Saturday, 21 January 2017

Singapore's first integrated road-rail viaduct to open on 18 Feb 2017

4.8km road in Tuas will support heavier traffic expected with developments there; Tuas West MRT extension to open in Q2 of 2017
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2017

More than five years in the making, Singapore's first road-rail viaduct will open on Feb 18.

The Tuas Viaduct stretches 4.8km from Tuas Road to Tuas West Road, with a 2.4km stretch of the upcoming Tuas West MRT extension running 9m above it.

It has been built in anticipation of the heavier traffic that will come with developments in the west of the island - the highlight of which is the Tuas Port.

The viaduct runs 14m above Pioneer Road, which is already often congested with heavy vehicles.

It is currently configured as a dual two-lane road. But an expanded road shoulder can be converted to a third lane in each direction to support "longer-term developments within the Tuas area", said the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which announced the viaduct's opening date yesterday.

Tuas Port is expected to complete the first phase of its construction in 2020 and handle all of Singapore's port activities from 2027.

Construction on the viaduct began in 2012, with a combined budget of $3.5 billion for both the road viaduct and the rail extension, which includes the Tuas Crescent and Tuas West Road stations.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Desire lines: Well-trodden paths unearth what pedestrians desire

My Turf is a new fortnightly series that aims to tell the untold stories in our neighbourhoods. In this first instalment, we take a look at desire lines - unofficial shortcuts - around Singapore.
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

Every day, as church cleaner Goh Lian Huay walks from her workplace to Plaza Singapura for lunch, she eschews the concrete paths that the authorities have meticulously laid out across Dhoby Ghaut Green.

Instead, she treads on a strip of dirt, worn thin by frequent footfall.

It is simply the fastest route, noted Madam Goh, 61, who works at Orchard Road Presbyterian Church. "As long as the ground isn't wet, it makes more sense to cut across the grass. Otherwise, we'd have to walk here, walk there," she said of the more circuitous, concrete paths.

Some call these informal routes shortcuts; others, man-made paths.

But another more romantic term exists: desire lines.

Indeed, a sense of yearning infuses the concept of desire lines, which a 1959 Chicago Area Transportation Plan described as "the shortest line between origin and destination, and expresses the way a person would like to go, if such a way were available".

In urban planning, desire lines are stark reminders of the gap between what planners believe is the ideal route, and what people think actually serves their needs.

Here in Singapore, desire lines are common, with ribbons of brown across patches of green.

4 new mega childcare centres to open by mid-2018, including first pre-school in a park

Four more mega childcare centres on the way, bringing total to 9
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

There will be some relief for young parents worried about a shortage of spaces in childcare centres.

Four more mega childcare centres will open by the middle of next year, offering a total of 2,700 places.

This brings the total number of mega childcare centres here to nine, with 4,700 places in all.

The push for more such centres, which can admit more than 300 children each, comes as the Government said it wants to ramp up numbers to create a more supportive environment for young families. Currently, there is one childcare spot for every two children in Singapore.

Two of the new childcare centres will be in Punggol and have 1,000 places each - believed to be the largest ever for a childcare centre here.

The other two will be in Sengkang (400 places) and Bukit Panjang (300 places). A centre in a Housing Board void deck usually takes in about 100 children.

There could be more to come. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday: "I am personally keen to see more of these (mega childcare centres)."

Pre-schools of such scale, he said, provide space to encourage children to be outdoors and have more physical activities. Other childcare centres may be allowed to let their own young charges "make full use" of such environments.

The Sengkang centre, which broke ground yesterday, is in Sengkang Riverside Park. It is said to be the first centre built in a park. The two-storey campus has a built-up area of 3,600 sq m, almost four times that of an average childcare centre.

Registration for the four new childcare centres will open in the second quarter of this year.

East Coast may offer 6,000 new HDB flats

They would be the first HDB homes built there since the 1970s
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

Home hunters could soon get a shot at new Housing Board flats with coveted sea views along Singapore's East Coast.

The Government is looking into creating a new Bayshore district, which includes 6,000 HDB flats - a huge change for the overwhelmingly private estate area located on reclaimed land. Another 6,500 units will be set aside as private homes.

If they materialise, these Bayshore flats would be the first HDB homes built along the East Coast since the old-generation Marine Parade flats constructed in the 1970s, some of which have fetched more than $900,000 on the resale market in recent months.

