Country Listing

Singapore Table of Contents



In line with its goal of providing fast, convenient, and affordable transport for its population and visitors and a transportation infrastructure that supported its economic position, the government gave top priority to investments in public transport and the highway system. Beginning in the early 1970s, Singapore engaged in a systematic program of road building that led to the development of a network that was considered to be one of the best among developing countries. By late 1988, Singapore had 2,789 kilometers of roads occupying some 11 percent of the country's land area. In the previous decade, the government had spent some S$1.9 billion on building and maintaining roads.

In 1989 five expressways--the thirty-five-kilometer Pan Island Expressway (PIE), the nineteen-kilometer East Coast Parkway, the eleven-kilometer Bukit Timah Expressway, the fourteen-kilometer Ayer Rajah Expressway, and the sixteen-kilometer Central Expressway--were complete and work was underway on four more (see fig. 9). The highway building program called for a network of nine expressways, for a total of 141 kilometers, to be completed by 1991. Access to the Central Business District was limited during rush hour to holders of special passes sold on day-to-day basis, and a one-way street pattern further facilitated traffic movement. A computerized traffic control system, introduced in 1981, monitored almost 200 major road junctions. The Public Works Department planned to put the remaining 800 signals on-line in the 1990s, making Singapore's one of the largest traffic control systems in the world.

At the end of 1988, 491,808 motor vehicles were registered, an increase of 20,000 over the previous year. Nearly half of registered vehicles were automobiles. In order to implement a government policy of limiting the number of private automobiles, a number of monetary disincentives were employed, including heavy annual road taxes, fuel taxes, ad valorem registration fees, and other licenses and fees.

Taxi fares also were kept reasonable in order to reduce traffic flow into and out of congested areas during rush hour. By late 1988, Singapore's 10,500 taxis were mostly air-conditioned and equipped with electronic taximeters. Most taxis were driven twentyfour hours a day by a succession of drivers. The largest company, NTUC Comfort, was affiliated with the union. A fleet of nearly 2,800 buses also helped to alleviate the need for private automobiles. The Singapore Bus Service and the Trans-Island Bus Service provided full-day service throughout the island.

In 1987 land transportation was propelled into a new era with the opening of the S$5 billion Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, which formed the backbone of the country's public transport network (see fig. 10). The entire MRT system, spanning 67 kilometers, was expected to be fully operational by 1990--two years ahead of schedule--when it would serve 800,000 passengers daily. The bus routes were being progressively redesigned to dovetail with the expanding system. Some 40 percent of all businesses and industrial areas were located near stations, and some 50 percent of all Singaporeans lived within one kilometer of an MRT station. The infusion of MRT construction funds into the economy beginning in the early 1980s helped offset downturns in other sectors of the construction industry during the recession.

Overland connections to the Malay Peninsula, across the causeway spanning the Johore Strait, included a highway and a Malaysian-owned railroad. These, in turn, were connected with the Thai railroad system.

Data as of December 1989