Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew to leave politics

By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has chosen not to stand in the coming general election, a decision Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday he accepted reluctantly.

In an exchange of letters between the two men dated yesterday, Mr Lui said when he broached the subject of quitting politics early this year, PM Lee and senior Cabinet colleagues tried hard to persuade him to change his mind.

"You reminded me that the responsibility of Government was a collective one, and no minister carried difficult problems like public transport alone," wrote Mr Lui.

"I deeply appreciate the reassurance and support. But having thought the matter over carefully, I have decided that I should stand by my original decision," he added.

Mr Lui, 53, who took on a second portfolio as Second Defence Minister in April, is an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, which will be dissolved at the next polls. He will hold his portfolios till the new Cabinet is formed after the general election.

In his letter, Mr Lui thanked PM Lee for the "unstinting support" given to him and his ministry.

But he also noted the setbacks he endured during his tenure, including two major disruptions on the North-South and East-West MRT lines: "Large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than is acceptable."

In the first quarter this year, there were five major train service disruptions, each lasting over 30 minutes. Last month, more than 250,000 people were affected when trains on the North-South and East-West lines were halted for over two hours during the evening peak of July 7.

The ministry has embarked on major upgrades and identified areas that need systematic renewal, but these improvements will take time, given the nature and scale of the rail network, he wrote.

He thanked PM Lee for informing him of his intention to reappoint him as a Cabinet minister if he were to be re-elected.

"But the General Election also provides an opportunity for me to step back from politics without causing any major disruption to Government at the end of its term," he said.

Replying, PM Lee praised Mr Lui for his "very good work" as Transport Minister. Mr Lui did not hesitate to take up the challenging portfolio when asked in 2011, PM Lee said, adding: "You put your heart and soul into the task. As a result, we made significant progress over the last four years."

But his contributions to this progress will be seen only in the coming years and they "will make a lasting difference to the public transport system", PM Lee said.

Despite recent train disruptions, PM Lee expressed confidence that the public transport system is "heading in the right direction".

In an interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, Mr Lui said his decision had nothing to do with family or health reasons.

Asked about talk that he was being forced to leave politics, he said his leaving was a personal choice and one he had mulled over.

"I did pray for a certain conviction and clarity too," he added.

Lui Tuck Yew has told me that he does not wish to stand again in the coming General Election, and I have reluctantly...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

'Eulogies without flowers' for Lui
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2015

In the two days since news broke that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew would leave politics, he has been inundated with e-mails from Singaporeans thanking him for his work.

It was interesting, he said, that about 20 per cent of them regretted not speaking up more against negative comments online or being too critical of him.

Mr Lui, however, would not elaborate on why he is leaving, during his interview with The Straits Times yesterday.

"There are so many articles and it's almost like obituaries and eulogies (but) without the flowers," he said. "Ultimately, it's a personal decision."

"It's almost like obituaries and eulogies without the flowers." This is Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's response to...
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mr Lui took on the difficult transport portfolio after the 2011 general election, and in the past four years, many improvements were made in the transport sector.

He said new buses, trains and routes have been added, improving reliability and reducing waiting time. But prolonged MRT disruptions "are still at an unacceptably high level".

On July 7, over 250,000 people were affected when trains on the North-South and East-West lines were halted for over two hours during the evening peak period.

Declining to dwell on comments about his work, he said: "At the end of the day, it should be about transport rather than one man behind transport."

He also indicated he was not affected by the criticisms levelled at him in recent years, saying: "In politics, you need a tender heart and a thick skin, not a hard heart and thin skin. My heart, my skin, like all my body parts, are fine."

He added: "One question was, Did I have the support of Cabinet members? Yes, fully."

Ministers, MPs react with sadness to Lui Tuck Yew's decision to quit politics
Lui 'a dedicated minister and MP'
Colleagues laud his Transport Ministry contributions and commitment to residents
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

News of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's decision to leave politics was greeted with a mixture of shock and dismay yesterday, as ministers and MPs made clear that they rue his unexpected departure.

Mr Lui's colleagues described him as a dedicated minister and MP, adding that he had contributed much to the Transport Ministry.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, who encouraged Mr Lui to enter politics in 2006, said he was always ready to take on challenging tasks. The DPM said he had asked Mr Lui to continue but was unable to change the Transport Minister's mind about leaving.

Mr Teo said: "I spoke to Tuck Yew to ask him to continue as we need people who are committed to serving Singaporeans, and prepared to tackle difficult issues and resolve them."

Fellow Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua said Mr Lui accepted the transport portfolio despite having seen what previous ministers went through professionally and personally. "Tuck Yew took the brunt of public anger. He took criticisms and online flaming in his stride, and quietly focused on resolving problems on the ground."

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa said Mr Lui often travelled on public transport on his own to see the conditions for himself. He recalled how in 2011, Mr Lui rode on the Bukit Panjang LRT system during the June school holidays and the trains were not as crowded as expected. "He said never mind, he would come back again a month later to observe. Indeed, he came."

Others described Mr Lui as a humble person who genuinely cared for Singaporeans and was always willing to help his colleagues.

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing said Mr Lui took to heart the interests of transport workers.

Ms Phua added that in his constituency, Mr Lui was known as an MP with "no airs, no wayang", who treated residents and grassroots volunteers with respect and dignity.

Mr Chua Lai Teck, the People's Action Party branch secretary in Mr Lui's Moulmein ward, said: "He says whatever he says from his heart. He is a very humble person."

Moulmein-Kallang GRC anchor minister Yaacob Ibrahim said: "Tuck Yew's commitment to his residents is unwavering, and the residents and I are sad to see him go."

