Apr 23, 2008

Ferry-tale solution to Singapore's land transport issues?

Another proposal that seems to ignore physical and current realities ...

Tired of jammed roads? Go to work by sea instead
Letter from Clinton Lim Eng Hiong, Straits Times Forum 23 Apr 08;

ON SATURDAY, it was reported that there were 4.779 million train and rides a day in the first quarter, up 7 per cent over last year ('Buses, MRT see jump in ridership'). While the growth in public transport ridership is significant, it is not known if the rise has been at any real expense to car trips.

With more than 800,000 cars on the roads currently, the intention to increase the population to 6.5 million could well put another 250,000 or more vehicles on already congested roads.

The Land Transport Authority has taken action to manage traffic congestion in the city during peak hours by ensuring vehicular growth is met by a corresponding increase in the number of expressways, tunnels, MRT lines, electronic road pricing (ERP) gantries and charges.

After many years in service, I wonder if ERP is effective in alleviating traffic congestion or is it just 'rearranging furniture'.

In land-scarce Singapore, do we fully harness all resources available to meet public transport challenges? I think not. So far, we have looked only landwards. We need to take a more holistic, innovative approach - by looking to the sea.

Singapore is, after all, an island. Why not explore the idea of ferrying thousands to and from work daily via a Park 'n' Cruise scheme, to supplement the existing rail and road transport system?

This refreshing mode of transport will be guaranteed not to encounter traffic jams, be squeezed out of bus lanes or cause the motorist to be fined for not having a valid CashCard as he passes the ERP gantry.

With the Government providing the infrastructure - carparks and ferry terminals - the bus shuttle service and plying the route can be left to private enterprise.

I can already envisage Clifford Pier and the soon-to-be- made-over Singapore Cruise Centre at HarbourFront as two hubs of this ferry service, with terminals stretching from Woodlands to Punggol, Pasir Ris, Tampines, Bedok, Siglap, Marine Parade and West Coast, for a start.

I hope any feasibility study of this suggestion will be favourable, enabling at least part of our transport system to be left perpetually in 'cruise control'. This will also contribute to the Government's expectation that, by 2020, 70 per cent of trips in the morning peak period is by public transport.
Is it shorter to go by sea?

Singapore is a lozenge-shaped island. And the land causeway between Johor and Woodlands prevents sea transport between the east and west via the Johor Straits.

As a result, for most points of urban concentration near our coast, it is shorter to go by land than by sea. A quick look at a map of Singapore will clearly demonstrate this.
In most cases it is LONGER to go by sea. For example from Punggol to Jurong, a sea route requires travelling almost the entire circumference of our island, including all the bits jutting out due to recent reclamation.

Elsewhere in the world, ferry transport makes sense when the distance across water is shorter than by land. For example, across a large bay or across a wide river. In such instances, ferry transport makes sense also because it avoids the investment in infrastructure such as bridges.

Is it quicker to go by sea?

While you might imagine there is no congestion at sea, there are safety protocols and sea lanes laid out in our very busy port and shipping lanes that will affect speed and routes (you can't simply travel the shortest route across the water) .

Weather also more seriously affects speed in sea transport than land transport. Even a windy day can result in very choppy water that most land lubbers may not stomach.

Sea-going vessels are generally not as fast as cars on a road. Small boats are slow and less stable, resulting in a ride that may not suit most land lubbers. Some urbanites find difficulties even taking the short 10-minute boat ride from Changi to Pulau Ubin.

High speed ferries are of course available but these produce wake (big waves).

High wake disrupt other vessels and result in shore erosion. Many of our coasts, notably the long East Coast, are already suffering from extensive erosion.

For these reasons, it can be expected that such vessels will not be allowed to attain top speed until they are some distance from other vessels and shores that might be impacted. This adds further to the distance to be travelled, and time taken. Because they will literally have to crawl at low-wake speeds for portions of the route where they are close to other vessels or sensitive shores.

High speed ferries are also large and require deep water and proper jetties for safe transfer of passengers. Creation and maintenance of such areas will involve regular dredging which will affect water quality and thus the coastal environment.

Other problems with the letter

Clifford Pier has been closed since Apr 06 with the construction of the Marina Barrage. The Pier has been replaced by the Marina South Pier.

The West Coast coastline is highly congested and it seems unlikely that deepwater access with good land links can be freed up easily. In fact, many existing old piers along that coast had been shut down in the past.

The author clearly doesn't really have a sound grasp of the current situation along our coast and the realities of our island geography.

1 comment:

Ferry said...

Very nice blog. I like to travel on ferries most of the time and its nice to know about ferries and transport.
Thanks for sharing information here.