Alternatives to constructing the North-South Expressway

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport (a) whether other options were studied by the Ministry before it decided to build the North-South Expressway (NSE); (b) if so, what were the options and what were the reasons for building the NSE instead of pursuing these other options; and (c) whether the Government had considered the feasibility of adding a second level to the existing Central Expressway instead of building a new expressway.

This was my question in Parliament on 9 January 2012 about the North-South Expressway, which has necessitated land acquisition, affecting many home owners:

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport (a) whether other options were studied by the Ministry before it decided to build the North-South Expressway (NSE); (b) if so, what were the options and what were the reasons for building the NSE instead of pursuing these other options; and (c) whether the Government had considered the feasibility of adding a second level to the existing Central Expressway instead of building a new expressway.

Mr Lui Tuck Yew:

The North-South Expressway (NSE) is a high capacity road link to connect people in the northern regions of Singapore to the city centre. It will serve to relieve congestion along major road corridors and to better distribute traffic on our expressway network.

Many Singaporeans will benefit directly from the NSE as their travel time between the north and the city centre is expected to be reduced by up to 30%. The NSE will also create new connections currently not available on our expressway network. For example, motorists travelling on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) towards Changi can connect to the city centre with the planned PIE/NSE interchange. Without the NSE, congestion on the Central Expressway (CTE) and major roads along the North-South corridor, such as Thomson Road, will build up with expected residential growth in the north and employment growth in the city centre.

The Government adopts a holistic approach in developing Singapore’s urban transport system to support economic growth. This includes expanding the public transport network and optimising our road system through complementary measures such as Electronic Road Pricing and Intelligent Transport Systems. Even as we promote the use of public transport, we still need to ensure that our road network remains relatively smooth-flowing, to cater to the needs of all road users, which include not only private cars, but also goods vehicles and buses.

The Government will proceed with new roads only after careful planning and study, and when we are certain that they are needed. This is the case for the NSE. Various options such as the widening of existing roads, alternative alignments, and alternative construction methods such as bored tunnelling were studied. This included taking into consideration the engineering feasibility, the need to minimise land acquisition, and the potential disamenities that could result. Various agencies deliberated carefully on the land use considerations and trade-offs involved before the final decision on the alignment and configuration of the NSE was made.

Adding a second level to the CTE was one of the options studied. It was found not optimal as the adjacent roads connecting with the CTE will attract more traffic, resulting in the need to widen them, with associated need for more land-take and other disamenities. A separate expressway corridor will achieve a more efficient distribution of traffic on our road network. There are also engineering difficulties in double-stacking the viaduct portions of the CTE.

I hope Members will understand that difficult decisions had to be made to undertake a major road project such as the NSE, and we will evaluate the trade-offs very carefully before making these decisions.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.