Meanwhile, Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao recalled on Facebook Mr Lui's maiden parliamentary speech on how Singapore was like a small boat at sea. "He has had his hand close to the rudder all this time. We will miss his earnestness and decency in Parliament."

Democratic Progressive Party chief Benjamin Pwee felt Mr Lui was leaving too early, and voters should get a chance to "give him a scorecard at the ballot box".

But former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin noted that it would have been easy for Mr Lui to pin the blame on someone else for transport failings and have that person fired. Instead, he said, Mr Lui "is taking on a higher-order responsibility himself and being accountable".

PM Lee Hsien Loong says outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew did very good work and put "heart and soul" into the...
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Decision to step down a 'personal choice'
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday explained that his decision not to contest the coming general election (GE) was very much a personal choice, and not because he was forced to do so.

He also said that in most ministries but more so in transport, the work is "all consuming - in time, energy, and focus". "And so, to me (the GE) is an opportunity to step down, and step away from politics."

Mr Lui made the point in an interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, a transcript of which was released to the media.

Asked whether he was leaving because of his wife's health, Mr Lui, who turns 54 on Sunday, said his wife Soo Fen was in very good health, and his decision to step down had nothing to do with family or health reasons.

But it was something he had thought about for some months.

"These are things that you mull over and then, you know, I am a Christian, so I did pray for a certain conviction and clarity too. And I felt that by early this year, it was time to share with PM (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong)."

Mr Lui was also asked about perceptions that he quit because he did not want to drag down the vote share of the People's Action Party, given that his transport portfolio was not a popular one.

His reply: "I'm not so sure there are any ministries that are especially popular, nor do we come into this for the sake of popularity."

He added that there have been improvements in public transport capacity - including new lines and buses - and reliability, but acknowledged that there have also been setbacks. "That is part and parcel of the job," he said.

Asked about his future plans, he said he had told PM Lee he will not start making any plans "until I've handed over properly to the next transport minister", and the most important thing for him now was "to continue to devote all the time and energy" he had to the job.

As for whether he would be doing anything related to transport, he said it was far too early to say.

"I don't want my mind to be cluttered with transitions, what's to come... The last thing you want is for decisions to be second-guessed, for people to say, 'Oh, you were planning to go to this company, that firm, that whatever, so did you make your last decisions supporting them, favouring them, or anything like that?' That's the worst way to do things," he said.

Mr Lui also said he would be involved in the GE as he would be introducing the new candidate at his Moulmein branch and make sure he or she is prepared. "If I can help out in whatever way, then certainly I'll be happy to do so," he added.

Minister position is consuming - in time, energy, focus: Lui
TODAY, 12 Aug 2015

In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew elaborated on his reasons for wanting to leave politics, and whether transport is an unpopular portfolio.

Q: Could you share why you are not participating in the next General Election (GE)?

Mr Lui: Well, I think the reasons are in the letter ... I think in a sense, as you would know, in transport, I guess also in most ministries ... it is all consuming — in time, energy, and focus. So, (it is) to me an opportunity to step down, and step away from politics.

Q: To some of the public, they may perceive this as ... ‘Transport Minister is not a popular portfolio’. In the General Election, transport issues would obviously be a hot potato. Some may perceive your decision to quit is because you don’t want to drag down the People’s Action Party’s vote?

I’m not so sure that there are any ministries that are especially popular, nor do we come into this for the sake of popularity ... I think there have been improvements in (transport) capacity, in reliability. There have also been setbacks ... I think that’s part and parcel of, basically, any portfolio.

Q: So it’s goodbye to sleepless nights?

Well, at least my phone won’t buzz every time. Because every (transport) delay, every (train) withdrawal comes to me. So I know when (delays are) on the uptrend, because I can monitor it from my phone. So it won’t be buzzing after (this).

FROM THE ARCHIVES: His mother died when he was six and Lui Tuck Yew grew up with his bank clerk father and older twin...
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lui Tuck Yew: From Navy chief to Transport Minister
By Toh Ee Ming, TODAY, 11 Aug 2015

Mr Lui Tuck Yew entered politics in the 2006 General Election (GE) after a high-flying career in public service, having risen to the position of Chief of Navy before moving on to helm the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Right off the bat, when he was announced as a People’s Action Party GE candidate, his credentials had him on track as a potential office-holder. Indeed, after he was elected a Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC in a walkover that year, he was appointed Minister of State for Education. He was later appointed Acting Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts in 2009, before being made a full minister in 2010. After the 2011 GE, in which he was fielded as one of the anchor ministers for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, Mr Lui took over the Transport Ministry hot seat from Mr Raymond Lim.

Born on Aug 16, 1961, Mr Lui, a Singapore Armed Forces (Overseas) scholar, began his career in the Republic of Singapore Navy after graduating from Trinity College, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1983. He rose to the rank of Rear-Admiral and was made Chief of Navy in 1999, before becoming the chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority four years later. He joined the HDB as chief executive officer in 2005.

Married to Ms Teng Soo Fen with two daughters, other portfolios Mr Lui has held are Second Minister for Foreign Affairs from May 2011 to July 2012, and in April, he was appointed Second Minister for Defence.

Mr Lui’s tenure as Transport Minister was marked by MRT service breakdowns of unprecedented scale, two of which happened just over six months into his appointment. In December 2011, two outages happened within three days of each other on the North-South Line, which led to the setting up of a Committee of Inquiry as well as the resignation of Ms Saw Phaik Hwa as SMRT CEO.

Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament in Jan 2012, Mr Lui said: “SMRT could have better handled the evacuation of the passengers in the stalled trains to reduce the sense of distress, and provided clearer and timelier information and instructions to the public, instead of leaving commuters confused and apprehensive in already disordered circumstances.” The maintenance and upgrading regime as well as the regulatory and penalty framework would also be reviewed, he said.

