Ministry of Transport Committee of Supply 2017 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered In Parliament On 8 March 2017)


Train Disruptions – Dennis Tan

At COS 2016 I highlighted the alarming regularity of train faults, breakdowns and disruptions, and asked for the Ministry’s plans to abate these unacceptable occurrences. Unfortunately I have to repeat the cut again this year. Contrary to recent survey findings, train breakdowns and delays have been happening so frequently that commuters are getting increasingly frustrated e.g., half a dozen track circuit-related delays on the Clementi-Joo Koon stretch of the line have occurred in the past 1½ months, while a quick search on Straits Times and TODAY from May to Dec 2016 brought up at least 18 times a train breakdown was reported – there are at least 2 breakdowns or more a month and that does not include the train faults and delay that were not reported! It seems like train faults are becoming the norm for us now, which is NOT where we want our Singapore transport system to go.

As I have said at COS last year, Singaporeans should not have to get used to this regularity of disruptions. We should expect our system to have far fewer disruptions. We should also be greatly concerned with the loss of productivity to all our workers and our economy arising from the man-hours lost to all delays.

So I would like to ask the Minister what is the Minister’s assessment of the recent breakdowns, what are the minister’s plans to improve the situation and will commuters see a significant decrease in the number of train delays, faults or disruptions this year?


COE for Motorcycles – Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap

Madam, I welcome the move by ministry to exempt the contribution of motorcycle COE quota to the open COE category. Hopefully this move may help to ease the motorcycle’s COE prices dilemma.

Madam, I still receive grievances expressed by motorcycle owners specifically our fellow Singaporeans who depends on their motorcycles for their family’s livelihood. I believe a more encompassing and inclusive measures can be introduced and implemented to regulate the motorcycle COE prices.

I would like to reiterate my call made at last year’s COS debate, that is to breakdown the motorcycle COE according to the different engine capacity and also to allocate the number of quota according to the percentage of these motorcycles on our road. If the COE for cars can be categorized in such a manner, why can’t it be the same for motorcycles. I still think it is one of the better way to mitigate the issue of high motorcycle COE prices.

I have 2 clarifications for the ministry. First, observers and commentators viewed the introduction of tiered ARF is meant to mitigate the high motorcycle COE prices. Can I have the Ministry’s confirmation as this was not mentioned explicitly during Minister’s Heng budget speech. If the answer is Yes, how this can be achieved and if, No, what is the actual purpose of its implementation. Secondly, with a tiered ARF imposed on motorcycles, would the ministry consider having PARF rebate for motorcycle, similar to that for car.

Public Transport for Disabled – Sylvia Lim

Madam, we have made concrete progress in recent years in making public transport more accessible to disabled persons.  There are two areas I wish to highlight for further review.

First, the space available on buses for wheelchairs.  The Minister previously confirmed that 92% of public buses today are wheelchair-accessible, and the goal is to make this 100% by 2020. While certainly welcome, the fact is that the number of wheelchairs that a bus can accommodate is very limited.  According to the operators’ websites, SMRT buses can accommodate two wheelchairs, while some SBS Transit buses can only accommodate one. I have received feedback from disabled persons living in a charitable home about the difficulties posed when a few wheelchair-bound persons need to travel at the same time.  Due to the limited space on board, they would need to board the buses in turn, and wait at their destinations for subsequent buses carrying their friends to arrive, greatly increasing their travelling time.  Besides their own plight, they also rightly point out that as the general population ages, we can expect that a few wheelchair-bound persons may need to be on board the same bus at the same time.  Now with the Bus Contracting Model, where the government owns all operating assets, I ask the government to look into having buses with more wheelchair space.

Secondly, while we may have made good infrastructural improvements and removed physical barriers, it is vital that our public transport emergency plans provide for the safety and safe evacuation of persons with disabilities.  Should a contingency arise say in the MRT system that requires evacuation or diversion of passengers, do our emergency plans spell out how we will communicate and protect those who are physically or mentally impaired including the wheelchair-bound or those impaired in vision or hearing?  To what extent have such plans been exercised?


Silver Zones – Design and Education – Png Eng Huat

Madam, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said last December that the Silver Zone initiative will be rolled out to many parts of Singapore by 2023. While there are merits to the Silver Zone initiative, there are also safety concerns and operation issues that need to be resolved.

First, the implementation of the Silver Zone Programme must go hand in hand with the widening of the pedestrian footpaths in the area. This is because the roads in the Silver Zone will be narrowed substantially to slow down traffic in the area. This will leave very little room for cyclists to maneuver. At some pinch points along Hougang Ave 5, a designated Silver Zone, there is virtually no room left for cyclists and buses to coexist.

