Massive construction boom on the horizon

At least $55b of transport projects lined up, plus housing and others
Maria Almenoar & Royston Sim Straits Times 31 Aug 12;

WITH news of the latest mega-project to build the 30km Thomson rail line, Singapore is on the path of another construction boom.

Based on costs that have been announced, at least $55 billion worth of transport infrastructure is currently being built, or will be built, until 2021.

In comparison, Singapore's upcoming Sports Hub has a $1.33 billion price tag.

The biggest projects are the $18 billion Thomson Line and $20.7 billion Downtown Line, which will open in stages from next year to 2017.

Construction of the former will begin in the third quarter of next year, with tenders for civil contracts being called as early as next month.

Other rail projects include the Tuas West extension and North-South Line extension.

All these translate into 80.5km more of rail lines and 61 new MRT stations, including 17 new interchanges.

They come on top of the Circle Line, which was completed in October last year.

Two of the more significant road projects are the $4.3 billion Marina Coastal Expressway and the $8 billion North-South Expressway.

Still more projects are expected to be announced early next year, including rail lines.

The projects will put a spike in demand for - and costs of - engineering expertise, foreign workers, building materials and equipment, said industry observers.

Contractors said they are gearing up for this wave of projects, which exclude another slew of massive non-transport as well as housing projects.

Mr Or Toh Wat, the group managing director of OKP Holdings, which has snagged a number of road projects, said OKP has hired more people and added to its inventory of equipment in preparation for new contracts.

Mr Or added that the coming years will be the busiest the industry has been since the last construction boom between 2007 and 2010, when the two integrated resorts were built.

Industry watchers expect a rise in the cost of building equipment and a labour crunch. Already, the demand for construction vehicles like cement mixers has nearly doubled the cost of Certificates of Entitlement for them to nearly $60,000 in the last one year.

Singapore Contractors Association president Ho Nyok Yong noted that there are also major transport projects in the rest of Asia.

He said there is a need for more business-friendly measures to reduce the impact of the labour crunch on the industry. In 2010, there were some 355,000 construction workers in Singapore.

Contractors will feel squeezed by the Government's move to cut the number of workers allowed for a specific project and to raise foreign worker levies in a bid to reduce Singapore's reliance on foreign workers.

But Professor Chew Soon Beng of the Nanyang Technological University's division of economics said he expects the Government to stay "quite liberal" about letting foreign construction workers in to meet the demand for labour.

Major rail and road projects


42km Downtown Line: $20.7 billion, ready in stages from 2013 to 2017.
1km North-South Line extension to Marina Bay: $357.5 million, ready in 2014.
7.5km Tuas West extension on the East-West Line: $3.5 billion, ready in 2016.
30km Thomson Line: $18 billion, ready in stages from 2019 to 2021.


5km Marina Coastal Expressway: $4.3 billion, ready by the end of 2013.
New underpass and widening of roads in Kallang: $254 million, ready by 2014.
Road tunnel linking Sentosa to the mainland, widening of surrounding roads: $537 million, ready in 2015.
Interchange connecting three expressways and the Seletar Aerospace Park: $255 million, ready in 2015.
Major arterial road from the Central Expressway to Yishun Avenue 6: $354 million, ready in 2015.
21.5km North-South Expressway: between $7 billion and $8 billion, ready in 2020.

By 2021: Six MRT lines, 220km network
Straits Times 31 Aug 12;

THE MRT network will span more than 220km when the new Thomson Line is completed in 2021.

The 30km Thomson Line will be Singapore's sixth MRT line, after the North-South, East-West, North-East, Circle and Downtown lines.

It will have 22 stations and open in three phases from 2019 to 2021. Commuters can transfer to other MRT lines via six interchange stations - Woodlands, Caldecott, Stevens, Orchard, Outram Park and Marina Bay.

The 42km Downtown Line, which is currently being built, will have 34 stations and open in stages from next year to 2017.

Also in the works are the 7.5km Tuas West Extension, which will add four stations to the East-West Line, and a 1km North-South Line extension past Marina Bay.

When all the projects are completed in 2021, the network will have over 160 stations islandwide.

Passengers will be able to transfer to any of the six lines at various interchanges.

For instance, the Outram Park station will link the East-West, North-East and Thomson Lines. The Bugis station will link the Downtown and East-West Lines once it is ready next year.

The Land Transport Authority said the new Thomson Line will provide better rail connectivity for commuters and reduce travelling time.

For instance, a trip from Sin Ming estate to Gardens by the Bay will take 40 minutes via the new line, compared with 65 minutes via bus and train now.

Some 160,000 households will be within 800m of one of the new Thomson Line stations once the entire line is ready in 2021.