In July that year, after the COI concluded that disruptions could have been prevented if adequate maintenance measures and checks had been carried out, Mr Lui told Parliament: “The December incidents were a painful lesson, but we can and will learn from them. We will improve our ability to address new challenges that arise with an expanded public transport network. I give the House my assurance that we will spare no effort to improve.”

He added: “The Government is responsible for delivering a quality public transport system to Singaporeans. We take this responsibility seriously, and will deliver.”

However, despite efforts to upgrade the ageing MRT system, breakdowns continued to happen.

Last month, power trips crippled the North-South and East-West lines during the evening rush hour, leaving 250,000 commuters stranded island-wide. It is believed to the worst MRT breakdown yet.

It was a blow for Mr Lui, who, when commenting on a spate of disruptions earlier in the year, told Parliament that the rail network had improved in terms of reliability and capacity since 2011, even as he acknowledged that more needed to be done.

During a preview of the Downtown Line 2 last week, Mr Lui acknowledged that it was natural for commuters to question if MRT reliability had improved since 2011, in light of the July 7 breakdown. “My short answer is yes, it has improved, but not enough,” he told reporters.

Significant changes made, say transport experts
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

In the minds of many people, Mr Lui Tuck Yew's tenure as Transport Minister may be marred by crippling rail disruptions, the latest being on July 7 when two heavily used MRT lines broke down during the evening peak hours.

But experts say he has introduced significant changes to Singapore's public and private transport and were surprised by yesterday's announcement that he will leave politics.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said that steps have been taken to boost MRT reliability under Mr Lui's watch and new train systems, like the Downtown Line (DTL) 1, have been launched successfully, with others in the pipeline such as the DTL 2, which will start running in December.

Meanwhile, the $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) was introduced in 2012, in which the Government partners operators to increase capacity and boost service levels, said transport consultant Gopinath Menon.

"To me, that really stands out. There are now more bus services and that has helped to reduce crowding," Mr Menon added.

About 620 new buses have been put on the road under the BSEP, with 380 more to come by 2017.

A "dramatic change" to the bus industry was also made with the move to a government contracting model, Dr Lee said. Under it, the Government will own all bus infrastructure and assets, with the routes tendered out to operators.

The first package of 26 routes in the western part of Singapore was awarded to London-based Tower Transit in May.

In the realm of private transport, Dr Lee said tweaks have been made to the certificate of entitlement (COE) system, such as the introduction of a criterion based on engine power, to create more social equity in car ownership.

This helps ensure mass-market car buyers are in one COE category and premium buyers, in another.

The carbon emissions-based vehicle scheme was also refined, Dr Lee said, which will push buyers towards cleaner vehicles.

Experts admitted the transport portfolio is a difficult one. This will change, they said, as the Government expands its role beyond that of a regulator and takes greater control of the public transport system.

The bus industry is moving to a contracting model, and the DTL has adopted a new financing model in which the Government owns the operating assets, thus giving it more control.

Policy changes made in transportation also take time to bear fruit, one political observer noted.

Law don and former Nominated MP Eugene Tan said: "Transport issues don't resolve themselves in the life of one parliamentary term. Very often, the public may make fairly quick judgments about how effective a minister is just through one electoral cycle."

Below is a letter Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew wrote to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday on Mr Lui's decision not to stand for re-election, as well as PM Lee's letter in response.

Lui Tuck Yew
Thank you for the unstinting support

Dear Prime Minister,

It is with deep regret that I confirm my decision not to stand for re-election in the coming General Election.

I broached this subject with you early this year. You and several senior members of the Cabinet tried hard to persuade me to change my mind. You reminded me that the responsibility of Government was a collective one, and no minister carried difficult problems like public transport alone. I deeply appreciate the reassurance and support. But having thought the matter over carefully, I have decided that I should stand by my original decision.

I thank you for the unstinting support you have personally given to the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and me. For example, expenditure on new buses and trains as well as to expand and upgrade the rail network, airport and port is higher than ever before and will continue to rise.

The injection of new capacity has started to ease congestion on buses and trains. It has helped us serve our commuters better. The BSEP (Bus Service Enhancement Programme) has produced shorter waiting times, new routes and less crowded buses. New trains have been introduced and the total train fleet will continue to grow some 50 per cent over the next three to four years. The entire Downtown Line will open within the next 24-30 months. This will add capacity and resilience to the overall rail network, especially along the East-West corridor. As for reliability, train delays and withdrawals across all lines have been reduced.

But we have had some setbacks, including two major disruptions on the NSEW (North-South East-West) lines. Large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than is acceptable. We have embarked on major upgrades and initiated further efforts in the last quarter to identify additional areas that need systematic renewal and strengthen overall maintenance practices.

Given the nature and scale of our rail network, these improvements will take time. But the measures we have put in place will allow our problems to be progressively dealt with and resolved. I am proud of the good work my team at MOT and LTA (Land Transport Authority) have done.

I have put my utmost into fulfilling my responsibilities. I thank you for letting me know your intention to reappoint me as a Cabinet minister, if I was to be re-elected at the coming General Election. But the General Election also provides an opportunity for me to step back from politics without causing any major disruption to Government at the end of its term. You are also bringing in new potential office-holders to strengthen Cabinet.

Truly, it has been an honour and a privilege for me to serve in your Cabinet. It has also been an honour and privilege to serve alongside a splendid team of activists, GRLs (grassroots leaders) and MPs, the residents of Moulmein and the larger Tanjong Pagar and Moulmein-Kallang GRCs.

Finally, I wish you and my colleagues every success as you lead our beloved country beyond SG50.

