Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed on Monday (13 Jan) that he has literally lost sleep over the possibility that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) – a Government statutory board under his ministry – would “break” due to his demands.
Mr Khaw has served as Transport Minister for over since years, since he took on the portfolio in October 2015.
In his most recent Facebook post, he said that he had “added many new responsibilities to LTA” on top of their already heavy workload since he became Transport Minister, which has caused him to worry about whether he has over-burdened the body with his demands.
Citing the High Speed Rail (HSR), Rapid Transit System (RTS), bicycle-sharing and Personal Mobility Device (PMD) as initiatives he pushed the LTA to roll out, Mr Khaw said that these responsibilities were “on top of an already heavy plate of responsibilities which include a massive MRT expansion programme besides protecting our MRT network from terrorism and cybersecurity.”
He added: “All these are very demanding responsibilities. Occasionally, I lost (sic) sleep over whether LTA would break!”
The Minister, however, appreciated the LTA for taking on tasks professionally and competently. He said: “I have intimate knowledge of how we work together to turn around the MRT service. LTA team puts in all they have: day and night, above and underground, working side-by-side with the operators.”
Asserting that this work ethic and spirit contributes to the strong performance of the transport sector in Singapore today, Mr Khaw revealed that he hosted an appreciation event at LTA last week. He shared: “My message: keep up your good work, but remember not to neglect your health and your family!”
Over past 4 years, I have added many new responsibilities to LTA, including HSR, RTS, bicycle-sharing, PMDs etc. This is…
Mr Khaw was fielded as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate nearly two decades ago, in the 2001 General Election. He joined the cabinet in 2004 as Health Minister and served in that role until 2011 – the year that the ruling party saw its worst result at the polls.
That year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appointed Mr Khaw as the Minister for National Development and revealed that Mr Khaw had volunteered for this new role as he felt he had the ability to address the public’s extreme unhappiness with the Government’s housing policy.
Following the 2015 General Election, Mr Khaw took over the Transport Ministry portfolio when his predecessor Lui Tuck Yew resigned from politics after receiving harsh criticism over the state of public transport, which saw frequent service disruptions that inconvenienced countless commuters.
Mr Khaw subsequently revealed that he did not volunteer for the “thankless” job of managing the ministry that was under heightened public scrutiny. Referring to the outrage over the service breakdowns, he wrote in a blog post then:
“If my term turns out to be a thankless job, the loss is personal. But if we succeed collectively in transforming the city, the benefits will go to millions of Singaporeans. In such a cost-benefit equation, I will be selfish to say “no” to PM. I just hope that my heart, my own body train, can withstand the stress and do not (sic) breakdown.”
A key tenet of Mr Khaw’s transport policy was his vision of transforming Singapore into a car-lite city by 2030, which includes building a “smarter, greener and more inclusive transport system”. To this end, the Government allowed Singapore residents to freely use PMDs.
Following a spate of accidents involving pedestrians and PMD users, the Transport Ministry was criticised for its lack of foresight that caused the authorities to play catch-up when PMD users endangered pedestrians.
Mr Khaw’s own colleague, ruling party MP Lee Bee Wah asked if the authorities were too hasty in pushing for a car-lite culture and asserted that pedestrians feel unsafe due to a “the lack of strategic and forward planning on the part of transport authorities in allowing the owners of these personal mobility devices free reign to public pathways and pedestrian walkways.”
She added: “We should have thought of safety long before these 20 to 40kg missiles go crashing into innocent pedestrians. Now we are constantly playing catch-up…”
The severity and frequency of accidents between PMD users and pedestrians led the Government to introduce stricter regulations on PMD users before abruptly banning PMD users from using public footpaths last year.
The sudden ban, which went into effect a day after it was announced, left food delivery riders who rely on PMDs to make a living in the lurch and hundreds of food delivery riders flocked to PAP MPs’ Meet-the-People sessions, seeking an alternative solution.
Food delivery riders lamented that the ban will severely curtail their incomes and have held that the bulk of clashes between PMD riders and pedestrians are not caused by food delivery riders who use their PMDs for work, not play.