whether the 10-year duration for COEs remains relevant given the potentially low emissions beyond the 10-year life of the electric car.
EV batteries comprise rare metals that can be hazardous to humans and the environment, and are a finite resource that we will soon be in short supply of. Our EV strategy must consider extending the typical 10-year useful life of a car and a plan for the electronic waste after that, including adequate facilities to repurpose, recycle, and when there are no other choices, for the safe disposal of such waste.
We need to think ahead about this issue systematically and not scramble when we realise that we are being forced to act because of pressing environmental or safety concerns. The LTA and Ministry of Transport should coordinate closely with the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment to develop a clear plan. The public and key stakeholders should also be consulted and must be asked to provide feedback as we prepare our infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles. This crucial element should be baked into the system from the start, not patched on in an ad-hoc fashion years down the line.
Stepping Up Efforts to Promote Other Green Transport
I also wish to note that electric vehicles are just one component of developing a sustainable transportation eco-system.
The Green Plan 2030 highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to promote an active, healthy lifestyle in Singapore. This includes promoting cycling, an even more eco-friendly means of getting around, that has the added benefit of building exercise into our daily commute.
Given ongoing trials to repurpose car lanes for pedestrian use and increase bicycle paths, the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority should use this opportunity to increase adoption of a cycling culture in Singapore.
Preliminary studies have found that bicycle sales have soared in the wake of Covid-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns, and I look forward to the results of LTA’s ongoing Household Travel Survey to see if there is a marked increase in commuting by bicycle and other more eco-friendly measures.
If it is indeed true that the ongoing pandemic has resulted in an uptick in greener forms of mobility, it would be a shame to let such gains be reversed as we think about moving back to a ‘new normal’. Indeed, greener forms of commuting and transport must form an integral part of that new normal from day one.
To encourage higher ridership rates and more commuting by bicycle, we should introduce legislation to reorient our infrastructure to promote cycling and other low emissions options of travel as an alternative means of commuting.
An obvious place to start would be further amendments to legislation to reorient our infrastructure to promote cycling and other low emissions options as an alternative means of commuting, and not just as a means of recreation.
Having dedicated bicycle lanes on roads and pop-up bicycle lanes that are separate from both pedestrians and motor vehicles are good ways to encourage alternative means of transport not just for leisure but also for commuting. This is especially important when you consider that cycling was estimated to emit ten times less emissions than electric cars by a recent study. In fact, the study also found that the average person who shifted from car to bike for just one day a week cut their carbon footprint by 3.2kg of CO2 – equivalent to the emissions from driving a car for 10km, eating a serving of red meat or chocolate, or sending 800 emails.
With this in mind, I would like to call for the Government to allow Sengkang to lead the charge in being one of the first towns to fully embrace a cycling culture with a dense network of cycling paths and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
I believe that the compact nature of our estate and the large number of residents who cycle in Sengkang (whether for leisure, commuting, or as delivery riders) make it a good place to trial our move towards more active travel and mobility options. The younger population, higher reliance on delivery services and proximity to bike networks such as the Punggol Waterway Park and Sengkang Riverside Park makes the estate an ideal candidate for a concerted push towards being a truly bike and pedestrian-friendly town.
Sengkang can and should be a model for how Singapore can move towards sustainable mobility.
We can go even further by considering repurposing car lanes into bike lanes. This is a tried and tested approach from cities such as Taipei, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Canberra. A more considerate road
design that embraces bicycles and even PMDs can also address matters of road safety which is the subject of some of the changes to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill that was debated earlier today. If we make it easier for all road users to use pathways and roads safely together – it would naturally engender safer road behaviour.
To address concerns raised about active mobility options in Singapore’s climate, we should ensure coordination with BCA and other authorities. While I note that BCA’s Green Mark gives a point for buildings that provide a point to buildings which provide sheltered bicycle lots or adequate facilities like showers and changing rooms, can we go a step further to eventually make such on-site end-of-trip features mandatory for new and renovated office spaces? Additionally, we could provide additional tax breaks for buildings who provide such facilities by having a green tax relief scheme. These measures would definitely further encourage active mobility commuting.
In conclusion, while we understand the Bill’s intent, we need to ensure our EV infrastructure is developed in an equitable and sustainable way, and that it is not the only focus of our sustainable transport plan.
We must think ahead, and innovatively to ensure we focus our minds towards fulfilling our commitment to a Green Singapore, promoting health, and improving transportation.
I support the Bill. Thank you.