Yours sincerely,
Lui Tuck Yew
Aug 11, 2015

Lee Hsien Loong
You put heart and soul into the task

Dear Tuck Yew,

Thank you for your letter informing me that you have decided not to stand in the coming General Election. I reluctantly accept your decision, though I am disappointed that I did not succeed in changing your mind.

You have done very good work as Minister for Transport. When I asked you to helm the Ministry in 2011, we both knew that you had a very difficult job, but you did not hesitate to take up the challenge. There were urgent things to be done, especially expanding and improving the public transport system. Public expectations were high.

You put your heart and soul into the task. As a result, we made significant progress over the last four years. The job is not yet complete, as we are reminded from time to time when train services break down. But despite these incidents, I am confident that we are heading in the right direction, to get the public transport system that Singaporeans deserve.

Your role in setting policies, implementing major projects, and supervising the operation of the public transport network, has contributed critically to this progress. You have put in place many improvements whose benefit will be seen only in the coming years, and which will make a lasting difference to the public transport system.

My senior colleagues share my view that you have more to contribute, both in transport and in other areas in government. We discussed the matter with you several times, but could not persuade you to continue. So I have no choice but to accept your decision not to stand for election again.

You entered Parliament in 2006 as Member of Parliament for Moulmein, which later became part of Moulmein-Kallang GRC. As an MP, you worked tirelessly for almost a decade in Moulmein to improve the lives of your residents. You served in several ministries. Before Transport, you were Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, where under your watch, the arts and cultural scene flourished. You have also served in Foreign Affairs and Defence. You served with distinction and dedication in all your postings. You will be missed.

I would like to thank you for all that you have done for my team and for Singapore over the last decade. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and look forward to your continuing contributions, in other roles, towards our nation building beyond SG50.

With all good wishes to you and your family.

Yours sincerely,
Lee Hsien Loong

We must respect Lui’s decision: Ng Eng Hen
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 13 Aug 2015

The People’s Action Party (PAP) organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that he had also spoken to outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew “at length” to persuade him to change his mind on leaving politics, but reiterated that Mr Lui had made his decision.

“I think we should respect his decision,” Dr Ng said during a press conference to unveil the new candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Dr, who is also the Defence Minister, was responding to a reporter, who had asked him to give comments on the state of leadership renewal, given the unexpected announcement on Tuesday that Mr Lui, who has served only two terms as a Member of Parliament, will not be contesting in the upcoming General Election.

The news — coming just two days after Singapore’s jubilee celebrations — has shocked many, with Mr Lui’s colleagues and residents in Moulmein-Kallang GRC, of which he is an MP, expressing sadness at his impending departure.

Senior Minister of State (Transport and Finance) Josephine Teo, who has worked with Mr Lui in the transport ministry for about four years, pointed out very few people in Singapore know the public transport system as well as he does.

“He put his entire effort into trying to make improvements and I know that he left no stoned unturned,” she said. “I know that when the time comes, I will miss him sorely, because he brought so much to bear on all the initiatives ... I am confident that given the time for these measures to take effect, we will see an improved public transport system.”

Lui's decision to go raises many questions: WP chief
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 13 Aug 2015

Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang praised outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew for doing a good job but said that the circumstances surrounding the minister's decision to step down at the next general election left many questions unanswered.

Speaking to reporters before his weekly Meet-The-People session in his Bedok Reservoir-Punggol ward of Aljunied GRC last night, he said he was surprised and disappointed that Mr Lui was stepping down as he thought the minister still had much to contribute.

"He's a hardworking minister and goes to the ground to try his best to resolve transport issues. It's a loss to the Cabinet. He's an experienced minister with experience helming different ministries," he said.

The opposition party chief added that Mr Lui had made a difference to the public transport scene here.

"He has managed to convince the Cabinet to spend... quite a lot of money (for) 500 additional buses to solve some of the problems. And he has also tried to move from the traditional model by now having the transport operator contracted out, which I think is in the right direction," he said, referring to Anglo-Australian transport group Tower Transit winning a five-year contract to operate several bus routes.

Given these developments, Mr Low said Mr Lui's decision to step down was all the more baffling.

He rattled off a list of questions Mr Lui's impending departure from politics has raised - from speculation about the workings of the Cabinet to the Government's handling of a public transport system beset by breakdowns in recent years.

"Was it because of the recent incident of the MRT big breakdown, or is it because he feels that he has not been supported by his Cabinet colleagues, who are supposed to work as a team to give him enough confidence to stay on and to solve the issues?" Mr Low asked.

"I thought the standard ethos of the PAP is that resignation does not solve the problem?

"You have to stay on to solve the problem as a minister," he added.

Asked about the view of some analysts that Mr Lui's departure would take the heat off transport issues and help the PAP, he said he would "be very disappointed with the PAP if they allow a minister to resign in order to take the heat, because they are supposed to function as a Cabinet, as a team".

Noting that Mr Lui's predecessor, Mr Raymond Lim, had also left the Cabinet after helming the Transport Ministry, Mr Low questioned whether the Government needed to fundamentally rethink Singapore's transport model: "Was it because, philosophically, how they treat transport is not correct and not convincing to the Minister for Transport?"

He also wondered if Mr Lui's "morale" was affected after his Moulmein ward in Moulmein-Kallang GRC was "chopped off into pieces and redistributed" to other GRCs.

Mr Low did not want to be drawn to the issue of whether transport would be a hot-button issue at the next general election but acknowledged that transport problems take time to solve.

"We do recognise that the problem of transport is not something that can be easily solved like building more HDB flats," he said. "I think it's a long-term problem because it's heavily used every day."

Speaking on the day that the PAP began its introduction of candidates, Mr Low also shed a little light on his own party's plans.

He indicated that the WP's introductions would take place soon but added that there would probably not be a departure from the past practice of revealing where candidates will stand only on Nomination Day.

