Govt may shut down Bukit Panjang LRT for at least 3 years: Khaw Boon Wan

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The Government is reportedly considering a years-long shut down of the Bukit Panjang LRT (BPLRT) line, among other options.

This was revealed by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at a press conference yesterday evening. He said:

“If we want to do serious upgrading — essentially to close it down so that we can re-do the whole tracks and so on, so that we don’t have these ups and downs. And we’re evaluating that proposition.”

In Parliament earlier this month, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng revealed that the government now plans to completely overhaul the BPLRT system. Telling Bukit Panjang commuters to brace for disruptions and shorter operating hours, Ng added the contract to overhaul the system will be awarded in the first quarter of 2018:

“In the immediate term, LTA and SMRT are carrying out detailed checks of the LRT’s power rails and performing hotspot replacement works where needed… LTA will also install a new power source at Ten Mile Junction substation to provide a backup to the existing system at Choa Chu Kang.”

Khaw’s latest announcement appears to indicate that a complete shutdown of the system may be instated for several years to carry out rectification works of the problematic line, instead of shorter operating hours or other interim options.

Khaw, however, acknowledged the challenges that would come with such a decision:

“If I put you in our position, I think you’ll be hard put to think whether ‘should we do it?’. Because how can we deny the residents three years (of) LRT service, so that we can re-do the LRT?”

The Minister also noted the constraints limited non-service hours would put on workers and asked with regards to just instating shorter operating hours: “In our case, do you think we can do that?”

This is not the first time that the government has considered suspending the BPLRT.

In October 2016, SMRT revealed that one option that was being considered to transform the Bukit Panjang LRT line completely was to scrap the network completely and return to the use of buses.

The LTA, however, said then the idea was “not likely to be practical.” Several parliamentarians also opposed the option at the time, adding that such a move would increase road congestion in the area and reduce comfortable access to town centres such as Chua Chu Kang in greater comfort than buses.

Khaw said in November 2016 that the LRT network would be overhauled instead of being ditched.

This new comment by the Minister, that the line may be suspended for a few years, has attracted criticism online.

Former presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian said, “It is disappointing to see Singapore in this ridiculous state.”:

“There must be something seriously wrong with our Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority.
“It is surprising that an upgrading of the Bukit Panjang LRT line will take 3 years. We are now used to very poor standard of competence, but this is stretching the limit.
“If we have to close down the LRT for upgrading work, it should not pose any issue. We only need to have feeder buses to run the route of the LRT
“The minister may exaggerate the difficult of the job and maybe 70% of the public will believe him, but he is just trying to pull a fast one.
“It is disappointing to see Singapore in this ridiculous state.”

Social commentator Andrew Loh said this is “a huge screw-up”:

“S$285 million down the drain. Again, not a single top rank is going to be held accountable. Do you see Mah Bow Tan taking responsibility?
“Mind you, this is a huge screw-up.
“They hurriedly spent taxpayers’ money to built the entire BPLRT because they wanted to win votes, as residents were pissed about the lack of transport options at that time, and it was becoming an election/political issue.
“Shall we get the Auditor-General to recover the money spent to buy votes?”