Tuesday 30 June 2015

Downtown Line Stage 2 back on track for Dec 2015 start

Bukit Panjang commuters' woes will ease then: Minister
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2015

THE 12 stations of Stage 2 of the Downtown Line will open this December after all, as longer construction hours and more efficient work processes managed to make up the time lost when a key contractor went bust in 2013.

Announcing the good news during a ministerial visit to the Zhenghua ward in Bukit Panjang yesterday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew assured residents that their journeys to the city centre - now troubled by light-rail breakdowns and traffic congestion - would be eased by year end.

Get ready to hop on the Downtown Line 2(DTL2) to enjoy the sights and festivities in town later this year, because DTL2...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Saturday, June 27, 2015

He credited the support of residents for longer construction hours as a key reason that works could catch up to the original schedule, which hit a snag when Austrian firm Alpine Bau filed for insolvency in June 2013. It was the main contractor for the three stations of King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue and Tan Kah Kee.

Two other builders, Australia's McConnell Dowell and South Korea's SK E&C, took over Alpine's contracts, and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) re-looked and sped up work processes. For example, it built a local control centre at Little India station so that it could commence testing of the system while work continued on the three affected stations, said Mr Lui.

"I think this will be welcome news to people living in the western and north-west corridor," he told reporters after the dialogue.

The journey time from Bukit Panjang to the financial district, which is now about an hour, will drop by 20 minutes with the Downtown Line, which has four interchange stations to link residents to the North-East, North-South and Circle Lines.

The LTA filed about $500 million in claims against Alpine, but Mr Lui said he does not expect the outstanding claims or the expedited works to affect the project's budget.

"We can be within the budget of Downtown Line," he said.

Yesterday's dialogue with residents came at the tail end of a visit in which Mr Lui visited dumpling festival stalls and distributed care packs to needy residents in Zhenghua.

The hour-long session was dominated by transport concerns, with residents raising issues from bus congestion to car ownership.

Father of four Wong Kan How, 43, suggested that the Transport Ministry look into a certificate of entitlement (COE) rebate scheme to allow families of three or more children to own a private car. This would help boost the birth rate, said the financial trainer.

Mr Lui said he understood the aspiration to own a car, but more cars would mean more roads - leaving less space for parks and greenery that Singaporeans desire.

He said the Ministry of Social and Family Development has schemes to help those in need have access to private transport.

Community facilitator Chelvi Sinniah said the bus links from Bukit Panjang to town were insufficient for the neighbourhood's growing population, adding that many drivers today could not answer questions about the bus route in English.

Mr Lui noted that the number of buses serving the route has doubled since it was introduced in 2013. And with the opening of Stage 2 of the Downtown Line adding 50 per cent more capacity to the public transport network in western Singapore, the strain on bus services should ease, he said.

"We will watch how things stabilise over a three- to six-month period and then make necessary adjustments accordingly," he said.

'Mid-life overhaul' for Bukit Panjang LRT
By Lim Yan Liang

THE troubled Bukit Panjang LRT system will undergo a "mid-life overhaul" by 2019 to improve its performance, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told Bukit Panjang residents yesterday.

Its frequent breakdowns have emerged as a top concern in the area. At a dialogue with the minister during his visit to the Zhenghua area, the issue was raised by Bukit Panjang residents, with one resident even pleading for it to be scrapped completely.

"If it is going to break down so often... do away with the LRT completely or change the track completely," urged Mr Peter Koh, managing director of a local real estate firm.

But Mr Lui said that statistically, the LRT system's performance had actually improved.

The Bukit Panjang LRT's train withdrawal rate fell to 4.5 per 100,000 car-km last year, from a high of nine in 2011. This is a similar rate as the years 2007 to 2009.

The Transport Ministry will spend the next 12 months studying the changes needed to keep the system reliable, before spending the next few years improving it, he said.

At the same time, new train cars have been progressively added since last year, while older cars will be retrofitted with a new remote reset system so they can be reactivated more quickly.

Operator SMRT will also deploy more personnel across the LRT stations to rectify faults at a faster pace, he added.

Mr Lui noted that the LRT system was installed after the town had already been built, constraining its design somewhat, and that the undulating terrain of Bukit Panjang and Choa Chu Kang were obstacles.

"I'm not so sure that, even if we were to rebuild the system completely, we can solve some of these topographical constraints," he said.

"But we will certainly not believe that what we have today is the best that we can do. Because I certainly don't think so and you can have my assurance that, over the next few years, we will continue to make improvements to the system."

Come 2017, motorists in Bukit Panjang can save up to 5 mins of travelling time with a new road link that will connect...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bukit Panjang transport hub delayed
It will open in 2017 instead of this year and will have childcare facility
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

The Bukit Panjang Integrated Transport Hub, expected to open this year, will now open in 2017, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

This is because the developer, Sim Lian, has faced construction difficulties in connecting the integrated hub to the Bukit Panjang MRT station, part of stage two of the Downtown Line.

The connection crosses under a 13m-wide canal, said an LTA spokesman. "Localised diversion of the canal and staged construction of the link is time-consuming and the difficult ground at that area added further difficulty," it explained in a statement yesterday.

But when completed, the new integrated transport hub will come with the bonus of 200 childcare spaces for a neighbourhood that is 40 per cent made up of young families.

The childcare facility will be included in Hillion mall, a retail space around the Bukit Panjang LRT station, the upcoming Bukit Panjang MRT station, a bus interchange and three blocks of residential homes.

The LTA also announced that a new slip road to Kranji Expressway (KJE) will open in 2017, giving residents in the area a direct route onto the expressway. Motorists now have to make a loop around Woodlands Road before they hit the KJE.

In addition, a flyover along Upper Bukit Timah Road will be completed by the end of this year, joining the Bukit Panjang flyover that was completed in April, to ease traffic overall along the Woodlands Road corridor.

Two new hawker centres are also on the horizon for residents: one in Bangkit Road which will open by the end of the year, and another in Senja Road in the next five years.

The increased choice and competition will hopefully lead to lower prices, said Mr Liang Eng Hwa, who is MP for the Zhenghua ward in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

He was speaking to reporters ahead of a ministerial visit to the ward today by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew. Such ministerial visits take place almost every month, and their aim is to give newer ministers a sense of residents' major concerns.

Like Sengkang and Punggol, Bukit Panjang has a young demographic, with almost half of its population comprising young families.

To meet the high demand for childcare services, 10 new childcare centres are being built or expanded, with three of them already operational. In total, the number of spaces offered will be more than double what was available four years ago, said Mr Liang.

The town, already home to large swathes of nature reserves and reservoirs, will also see more green spaces: Zhenghua Park will be extended and there will be more park connectors and cycling paths.

The raft of improvements come on top of upgrades over the last five years that Mr Liang said has relieved residents' public transport woes.

They include 68 new buses, under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme, added to 17 bus services that ply Bukit Panjang, and 13 train cars added to the breakdown-plagued LRT network since last year.

It is also building two more exit-only platforms at the Choa Chu Kang LRT station, to be completed by the end of next year, to deal with the crowds.

Mr Liang said he lobbied hard for the improvements in Bukit Panjang by capitalising on the Government's policy changes on the national level.

For example, a new polyclinic will be built within the next five years as part of the Health Ministry's efforts to make primary care more accessible, he noted.

"You have to capitalise on policy changes and be the first to ask for things (because) when ministries change their policies, they need to find places to implement them," he said.

"And there is a need here, so I'm able to justify it. So I'll volunteer Bukit Panjang for such projects."

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