He did hint, however, that the future of his Aljunied GRC team could be made known this weekend when the party goes out to sell its newsletter.

Mr Low pledged last week that he would stay and defend Aljunied GRC to thank residents for giving the team a chance during the past elections.

Last night, the WP leader declined to confirm if that applied to every member of the team or if one MP would be sent to shore up a different constituency.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's shock departure: "Perhaps it is a self-sacrificial attempt to draw the sting from a...
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Transport portfolio a political hot seat for Cabinet ministers
Minister Lui's predecessor had asked to leave Cabinet after 5 years at the helm
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2015

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's shock announcement yesterday that he was leaving politics after only nine years - four years as a full minister - was all the more puzzling for the lack of a reason.

Whether in his letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong or in his interview with Lianhe Zaobao yesterday, Mr Lui, 53, never directly addresses why he is stepping down at the next election in the prime of his career and life - becoming the shortest-serving minister here in recent history.

The only clue to Mr Lui's reasoning is in the second paragraph of his letter to PM Lee, where he writes:

"You and several senior members of the Cabinet tried hard to persuade me to change my mind. You reminded me that the responsibility of Government was a collective one, and no minister carried difficult problems like public transport alone."

Ultimately, Mr Lui seems to have decided that some things were his alone to bear.

In the vacuum of information at this early stage, theories have swirled that Mr Lui chose to quit rather than lose his seat at the next election, or that he was made to carry the can on this politically toxic issue for the People's Action Party (PAP).

But it is unlikely that helming a difficult portfolio would have cost Mr Lui his seat. After all, former ministers who oversaw unpopular policies in housing and population did not fail to be re-elected in 2011. And that when public sentiment towards the PAP was, arguably, more hostile than it is now.

It is undeniable that public transport remains an issue from the 2011 election where public sentiment remains broadly negative, in contrast to the gains in housing or immigration policy.

While the overall number of breakdowns has dropped, bus congestion has been eased and additional infrastructure is coming on stream, crisis situations such as last month's MRT power fault entrench a view of the system as deeply flawed.

Those who think that Mr Lui was made a political scapegoat say his decision not to contest again was designed to mollify the public, and to convince them the Government was holding someone to account over the transport situation.

But he has not been responsible for any kind of mistake. If there has been a failing, it is in not being able to improve the system fast enough - and four years is a very short time in transport infrastructure.

In any case, there are few voters myopic enough to attribute the problems of a system to one man, who took on the job only four years ago. There is also the incongruity of holding a government employee to account for what are, effectively, the failings of privately run transport operators.

It seems more likely Mr Lui made the decision entirely on his own.

Perhaps it is a self-sacrificial attempt to draw the sting from a politically toxic issue for his party and colleagues. Perhaps he was too discouraged by brickbats from the public, too tired of a thankless job.

The portfolio had the same effect on his predecessor, Mr Raymond Lim, who asked to leave the Cabinet in 2011 after helming transport for five years. He was 51 years old.

The transport portfolio seems to be a graveyard for ministers, cutting short promising political careers with its challenges.

Mr Lui's impending departure is the abrupt dimming of one of the brightest stars of the 2006 batch of PAP MPs, a group that includes Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu, and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.

Ms Fu and Mr Masagos are potential replacements if re-elected as they are among three ministers without their own portfolios in the Cabinet.

Or perhaps the buck might be passed to a new minister, one of the high-fliers likely to enter politics in the coming polls.

The question of why Mr Lui quit will, in time, fade into history.

The question that matters now is how to address the vexing issue of transport before it devours another promising political career.

TUCK YEW - A GOOD MAN WHO TOOK CARE OF PEOPLEMy heart was heavy to learn of Minister Lui Tuck Yew's decision not to...
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It has been my privilege to serve alongside Lui Tuck Yew in Moulmein-Kallang GRC these last 4 years. Be it at our market...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lui Tuck Yew and I entered politics in the same year, 2006. He announced his stepping down from politics and will not...
Posted by Denise Phua Lay Peng on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Minister Lui Tuck Yew has announced that he won't continue. Several people spoke with him, including myself, to try and...
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I first met Tuck Yew when I was a young officer. He was always generous with his time and engaged us. Despite his senior...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuck Yew's contributions will be sorely missed by the team. He has been a stalwart in steering us through very...
Posted by Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Singaporeans are a tough bunch to satisfy...
Posted by SGAG on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

All have stations to man on the Singapore boat

Though the major disruptions on the MRT lines were mentioned in Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew's letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, we can only guess at what the real factors behind his resignation might be ("Lui Tuck Yew decides to leave politics"; yesterday).

But let's suppose that the MRT breakdowns were the factors; we ought to contemplate how our responses to the breakdowns might have shaped Mr Lui's decision to step down.

As citizens, we are all in this one Singapore boat. It's a boat well envied by international watchers, but it's a boat that's already 50 years old, and we have a lot of infrastructure, like the MRT, that has been faithfully serving us for several decades now.

As this Singapore boat weathers all kinds of storms, we must realistically expect wear and tear, damage and even downtime to some of the key machinery running this boat, such as the MRT lines.

The MRT is just a microcosm of the crucial machinery running this Singapore boat.

What's key is that we have men and women of character, competence and commitment helming these stations, who know how to deal with the challenges swiftly and effectively when we are hit by storms and how to emerge stronger.

While we must hold these men and women accountable for lapses, breaches of integrity and negligence of duty, we must, in the same tune, encourage and support those who are doing their very best in the face of setbacks, with graciousness and gratitude.

To continue weathering the storms in the next 50 years, we must see ourselves as fellow crew members manning our stations in this Singapore boat.

