Rail, not roads, the way of the future in Singapore: Budget 2012

In his recent Budget Speech for 2012, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam stressed that the future of Singapore’s transport system lay with the public rail system. This suggests road-building over Bukit Brown may be a stop-gap solution to a temporary problem.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister, enhancing the public transport is “a significant initiative in this year’s Budget.” He went on to begin his discussion of transportation with the statement:

“Reliable and convenient public transport is critical to the quality of daily life for the majority of Singaporeans. When the planned Downtown Line, Tuas West Extension, Thomson Line and Eastern Regional Line are completed in a decade’s time, our rail coverage will be comparable to that of cities with the most developed rail networks today such as New York. We will also have 400,000 housing units within 400 metres of MRT stations, double the number today.”

This is consistent with the LTA 2010 Land Transport Master Plan‘s call to make public rail transport the mode of choice for commuters.

Given the emphasis on rail, why emphasise the destruction of Bukit Brown with the proposed road construction? A temporary gain in easing the commute for some drivers is not worth the permanent loss of natural environment, heritage, and national identity to Singapore. This comes on top of the potential downstream effects of flooding as well as the loss of a green area that can both retain water and act to lower the ambient temperature.

Saving Bukit Brown goes way beyond history lovers and tree huggers. It is about all Singaporeans, past, current, and future.

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