Transport in Singapore

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Life in Singapore

Transport within Singapore is mainly land-based. Many parts of Singapore, including islands such as Sentosa and Jurong Island are accessible by road. The other major form of transportation within Singapore is rail: the Mass Rapid Transit which runs the length and width of Singapore, and the Light Rail Transit which runs within a few neighbourhoods. The main island of Singapore is connected to the other islands by ferryboat services.

There are two bridges which link Singapore to Malaysia – the Causeway, and the Second Link. The Singapore Changi Airport is a major aviation hub in Asia, and Singapore is a major transshipment port.

McKinsey’s Urban Transportation report rank Singapore's transport system world's best overall based on five criteria - availability, affordability, efficiency, convenience, sustainability.[1] Singapore also has one of the most cost-efficient public transport networks in the world, according to a study by London consulting firm Credo.[2] With the emergence of driverless vehicles, Singapore is now among the favourite locations for autonomous vehicles development testing location for the big players in the automotive industry. [3]

Rail transport[edit]

Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)[edit]

Mass Rapid Transit

The Mass Rapid Transit, which opened in 1987, is a heavy rail metro system that serves as the major backbone of Singapore's public transport system along with public buses; as of 2019, the network has a length of 199.6 km (124.03 mi) and 119 stations. The Land Transport Authority, the main planning authority of the MRT, plans to provide a more comprehensive rail transport system by expanding the rail system to a total of 360 km (223.69 mi) by the year 2030, with eight in ten households living within a 10-minute walking distance of an MRT station.[4]

The current MRT network consists of five main lines: the North South Line, East West Line and Circle Line operated by SMRT Trains (SMRT Corporation) and the North East Line and Downtown Line operated by SBS Transit. The Thomson–East Coast Line is expected to open in stages from January 2020,[5] and two more lines, the Jurong Region Line and the Cross Island Line, will open in stages from 2026 and 2029 respectively.[6][7]

Light Rail Transit (LRT)[edit]

Light Rail Transit

In several new towns, automated rubber-tyred light rail transit systems function as feeders to the main MRT network in lieu of feeder buses. The first LRT line, which is operated by SMRT Light Rail, opened in Bukit Panjang in 1999 to provide a connection to Choa Chu Kang in neighbouring Choa Chu Kang New Town. Although subsequently hit by over 50 incidents, some of which resulted in several days of system suspension, similar systems albeit from a different company were introduced in Sengkang and Punggol in 2003 and 2005 respectively, both operated by SBS Transit.

International rail links[edit]

The international railway line to Malaysia is an extension of the Malaysian rail network operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railways). Since 1 July 2011, Woodlands Train Checkpoint serves as the southern terminus of the KTM rail network. Previously, KTM trains terminated at Tanjong Pagar railway station in central Singapore. Two more rail links are being planned: the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail terminating in Jurong East, and the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System between Woodlands North and Bukit Chagar, Johor Bahru.

Road transport[edit]


New public buses in Singapore are painted lush green for easier identification of public buses

Bus transport forms a significant part of public transport in Singapore, with over 4.0 million rides taken per day on average as of 2018.[8] There are more than 365 scheduled bus services, operated by SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore and Go-Ahead Singapore. There are also around 5,800 buses, both single-deck and double-deck, currently in operation.

Since 2016, the Land Transport Authority regulates the public bus service standards and owns relevant assets whereas bus operators bid for operating bus services via competitive tendering.

Taxis and ridesharing services[edit]

A Hyundai i40 taxi as operated by ComfortDelgro

Taxicabs are a popular form of public transport in the compact sovereign city-state of Singapore, with fares considered low compared to those in most cities in developed countries. Starting rates were $3.20 - $3.90. As of March 2019, the taxi population has been increased to 83,037. Taxis may be flagged down at any time of the day along any public road outside of the Central Business District (CBD). However, increased usage of ridesharing services like Grab and Gojek has resulted in a decrease in the usage of taxis.

Private cars[edit]

As of 2015, there was a total of 957,246 motor vehicles in Singapore, with 519,645 of them being private cars.[9]

Roads and expressways[edit]

A section of the Ayer Rajah Expressway

Singapore pioneered the modern use of toll roads to enter the most congested city centre area with the Singapore Area Licensing Scheme, which has since been replaced with the Electronic Road Pricing, a form of electronic toll collection.