Storms will come and, often, they are beyond our control. We would do well to rise above our frustrations in the face of inconveniences, recognise the efforts of our fellow countrymen and cheer them on, as they do their utmost to serve us all as we weather these storms together.

Steve Chiu Shih Tung
ST Forum, 13 Aug 2015

The team at SGTrains regret to hear that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew would be stepping down at the end of his...
Posted by SGTrains on Thursday, August 13, 2015

Capable man with heart, dedication

I read with dismay that Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has decided to leave politics ("Lui Tuck Yew decides to leave politics"; yesterday).

I have had the honour of working for him on occasion, albeit indirectly, through my voluntary work, first at a neighbourhood committee and later, through another grassroots organisation.

I have been able to observe up close what Mr Lui is like in action.

He is truly sincere in his concern for the people in Moulmein-Kallang GRC. He showed particular concern for the needy and the elderly, especially those who lived alone.

I was very impressed by his energy and enthusiasm as he went on his walkabouts and in his service to the community.

I felt comforted that my then group representation constituency was in the hands of a man who was not just talk but all action.

Some questioned his sincerity when he first took a train to get a first-hand experience of what most of us go through on our daily commute.

I hope we remember that he is not the cause of the problem, but was trying hard to be part of the solution.

The past 50 years were not easy for Singapore, and sometimes, we had to learn from our mistakes as we went along.

This is precisely the case with transport issues right now, and it is a pity that a man capable of finding a solution will not get the time to do the job.

Many netizens are critical of him and have even made fun of him. For Singaporeans who tried to make a joke out of Mr Lui, the joke is now on them. We are going to lose a very capable man whose heart is all Singapore.

Suzy Egan (Mrs)
ST Forum, 13 Aug 2015

Need to step up maintenance of train system: Lui Tuck Yew

Transport Minister says better manpower allocation, use of technology the way to go
By Maria Almenoar, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2015

A lot more needs to be done to improve the maintenance regime of Singapore's train system, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said.

But this should not translate into shutting down the system during operating hours to get the work done, he said in an interview with The Straits Times.

"For an ageing system, we really need to step up our maintenance," he said, pointing out that the effort needed to maintain a 10- to 15-year-old system is "very different" from that for a 25- to 30-year-old system. Singapore's first MRT line opened in 1987, 28 years ago.

The issue of congested and delayed trains in the run-up to the 2011 General Election made transport a hot-button issue then.

A slew of improvements have boosted services and reliability, but recent breakdowns have pushed transport back into the limelight as Singapore heads for its next election in the weeks ahead.

Asked if increased maintenance would mean more halts to services during operating hours, as operators have complained they have only a small window every night to complete maintenance, Mr Lui said: "I don't necessarily agree that they must have more prolonged shutdowns of the system in order to be able to do what must be done."

The way to intensify the maintenance is through a proper allocation of manpower resources and better use of technology, he said.

Pointing to Hong Kong's MTR system, to which the Singapore system is often compared, Mr Lui said it is run as intensively as Singapore's and yet, during their graveyard shift, there is a "massive mobilisation" effort. "We are not yet at that level," he said.

Calling for a change in the maintenance roster of Singapore's public transport operators, Mr Lui said more could be done to better deploy manpower in the graveyard shift.

Technology should also be used more, particularly to monitor the system's condition. It would make maintenance tasks more achievable and manageable, he said.

Asked if the MRT's reliability problems were due to maintenance or design and infrastructure problems, Mr Lui said he did not want to apportion blame to either.

But he noted design problems tend to crop up within three to five years of the opening of a line.

"To say that design issues come up after 20, 25 years, well, I would say that if people have progressed to a better and improved design, then they ought to have kept up," he said.

Mr Lui said he did not believe major breakdowns like those of July 7 affecting two key lines cannot be prevented with enhanced maintenance. But, he added: "Setbacks are an opportunity for us to really put in even more effort and hopefully do better over time."

He noted that while reliability has had a mixed report card, much has been done to solve the two other pet peeves of commuters: capacity and congestion.

In the last four years, train capacity has gone up by almost 30 per cent and headways - the time between trains arriving - is now within five minutes for the major lines, except during the early morning.

Mr Lui, who is known to visit different stations unannounced, said he noticed that more people could board the second train that arrives instead of having to wait longer.

Buses, he said with pride, have helped the most in easing the congestion problem.

While new trains take about three to four years to get on the tracks and new lines take about 10 to 12 years to build, the $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme has seen buses added to the roads within a year, easing congestion and reducing headways.

About 750 new buses will be on the roads by the year end, with another 250 by 2017. Said Mr Lui: "We would have turned the corner on congestion and capacity issues."


The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2015

Q Is it more difficult now to manage the relationship between the regulator and transport operators?

A Is it a cosy relationship? I would be very worried if it's cosy. Are they at loggerheads with each other all the time? Certainly not, because I will also be very worried if they can't work together.

So there is a certain healthy tension and that's what we need to have, which is why I require them to come and meet me every quarter...

It can be improved, but fundamentally is a sound model. To me, all this talk about privatisation, nationalisation and whatever, frankly, I'm quite agnostic to whatever you term it.

What do I want? I want an outcome that is affordable for commuters and I want an outcome that is a reasonably reliable one, more than what we have today.

If I look at nationalised models around the world - London, New York and others - they break down a lot more often, it's much more expensive, why do I want to go that way?

If I look at the Hong Kong model which is a very privatised one, high standards, fares are comparable and if you take a hybrid journey - bus and train - they are more expensive than us but if you compare buses and trains on their own, we're comparable.

I would say look, without being dogmatic about labels, what's the outcome? If I shift from what I have today to something else, is there evidence that the grass will be greener when I get to it? Or will somebody say 10 years later that the transport minister was crazy to move in that direction in the first place?

