Smarter Cambridge Transport

Lessons for Cambridge from Singapore

I’ve just come back from Singapore. We have so much to learn from their Land Transport Authority (LTA)!

Let’s start with ticketing. You use an Oyster-like payment card to tap in at the start of each leg of a journey and tap out at the end. The fare is based on the distance travelled, with no interchange penalty. A trip on the metro may cost around S$1 (54p); if you then catch a bus for a few stops, the extra cost is under S$0.10 (5p).

The LTA is in the process of franchising (contracting out) all of the country’s bus services – in a similar way to London. This is delivering more frequent services (four per hour or better) on more routes, with better connections to other bus and metro services.

The LTA monitors bus operators’ performance closely, paying bonuses for consistently good service, and extracting fines for cancelled, late-running or bunched services.

Tower Transit, operator of Cambridge’s GoWhippet services, were awarded the very first contract in Singapore. One of their innovations particularly caught my interest: they’ve fitted every bus with an accelerometer to detect when the driver accelerates, brakes or steers harshly. Drivers receive visual feedback on the dashboard, and performance-related bonuses each month. This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in ride quality for passengers.

Back in 1998 the LTA introduced road pricing to reduce congestion, the first city in the world to do so. Unlike in London, drivers pay a fee related to the distance driven (technically, the number of gantries passed) and time of day. This succeeds well in keeping traffic (including buses) moving.

It’s not all perfect though: Singapore developed along the lines of most American cities, dominated by multi-lane highways. Jaywalking is illegal and pedestrians have to wait up to two minutes to cross a road. But there is a perceptible shifting of priorities towards walking and cycling, with new cycle/footways, sheltered walkways connecting metro and bus stops with nearby amenities, and a greening of streets.

London does integrated transport pretty well. Arguably Singapore does it better. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s mayor can learn from both.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 28 February 2018.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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