The potential development is detailed in tender documents put up by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and which were reported by Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, calling for consultancy firms to develop a master plan for the plot.

The Bayshore district spanning 60 ha is surrounded by Bayshore Road, the East Coast Parkway, Bedok Camp and Upper East Coast Road.

With parts of it currently occupied by a forest, it is about two-thirds the size of Bidadari.

The plot is located between two MRT stations on the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) - Bayshore and Bedok South - and is expected to have facilities and services such as schools, shops and an integrated transport hub.

The tender will be conducted in two phases and the appointed firm will submit its final proposal in December this year, URA said in the documents.

But a URA spokesman told The Straits Times that parts of the area will be used for the construction of the TEL for several years, and that "implementation will not be in the near future". The two stations are expected to open by 2024.

Rather, the invitation to private sector consultants is meant to generate "new ideas for (Bayshore) to be developed into a future public and private housing precinct that supports car-lite living, with a strong sense of community and environmental sustainability", the URA spokesman added.

"The number of public and private housing units has been projected as 6,000 public units and 6,500 private units, and is still under study."

Singapore launches fifth NEWater plant at Changi, boosting water supply

$170m fifth NEWater plant launched
It increases NEWater capacity from 30% to 40% of Singapore's daily water demand
By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

The Republic's supply of water was given a significant boost with the launch of a fifth NEWater plant at Changi yesterday.

It is the first to be jointly developed by a foreign and a local company. Already in operation, the $170 million plant increases Singapore's NEWater capacity from 30 to 40 per cent of the Republic's water demand of 430 million gallons per day.

The BEWG-UESH NEWater Plant, which spans 49,000 sq m, or 7.5 football fields, is able to produce 50 million gallons of NEWater a day, enough water to fill 92 Olympic-size swimming pools, and will supply water to PUB for 25 years.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that even as the Republic celebrates the launch of another NEWater plant, challenges remain.

The water level at Linggiu Reservoir, which regulates the flow of water in Johor River from which Singapore draws water for import, has fallen from 80 per cent in early 2015 to 27 per cent today.

He stressed the need to use water prudently with dry weather conditions becoming more frequent and prolonged.

Mr Masagos said the Government will make adjustments in water charges when necessary, adding that there has been upward pressure because of the rising costs associated with asset maintenance and replacement, as well as of resources like energy and manpower.

Public healthcare sector to be reorganised into 3 integrated clusters, new polyclinic group to be formed

Healthcare services will be streamlined into 3 clusters
Each will have full range of services, from polyclinics to general and community hospitals
By Poon Chian Hui, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017

Singapore's public healthcare will undergo a major shift in the coming year, bringing the entire suite of medical services closer to people's homes.

The six regional health systems of today will be streamlined into three "integrated" clusters.

This will be done by merging three of the current clusters with larger ones, based on geographical location. Between them, the three new, beefed-up clusters will cover the entire island.

Every cluster will then boast a fuller range of services, encompassing general hospitals, at least one community hospital and several polyclinics. Each cluster will also have a medical school.

The move is meant to address future healthcare challenges, such as a greying society and more people with chronic ailments, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

With each new cluster looking after more than a million Singapore residents - and offering the full range of medical services - people will find their healthcare needs being met closer to where they live.

This will mean mergers and consolidation within the existing six-cluster system that took shape between 2007 and 2009.

Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) will join forces with the Eastern Health Alliance, which oversees Changi General Hospital, to offer services in the east.

The National Healthcare Group (NHG) will merge with Alexandra Health System, which runs Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Yishun Community Hospital, to handle the central region.

In the west, the National University Health System (NUHS) will be paired with Jurong Health Services, which manages Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Jurong Community Hospital.

The three merged clusters will thereafter be known as SingHealth, NHG and NUHS respectively.

In line with the changes, the polyclinics will be regrouped.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Singapore matches Malaysia's road charge of $6.40 for all foreign-registered cars from 15 Feb 2017

Foreign-cars to pay reciprocal road charge when entering Singapore: LTA
New entry charge for foreign cars from Feb 15
Amount mirrors Malaysia's fee and applies at Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints, says LTA
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2017

Foreign cars entering Singapore will be levied a new entry charge from Feb 15, in line with earlier government pronouncements that the Republic will match similar fees implemented by Malaysia.