Q What advice will you give your successor?

A All advice ought to be given very gently and softly and best done in private. That's what I will stick to. Advice, I think, works best when it drops like snowflakes - gently settling on the ground.

I've been fortunate. Raymond (his predecessor Raymond Lim) has sown and I reap much of what is sown. In turn, I will sow and somebody else will reap.

There is no way I could deliver Downtown Line 1 and 2 during the four years that I have if he hadn't started it. He talked about the rail financing framework, which we are now still discussing with the operators, but certainly for the new lines, I embarked on it.

He talked about putting buses out on competitive tendering packages - not ready during his time, not during the early years of my tenure - but we are now doing it. So I reap what he has sown.

He has taken flak for MRT congestion and everything else as well... But Raymond did a great job in transport as far as I am concerned. We benefited from it.

I hope that some of the measures that we have put in... will deliver an even better network for us, an even better-performing system in the years to come.

Q Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said you've done a good job, but he also said the timing of the news about you raises questions. What is your response?

A Any ministry is a challenging one. I don't believe there are non-challenging ministries... But I thank Mr Low Thia Khiang for his comments. I think there were some other questions but I couldn't quite read everything.

One question was: Did I have the support of Cabinet members? Yes. Fully. PM (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) was very supportive. I tried to make that very, very clear in my letter to thank him. Ultimately, it is a personal decision.

Let's not dwell on this part too much. After all, it is never about one person or the decisions of one person.

Improvements in public transport since 2011

• Forty new MRT stations would have been added by December this year.

• In the next five years, an MRT extension or new line will open almost every year, adding another 30 stations to the network.

• A total of 42 new trains have been added to existing lines and the number of weekly train trips hiked from 15,000 in 2011 to 19,000 this year. This has raised capacity by 25 per cent and reduced waiting time by up to 30 per cent.

• Seven new train-cars will be added to the Bukit Panjang LRT system by the year-end.

• Crowding in buses has been reduced by over 90 per cent.

• Two-thirds of feeder bus services now ply at frequencies of no more than six to eight minutes during peak hours, compared with 27 per cent plying every eight minutes or less in 2011.

• A total of 41 bus routes have been introduced or enhanced since 2012.

• Integrated transport hubs were built at three more locations in the last five years.

• MRT delays longer than five minutes have been reduced by over 30 per cent.

• Renewal works to replace sleepers and the third rail that powers the trains are ongoing.

No plan to rein in surge in COE supply

By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 14 Aug 2015

Would-be owners of new motor vehicles can expect the current surge in supply of Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) to continue for the next two years.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew has given the assurance that the Government will not intervene and "even out" the supply that is set to soar because of the large number of cars reaching the 10-year mark, the age when cars are typically scrapped or deregistered.

"Let them enjoy the period of growth in the number of COEs coming back into the system first," he said in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday.

"We can continue to monitor what it is like and take our time to think a little bit more about it."

The COE quota for motor vehicles is largely determined by the number of cars scrapped or deregistered in the preceding quarter.

The unusually high supply, however, is set to slide from mid-2018.

This peak-and trough situation is not good, said experts and car dealers, as it causes too much uncertainty in the market.

For instance, the rise in COE supply in the last two quarters this year, compared to the same period last year, has pushed down COE prices for small cars from $66,010 in January to $56,209 at the last bidding early this month.

Similarly, COE prices for luxury cars fell from $75,289 to $60,789.

Mr Lui, however, warned that it was not tenable for the vehicle growth rate to climb up to the pre-vious 3 per cent or even 1.5 per cent a year. The current rate is 0.25 per cent a year.

"Every expansion of the roads, every new expressway that you build is at the expense of something else - greenery, space, noise levels, the environment and so on," he said.

Car ownership remains an aspiration for many Singaporeans, he acknowledged. But a lot had been done to give commuters "real alternatives" to owning a car, he said.

These include: more car sharing sites, with the Housing Board allocating 3,000 carpark spaces across the island for it, and new rules that require cabbies to clock 250km on the road daily, resulting in about 2,000 more taxis plying the roads during peak hours.

Still, more can be done to reduce people's reliance on cars, said Mr Lui. He cited for example a flexible season parking scheme that lets users pay a daily, instead of a monthly, charge.

"We need to also tinker with other possible changes... that will allow them to gradually change their behaviour," he said.

Commuters ‘not willing to pay more for better service’

By Loh Chee Kong, TODAY, 14 Aug 2015

While there have been suggestions that public transport fare increases may be more palatable if service levels are increased, outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew does not think that commuters here are willing to pay more for better service.

He cited a survey done earlier by his ministry on taxis, which found that, in general, commuters are unwilling to pay higher fares in return for better services.

The Government uses a mix of fare increases and subsidies to keep fares at an acceptable level. Mr Lui noted that the Government’s outlay for the S$1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) was treated as a subsidy. If it had not stepped in, commuters would have to fork out between 12 cents and 15 cents more per trip in fares.

“We should try as far as possible to not have (commuters) pay a lot more (for better services). We have got to balance it,” he said.

Under the BSEP, which was rolled out in 2012, a total of 1,000 government-funded buses will ply the roads, with 750 buses to be injected into the public transport network by the end of this year.

Mr Lui said the authorities here monitor public transport fares in two ways: How they compare with fares in other cities and how they change over the years. Monthly public transport expenditure as a percentage of household income has been falling over the years, he noted.