  • Total length of expressways: 161 km
  • Total length of major arterial roads: 645 km
  • Total length of collector roads: 557 km
  • Total length of local access roads: 2048 km (as of 2011)[10]

Traffic drives on the left which is typical in Commonwealth countries.

All expressways, plus the semi-expressways in Singapore

The planning, construction and maintenance of the road network is overseen by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), and this extends to expressways in Singapore. These form key transport arteries between the distinct towns and regional centres as laid out in Singapore's urban planning, with the main purpose of allowing vehicles to travel from satellite towns to the city centre and vice versa in the shortest possible distance. These expressways include:

The influence of expressways on Singapore's transport policy developed shortly after independence during the history of Singapore because of frequent traffic congestion in the Central district. The aim was to encourage residential development in other parts of the island and give residents in these new "satellite towns" a convenient link between their homes and their workplaces (which were mostly situated around the city centre.)

Causeway and link bridge[edit]

Tuas Second Link

Singapore has two land links to Malaysia. The Johor-Singapore Causeway, built in the 1920s to connect Johor Bahru in Johor, Malaysia to Woodlands in Singapore, carries a road and a railway line. The Tuas Second Link, a bridge further west, was completed in 1996 and links Tuas in Singapore to Tanjung Kupang in Johor.


Before World War II, rickshaws were an important part of urban public transportation. Rickshaws were taken over by the trishaw after the world war as the former was banned in 1947 on humanitarian grounds.[11]

Usage of trishaws as a means of transportation had died out by 1983.[12] However, there are some trishaws left which now serve as tourist attractions, taking tourists for a ride around the downtown district.

Air transport[edit]


Singapore Airlines was the launch customer of the Airbus A380.
Scoot is the low-cost carrier arm of Singapore Airlines.

There are six local scheduled service airlines, all of them operating from Singapore Changi Airport, offering scheduled flights to over 70 cities on six continents:

The national flag carrier, Singapore Airlines, operates from Changi Airport Terminal 2 and 3. Its subsidiaries, SilkAir and Scoot, operate from Changi Airport Terminal 2.

Singapore's budget airlines, Jetstar Asia Airways operates from Changi Airport Terminal 1.

Singapore Seletar Airport has also been reopened to the public, with Firefly services operating out of Seletar Airport.


Control tower of Singapore Changi Airport

The aviation industry is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, a statutory board of the Singapore government under the Ministry of Transport.

An open skies agreement was concluded with the United Kingdom in October 2007 permitting unrestricted services from Singapore by UK carriers. Singapore carriers were allowed to operate domestic UK services as well as services beyond London Heathrow to a number of destinations, including the United States along with Canada.[13]

Singapore Changi Airport, with its four terminals, is one of the most important air hubs in the region. The international airport is situated at the easternmost tip of the main island, and serves 185 cities in 58 countries.[14] With the recent opening of the fourth terminal, Changi is now capable of handling more than 70 million passengers every year.

Seletar Airport is Singapore's first civil aviation airport and is primarily used for private aviation. The airport also serves regular commercial flights by Firefly to its Subang Airport hub. Limited scheduled commercial flights are also conducted by Berjaya Air to the Malaysian islands of Tioman Island and Redang Island.

Airport and airbase technical data
Airport ICAO IATA Usage Runway Length
Paya Lebar Air Base WSAP QPG Military Paved 12400 3800 Former civilian
Seletar Airport WSSL XSP Civilian/Military Paved 6023 1836 Mainly non-scheduled flights
Sembawang Air Base WSAG Military Paved 3000 914
Singapore Changi Airport WSSS SIN Civilian Paved 13200 4000
Tengah Air Base WSAT TGA Military Paved 8900 2713


Aerial lift transport[edit]

Cable car[edit]

The Singapore Cable Car spans across the Keppel Harbour between Singapore and Sentosa.

The Singapore Cable Car is a three-station gondola lift system that plies between Mount Faber on the main island of Singapore and the resort island of Sentosa via HarbourFront. Opened in 1974, it was the first aerial ropeway system in the world to span a harbour. The cable car system underwent a revamp that was completed in August 2010.