Due to safety concern, cyclists may take to the footpaths, and this will create another set of problems. The elderly, expectant mothers, and young children are all at risk when cyclists are forced to share footpaths that are not designed to be shared in the first place. Without the widening of the pedestrian footpaths for Silver Zone, it is an accident waiting to happen, either on the narrow road or on the narrow footpath.

Second, the “Courtesy Crossing” is probably one of the more misunderstood features of the Silver Zone initiative.   Some “Courtesy Crossings” are designed to look like zebra crossing without the white stripes and light poles. In fact, when the Silver Zone was done up in Hougang, a few residents told me the contractors forgot to paint the white stripes and left.

Who is supposed to show courtesy at such crossing, the pedestrian or the motorist? According to LTA, it is still the responsibility of the pedestrian to keep a lookout for oncoming vehicles at such crossing.

Madam, here lies the confusion.

I have seen some motorists stopping for pedestrians to cross, while others did not. It is made more confusing when motorists have to slow down at such crossing due to the chicanes, pinch points, and elevated crossing, but they may not have the intention to stop for pedestrians to cross. Furthermore, motorists may show courtesy on one side of the road while on the other side, they may not. How will pedestrians know who will stop for them? There is too much second guessing at “Courtesy Crossing”, and that is a recipe for accidents to happen.

The term “Courtesy Crossing” is a misnomer to begin with because there is no change to the way pedestrians are supposed to cross the road. We look left, look right, and look left again before we make a judgment call to cross the road. The pedestrians still have to stop for vehicles to pass. So what is this added “courtesy” all about?

The Silver Zone is a good initiative. The safety concern for cyclists and pedestrians over the narrow footpaths can be easily addressed. The confusion over the “Courtesy Crossing”, however, needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Residents have shared incidents of near misses at such crossing, and I hope LTA will look into resolving this confusion soon.


Promoting Electric Vehicles – Daniel Goh

Madam, gasoline and diesel powered vehicles are key contributors to air pollution in cities around the world. Recently, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources was quoted in a newspaper article stating that Singapore was not on track to meet our 2020 targets for reducing air pollutants.

Electric vehicles are seen as a solution to this problem and some are promoting it as a game-changing growth industry, especially if it is coupled with self-driving technology in the near future.

The electric car-sharing scheme that is being rolled out this year is an excellent programme in terms of scale and scope. The fact that the public can use up to 20% of the 2000 charging points is a good move to encourage private electric car ownership. Other than the sharing of charging points, does the Ministry have plans to promote private electric car ownership?

However, since the Government’s approach is to encourage public transport usage rather than private car usage, the key question when it comes to electric vehicles is whether our public buses would make the switch from diesel to electric. LTA announced in August last year that Go-Ahead Singapore was putting an e-bus on a six-month trial. I would like to ask the Minister what is the conclusion from the trial and whether it indicates a go ahead for more e-buses to hit our roads?


Safety of Footpath – Dennis Tan

The Ministry is allowing certain footpaths to be shared by cyclists, users of personal mobility devices (PMDs) and pedestrians. Allowing shared use of footpaths may invariably increase the risk of accidents. Besides suitable sign-posting, footpaths should always be sufficiently wide to allow for such shared use.

Last year, I filed a Parliamentary Question asking the Minister about the recommended width for footpaths and whether the ministry will conduct an island wide review to ensure that existing footpaths which are often used by cyclists are widened in accordance with this minimum width.

Minister Khaw replied to say (and I quote), “most of our footpaths are at least 1.5 meters wide.” I assume the Minister meant that 1.5 meters is the “recommended” width.

In reality, there are some footpaths which are often used by both cyclists and pedestrians which may be narrower than 1.5m. One example is the footpath next to the bus stop along Bedok North Avenue 4, opposite St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School, right next to Block 95. It is 1.2 meters wide at least along certain part of the path leading to Bedok North Industrial Estate. This footpath is heavily used by cyclists and PMD users travelling between Bedok and the industrial estate.

Some residents have shared with me during my house visits that there is a dangerous chokepoint at the location around the bus stop where the footpath connects to the staircase leading to Blk 95, right by the bus stop. Coming from the direction of the industrial estate, the footpath curls left round the back of the bus stop, effectively creating a dangerous blind spot made worse by the advertisement billboard which obstructs the view of both cyclists and people in the bus stop. According to residents I spoke to, there has been accidents and near misses. I wrote a letter to LTA on 7 July 2016 but I have yet to hear from them on the action they may have decided to take or the reasons for not taking any action.

I urge the Ministry to carefully review the width of all footpaths which are often used by cyclists or PMD users, to ensure the safety of all users.