Are you willing to pay more for public transport if it means higher quality services? A Ministry of Transport survey on taxi services found that in general, most Singaporeans won't, says Mr Lui Tuck Yew. Story: READ MORE, Mr LUI ON: His time as Transport Minister (video): MRT lines in the future: Buses and dedicated cycling lanes: ownership:
Posted by TODAY on Thursday, August 13, 2015

Earlier this month, Mr Lui said that come December, public transport fares will be reduced by up to 1.9 per cent because of falling fuel prices. This is bigger than the expected 1 per cent reduction announced at the beginning of the year. The adjustment also takes effect earlier than usual. Typically, fare adjustments are made in April, with this year’s adjustment — an increase of 2.8 per cent — implemented just four months ago.

The existing fare formula used by the Public Transport Council is effective from 2013 to 2017. The recent overhaul of the bus industry would require the formula to be relooked.

The new bus contracting model — under which the Government will own all bus operating assets and collect the fares, while operators run the services in return for a fee — will be implemented in phases, starting from the middle of next year.

Mr Lui said the data following the implementation of the new model will be useful for the next fare formula review.

“You then have a better idea … of what’s the fare revenue for the package of routes versus how much the Government has to pay for it … We will be able to see what’s the subsidy level for each of the different packages.”

Lui Tuck Yew: “I could not have asked for a better team."

‘My team did its best and I’m proud of them’
Lui reveals staff felt they let him down, but he says they have no reason to
By Loh Chee Kong, TODAY, 14 Aug 2015

After it was announced on Tuesday that he will be stepping down as Transport Minister and leaving politics, Mr Lui Tuck Yew (picture) received an email from one of his staff. “I was very troubled by it,” he told TODAY.

In the email, the employee said some of the staff felt bad that they had let him down as a leader. “There is absolutely no need for them to feel that way at all. I could not have asked for a better team,” Mr Lui said in an interview with this newspaper yesterday. “They gave it their utmost. They did their best and I’m proud of them.”

Asked to look back on his four-year tenure helming the Transport Ministry, Mr Lui spent much of his time talking about his staff. Echoing what he had said at the Ministry of Transport’s (MOT) SG50 gala dinner on Wednesday, Mr Lui said: “Everything we do is never about a small group of individuals in senior positions. You’ll never accomplish much if your sole focus is on that small group. It really is about the team, about everybody pulling together, supporting one another, working towards a common destination. And I think I’ve been really blessed to see that happen.”

Nevertheless, he had this to say of his experience: “Overall, I dare say it’s a challenging but rewarding portfolio.” He added: “I saw it as a challenge. PM asked me to come to transport in 2011. We both knew that it was not going to be something easy to tackle. I was happy to accept it … no qualms.”

During the interview, Mr Lui was reluctant to talk about his stepping down. He also did not bring up the criticism directed at him, although his Cabinet colleagues had taken up cudgels on his behalf and questioned the constant mocking and vilification of him, especially online. Asked if he would have wanted to stay and witness the Government’s efforts to improve public transport bear fruit, Mr Lui would say only that he had made “a personal decision” to leave.

He was more forthcoming talking about his staff. Like him, they also see their work as challenging and rewarding, he said. He noted how returning scholars would choose, as their top option, to work in the Transport Ministry or the Land Transport Authority. In fact, the ministry has three Presidents’ Scholars on its books, he said.

Mr Lui, who graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, was described by Cabinet colleague Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam as someone who has an “excellent engineering mind and understood the issues in transport”.

On the dearth of engineers here, Mr Lui felt what is needed is good career guidance and counselling for school leavers. “It’s far easier for somebody with an engineering or science background to branch into so many different fields, because there’s a rigour, there’s a discipline in the sciences and engineering that puts them in good stead.”

Nationally, there is a concerted effort to “try to make sure people understand and appreciate the work an engineer does”, he added.

He noted that it was not only engineering that was facing this issue. “It always amazes me how many people struggle hard to get into the law faculty and then two, three years, they decide ‘I’m actually better off starting (my) own business’,” he said.

“If there was a little more direction and mentoring upfront, then maybe you can get an improved situation overall … in terms of how people make choices.”

Taking a photo with my colleagues-turned-friends after Parliament sitting today; just in case this is our final session...
Posted by Denise Phua Lay Peng on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Maritime industry honours outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew

More than 300 industry leaders, academics and representatives from the shipping, offshore and marine community gather for an appreciation dinner for outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew. 
By Justin Ong, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Sep 2015

Outgoing Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew attended an appreciation dinner on Tuesday (Sep 22) held in his honour by the local maritime industry.

Guests at the event included more than 300 industry leaders, academics and representatives from the shipping, offshore and marine community, as well as ex-colleagues of Mr Lui’s from the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Mr Lui, who is also the Second Minister for Defence, retired from politics on Aug 11 before the General Election.

After his stint as Chief of Navy, Mr Lui was appointed chief executive at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) in 2003. Mr Lui also served as one of the pioneer board members of the Singapore Maritime Foundation when it was established in 2004. He held both positions until 2005.

Speaking at the dinner, Mr Lui made reference to his retirement from MOT, saying he would soon be updating his Facebook status at the urging of his wife. "We had a long discussion and I'll be updating my profile to reflect that I'm unattached and available. Don't worry, it's not a reflection of my relationship or marital status, but my job status," he quipped.

He recounted: "When I first joined politics they tried to get an understanding of me as to how I frame things and what makes me tick. And I said three words - listen, learn, lead.

"When you're the Chief of Navy you tend to do a lot more leading ... And coming into the maritime sector where it was almost completely new to me other than the security aspect, it was a wonderful new experience altogether, listening and learning, spending time with the experts, drawing from their insights and perspectives, and using that to help me shape some of the things I would later do in MPA and MOT."

Mr Lui added that maritime sector as a whole is on "firm footing" and enjoys strong support from the Government, but that it is facing challenging times. "I'm not quite sure when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel - and I don't mean the train," he said.

"It makes it all the more important for the different entities to come together to work as one and for the Government to be your partner."


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