In addition, a similar gondola lift system also operates within Sentosa as the Sentosa Line and was opened in 2015. This line links Siloso Point to Imbiah.[15]

Maritime transport[edit]

Ports and harbours[edit]

Keppel Container Terminal in Singapore

The Port of Singapore, run by the port operators PSA International (formerly the Port of Singapore Authority) and Jurong Port, is the world's busiest in terms of shipping tonnage handled. 1.04 billion gross tons were handled in 2004, crossing the one billion mark for the first time in Singapore's maritime history. Singapore also emerged as the top port in terms of cargo tonnage handled with 393 million tonnes of cargo in the same year, beating the Port of Rotterdam for the first time in the process. In 2006, it handled a total of 448 million tonnes of cargo.[16]

Singapore is ranked second globally in terms of containerised traffic, with 21.3 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) handled in 2004,[17] and is also the world's busiest hub for transshipment traffic. Additionally, Singapore is the world's largest bunkering hub, with 23.6 million tonnes sold in 2004.[18]

In 2007, the Port of Singapore was ranked the world's busiest port, surpassing Hong Kong and Shanghai.[19] The Port of Singapore is also ranked the Best Seaport in Asia.

Ports and Harbours Data
Port Operator Type Berths Quay length
Quay cranes Area
Capacity (kTEUs)
Brani (BT) PSA International Container 9 31 790,000
Cosco-PSA (CPT) Cosco/PSA International Container 2 720 228,000 >1 million
Jurong JTC Multi-Purpose 23 4,486 1,200,028
Keppel (KT) PSA International Container 14 36 960,000
Pasir Panjang (PPT) PSA International Container 12 49 1,770,000
Pasir Panjang Wharves PSA International General
Sembawang PSA International General
Tanjong Pagar (TPT) PSA International Container 8 27 840,000

Passenger transport[edit]

Bumboat on the Singapore River

Water transport within the main island is limited to the River Taxi along the Singapore River. The service was introduced in January 2013, with low ridership.[20][21] There are also daily scheduled ferry services from the Marina South Pier to the Southern Islands such as Kusu Island and Saint John's Island.[22]

Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) runs Tanah Merah and HarbourFront Ferry Terminals which are connected by ferry services to Indonesian Riau Islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun.[23]


  1. ^ Singapore public transport system tops global list [1] 23 August 2018. Retrieved 2016-01-31
  2. ^ CNN Go [2] 2 June 2014. Retrieved 2016-01-31
  3. ^ Umar Zakir Abdul, Hamid; et al. (2019). "Current Landscape of the Automotive Field in the ASEAN Region: Case Study of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - A Brief Overview" (PDF). ASEAN Journal of Automotive Technology. 1 (1). Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Two New Rail Lines and Three New Extensions to Expand Rail Network by 2030". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  5. ^ "3 stations on Thomson-East Coast Line to open in January". The Straits Times. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Jurong Region Line to serve NTU, Tengah estate, Jurong Industrial Estate". CNA. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  7. ^ "First phase of Cross Island MRT line finalised; will have 12 stations". The Straits Times. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Bus, train trips hit record high last year". The Straits Times. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Annual Vehicle Statistics 2015: MOTOR VEHICLE POPULATION BY VEHICLE TYPE" (PDF). Land Transport Authority. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Facts and Figures" (PDF). Land Transport Authority.
  11. ^ "Infopedia: Rickshaw". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  12. ^ Lim, Jason (2012). A Slow Ride into the Past: The Chinese Trishaw Industry in Singapore, 1942-1983. Monash University Publishing. ISBN 978-1921867385.
  13. ^ "Singapore, UK conclude landmark Open Skies Agreement". 3 October 2007.
  14. ^ "Air Network". Archived from the original on 25 March 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
  15. ^ "New cable car service to help visitors get around Sentosa". The Straits Times. 14 July 2015. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Total Cargo (in '000 tons)" (PDF). Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
  17. ^ [3] Archived 3 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Total Container Throughput (in '000 TEUs)" (PDF). Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2007. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Singapore remains world's busiest port". Xinhuanet. 12 January 2006.
  20. ^ "Water taxis to make a splash in Singapore". Telegraph. 27 December 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  21. ^ "Few using water taxis as regular mode of commute". TODAY. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Singapore Island Cruise". islandcruise. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  23. ^ "". SCC. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.

Further reading[edit]

Teo, Eisen (2019). Jalan Singapura : 700 Years of Movement in Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 9789814828741.

External links[edit]