Transport in Singapore is largely land-based, and most parts of the country are best accessed by roads or by railways. The nation relies upon the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to develop the quality of these transportation infrastructures.
Road and rail are the key players of passenger and goods movement here. There is a Mass Rapid Transit which runs the length and width of Singapore, and a Light Rail Transit designed to connect smaller neighbourhoods with each other. The LTA are responsible for planning, designing, building and maintaining all of Singapore’s land transport infrastructure and systems, whether Mass, Light or other.
According to the government website, the LTA aims to provide “a greener and more inclusive public transport system, complemented by convenient options to walk and cycle from their homes or to their destinations”.
The agency has been working on transportation infrastructure in Singapore since 1995.
As a government authority, the LTA are obligated to use a tender process. They use a strict set of guidelines in order to ensure the most efficient businesses are bidding for them. The highest quality companies are the most likely to receive the official tender. From here, they can foster excellent working relationship with these businesses.
Over the years, the agency’s interests have taken several directions. Now, they have refined their mission statement. Simply and clearly, the LTA will ‘connect people and places and enhance travel experience.’ A significant amount of this hinges on leveraging technology to “strengthen” their rail and bus infrastructure whilst providing “exciting options for future land transport.”
Current estimates suggest that by 2020, the daily journeys in Singapore will increase from 8.9 million to about 14.3 million. This will place strain on the current infrastructure and will create potential issues of congestion and slow service. However, the LTA are treating this situation as a solvable challenge rather than a problem. They are prepared to meet this challenge by implementing policies which direct commuters to the most appropriate mode of transportation for their needs. Furthermore, the Authority have pledged their commitment to making the country’s public transport ‘faster, more reliable and more frequent’ than before. This should encourage locals and visitors alike to make environmentally friendly choices and take a train journey instead of using a car. However, roads are undeniably a major part of the country’s transportation network as well, so the LTA has assured that they will not be neglected. For example, the Authority has plans to ‘enhance safety’ on the roads by investing in maintenance works, expansions, traffic control systems and monitoring software. The Singapore LTA released a statement through their official website, calling for a “people-centred land transport under a system that must” meet the diverse needs of our growing population and expanding economy.” The agency is “determined to ensure physical accessibility for all, provide affordable transport and promote environmental sustainability in all our transport solutions.”
The LTA has clear needs it wishes to meet. So, what plans will it make and how will these come into effect in 2018?
First, the LTA have confirmed a new $18.8m Land Transport Innovation Fund to encourage five year’s worth of innovation and collaborative projects. In particular, the agency plans to explore the potential of automation and autonomous vehicles (AVs).
The AVs are designed to improve efficiency, reduce human error and deliver better services across Singapore’s roads and highways, according to an announcement reported by Deal Street Asia.
According to the article:
“Autonomous buses and dynamically-routed, on-demand shuttles can also be deployed to enhance public transport by providing more responsive, efficient and convenient transport modes for commuters”.
Indeed, this is greatly positive, and several Executives have commended the progress.
Speaking with the Deal Street Asia magazine, the Chief Executive for LTA, Ngien Hoon Ping, said: “With the Land Transport Innovation Fund, I hope to see even more innovative solutions emerge to shape the transport of tomorrow”.
In light of this, the company are exploring another greatly promising innovative solution; They are considering the introduction of robots and drones to inspect MRT and road tunnels. This could reduce the need for tedious manual inspections, which would give engineers more time to focus on captured data instead of routine checks.
These plans are putting the LTA at the forefront of Singapore transport and travel innovation. This has not gone unnoticed by the future workforce. The agency is attracting more and more workers to their newest industry roles. This is entirely in keeping with wider global trends. For example, the AV sector is set to create 8,000 new jobs here by 2030. The preliminary research and investment in this area could greatly enhance future understanding: an attractive option to many people in the country who are keen to be a part of the technological advancement progress.
In regards to background context, about 123,000 people already work in the land transport. Included in this figure are bus captains, bus mechanics, customer service officers, railway engineers, station managers, as well as taxi and private hire car drivers. Of that number, more than 21,000 are employed by the rail and public bus sectors to support the 5 million daily commuter journeys that are taken on public transport alone.
Perhaps then it is no surprise that, for 2018, there is a great emphasis on improving the workforce, by number, skillsets and career opportunities. LTA have announced that they will undertake industry manpower planning to identify employment opportunities and formulate targeted workforce interventions.
Currently, the Public Transport Skills Framework (PTSF) is being developed by the LTA in conjunction with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). The partnership hopes to identify current and emerging skillsets in employees, and map these against possible career pathways within the LTA. This framework will help identify training gaps as well as guide the development of programmes to professionalise public transport workers.
The partnership will also communicate within the industry and the union to provide more structured internships for students from Institutes of Higher Learning. This should help attract, identify and manage the growing pipeline of talent.
Lastly, the LTA will develop the capabilities of the current workforce. The agency said:
“The LTA will also continue to develop the capabilities of the workforce, particularly through up-skilling and re-skilling of our public transport workers. To ensure that these workers can keep pace with industry developments, the Singapore Bus Academy and Singapore Rail Academy will offer new programmes mapped against the soon-to-be-launched Public Transport Skills Framework (PTSF)”
With the Innovation Fund in place, the plans and explorations detailed, and the workforce ready to improve and grow, the LTA can expect some very successful years to come.