In an announcement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority said a reciprocal road charge of $6.40 per entry will apply at both the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints. It said the fee mirrors Malaysia's road charge of RM20 (S$6.40) for non-Malaysia registered cars entering Johor that was implemented on Nov 1 last year.

On Jan 9, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament that Singapore intends to match Malaysia's road charge.

He pointed out that Malaysia collected about RM13.93 million in road charges from Singapore vehicles in the seven weeks from Nov 1.

Singapore's reciprocal charge will be collected with the vehicle entry permit (VEP) and toll charges for the two crossings, which can amount to as much as $41.50 for cars. During Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) hours, foreign cars without an in-vehicle unit are also levied a fixed ERP charge of $5 a day.

VEP does not apply on weekends, public holidays and after 5pm to before 2am on weekdays.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

True Trump nightmare scenario for the liberals - that his policies work

By Niall Ferguson, Published The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2017

Imagine if George Washington's farewell address had been followed a day later - rather than 172 years later - by Richard Nixon's first press conference as President-elect.

That is what The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and National Public Radio - along with a legion of liberal bloggers, tweeters and Hollywood luvvies - would like us to believe it happened last week.

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered a valedictory speech that had progressive celebrities in ecstasy.

"I admire you so much," tweeted the right-on actress Ashley Judd. "And I will do my part to become increasingly aware of my #implicitbias and #whiteprivelege." (I'd recommend also becoming increasingly aware of how to spell.)

Mr Obama certainly did his best to give them the highfalutin rhetoric that has been the hallmark of his presidency. He could not resist quoting Washington's farewell address, implicitly putting himself in the founding president's league.

To me, he sounded at once pompous and oddly phoney.

As he reeled off the list of his triumphs - the economy growing, the wealthy paying more taxes, more people than ever with health insurance, Osama bin Laden dead, the planet saved from climate change - I wondered just how he reconciled his self-satisfaction with the dissatisfaction and desire for change that two-thirds of voters expressed to pollsters throughout last year.

Then, the next morning, Mr Donald Trump held his first press conference as President-elect. The contrast could scarcely have been more complete. From Mr Obama's frostily artful, clinically crafted brand of uplift, we cut straight to unrehearsed, unfiltered construction-site banter.

Singapore tumbles in WEF index that measures inclusive economic growth

The Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2017

For six years running, Singapore was ranked the second-most competitive economy in the world by the World Economic Forum (WEF), right behind Switzerland.

But the Republic took a tumble in the leaderboards in a new report released today that measures how inclusive and equal countries' economic performance is. Switzerland fell to third place behind Norway and Luxembourg among 30 advanced economies.

While the traditional rankings prized performance in categories Singapore gets top marks in - such as higher education and training, and goods market efficiency - the new index has indicators that measure how well economic performance translates into social inclusion, such as asset building and entrepreneurship, employment and labour compensation, and fiscal transfers.

The new yardsticks come a day before world leaders converge in Davos for an annual meeting in the Swiss town, and are part of the WEF's call to governments to shift their economic policy priorities to respond more effectively to the insecurity and inequality that accompany technological change and globalisation. This means countries that prioritise widespread enjoyment of the fruits of economic growth rank higher than under the old gross domestic product-prioritising competitiveness model.

Rounding out the top five are Iceland and Denmark, which were ranked 27th and 12th respectively under the old model.

Singapore did not receive an overall rank because of missing data, said the WEF, although average scores put it around eighth place.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Can Singaporeans read?

Forget self-help books. Read more about the real state of the world.
By Kishore Mahbubani, Published The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2017

A new year has begun. It often begins with new hope. This year, it would be fair to say that for many Singaporeans, it is beginning with more angst than hope.

The world seems to be in a troubled place. Global economic growth is slowing down. In October 2016, International Monetary Fund chief economist and economic counsellor Maurice Obstfeld said: "Taken as a whole, the world economy has moved sideways."

Global trade is not picking up. The developed world is mired in problems. Brexit and the election of Mr Donald Trump to the United States presidency were two big shocks we experienced last year. This year promises to be a rough year for global geopolitics, with Mr Trump having already provoked China even before his inauguration on Jan 20.

Singapore has already felt some effects of this rough patch in US-China relations.

