Parliament: $60 billion to expand and renew rail network in next decade

SINGAPORE – More than $60 billion will be invested to expand and renew the rail network over the next 10 years, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The sum will fund upcoming projects such as the Thomson-East Coast Line, the Jurong Region Line and extensions to the North East Line and Downtown Line, he told the House on Thursday (March 5).

As for renewal projects, he noted that the renewal of the oldest North-South and East-West lines will be completed by around 2023.

A Transport Ministry spokesman said the $60 billion sum is the projected cash flow for the next 10 years.

Based on current projections, more than 70 per cent of the amount is expected to go towards building new rail lines and stations, while the remaining sum will be for works such as renewals and upgrading, the spokesman said.

In his speech, Mr Khaw said ageing train stations will also be suitably refurbished and upgraded, especially the toilets and escalators.

“In time, we will also need to renew the next oldest lines – North East Line and Sengkang-Punggol LRT,” he said in response to Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC).

“The hard lesson learnt from the problems earlier faced by SMRT is that we must invest in good operations and maintenance,” he said during the debate on his ministry’s budget.

“As noted by Miss Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC), this means engineering capabilities, as well as the timely renewal of old MRT and LRT lines. There is no free lunch.”

On ongoing rail projects, Mr Khaw said Stage 2 of Thomson-East Coast Line will be completed by this year.

But subsequent phases of the line are unlikely to be expedited, as it is a complex project with many engineering and safety considerations, he said in response to Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who asked if the fourth phase of the line – from Gardens by the Bay to Bayshore – could be completed before 2023.

Meanwhile, extensions to the North East Line to Punggol Coast station, and the Downtown Line to Xilin and Sungei Bedok, will be completed by 2023 and 2024 respectively.

The Circle Line will be a complete circle in 2025, when the sixth stage to link HarbourFront to Marina Bay is ready.

“This final stretch at Keppel is the most challenging to build and also the most costly. But when completed in 2025, it will significantly raise the resilience of our MRT network and the travelling experience of our commuters,” he said.

The Jurong Region Line will be completed in 2028, and phase one of the Cross Island Line by 2029, he added.

Mr Khaw did not give an update about a proposed new MRT line in the latest Land Transport Masterplan, which the Land Transport Authority said it was conducting feasibility studies on.

The proposed line could run from Woodlands to the Greater Southern Waterfront, potentially serving estates such as Seletar, Sengkang, Serangoon North and Whampoa.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong previously announced a similar $60 billion budget to improve the rail network in 2010.

During his National Day Rally speech that year, PM Lee said the Government would spend some $60 billion over the next decade to double Singapore’s rail network and will add more trains to ease overcrowding. He said then that a major part of the expenses would go towards doubling the MRT network to 280km in 2020.

Singapore’s current rail network stands at about 230km.

The Transport Ministry has said that it aims to expand the network to about 360km by 2030. Should all plans come to fruition, the total length of Singapore’s rail network will extend to almost 400km by 2040.

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