The Global Times of Beijing on Sept 21, 2016, accused Singapore of having "insisted on adding contents which endorsed Philippines' South China Sea arbitration case and attempted to strengthen the contents on the South China Sea in the document" despite "unequivocal opposition from many countries".

Somewhat unusually, a retired Chinese general, Jin Yinan, now a director at the People's Liberation Army's National Defence University, strongly criticised Singapore.

He said that China should make Singapore "pay the price for seriously damaging China's interests", adding: "We understand it has to survive among big countries, but now Singapore is not seeking balance among big countries - it is playing big countries off against each other... this is playing with fire."


Many Singaporeans, especially some of our businessmen, were surprised and troubled by this obvious downturn in China-Singapore relations. Some were completely surprised by these events. They did not see them coming. Yet, some of these challenges in China-Singapore relations could have been predicted.

Indeed, they were predicted. I, too, have made such predictions.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Growing Popularity of MOE Kindergartens

Higher demand, enrolment for kindergartens set up by MOE
Curriculum, facilities, affordable fees among reasons cited
By Sandra Davie, Senior Education Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2017

Ministry of Education (MOE) kindergartens, which had a muted response at the start three years ago, are now seeing higher demand and enrolments.

Last year, there were 1,300 applications for places in the 15 kindergartens, which were set up by MOE to develop fresh approaches and best practices in early education. It was a 50 per cent increase from the 850 applications in 2015.

At four of the 15 kindergartens - at Punggol Green, Punggol View, Sengkang Green and Yishun - parents even had to ballot for places. The number of places varies from 60 to 120 at the centres.

The higher demand has also meant higher enrolment at the kindergartens. Currently, 2,300 children are enrolled in the kindergartens across the island.

This is a big change from the first year, when only about half of the 560 places offered were taken up.

Some parents had then cited the lack of childcare and school bus arrangements as reasons for the lukewarm response.

However, 12 of these centres now also offer before- and after-school care, up to 7pm. The programme, Kindergarten Care, is run by PCF Sparkletots Preschools.

MOE said four in five children enrolled live within 1km of their kindergarten, which indicates that proximity to home is one of the draws.

But several parents interviewed said they were also attracted by the fact that the kindergartens are MOE-run and are housed within primary schools, with good facilities.

A dozen of the centres are housed within primary schools.

Parents also liked the play-based curriculum and that all the three main mother tongue languages - Chinese, Malay and Tamil - were taught at the centres.

They also felt that the teachers were of high quality and the monthly fees of $150 for the four-hour programme were affordable.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

New rules for cyclists and PMD users; Active Mobility Bill passed in Parliament

Registration, plates for e-bikes to boost safety
Move may extend to all motorised PMDs if effective in bid to curb illegal modifications
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2017

Electric bicycles will soon need to be registered to an owner and have registration plates, as the Government seeks to clamp down on those who illegally modify the devices.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo announced this yesterday in Parliament, which approved a new law to regulate the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs).

The Transport Ministry will give details later and amend related legislation under the Road Traffic Act.

The new registration regime could be extended to all motorised devices if found effective, Mrs Teo said. The move comes after a series of fatal e-bike accidents late last year.

The Transport Ministry had signalled last year that it intended to register e-bikes, but this is the first time it has mentioned that they will need registration plates.

Mrs Teo said e-bikes were being targeted as they "were prone to illegal modification to achieve high speeds on roads".

Speaking during the debate on the Active Mobility Bill, Mrs Teo said cycling and the use of PMDs were an "essential part" of Singapore's drive to go car-lite.

The Bill was passed after a vigorous debate, which saw 13 MPs flag concerns over the safety of pedestrians as these devices gain popularity with Singaporeans young and old.

To boost safety, they gave various suggestions - from improving infrastructure to mandating protective gear such as helmets.

Mrs Teo said the popularity of these devices was a positive development "as active mobility is a key pillar of our vision for transport in Singapore". Such modes of transport were green, convenient and efficient for short distances, she said.

"They are essential to Singapore's transition to car-lite mobility, centred on public transport," she said.

The new law was drafted based on guidelines by an advisory panel last year. It governs how and where bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters can be used, as well as criteria they must meet, such as weight.

It also legalises the use of bicycles and PMDs on footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths. E-bikes will be allowed only on roads, and cycling and shared paths.