The LTA Story

Our History

In the early days of nation building, public infrastructure was managed by the Public Works Department. This included the building of carparks, bridges, sewage systems, housing, libraries, and even bus shelters. As the scope of transport planning grew, a new entity was needed.

On 1 September 1995, four public entities – the Registry of Vehicles; Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC); Roads & Transportation Division of the Public Works Department; and Land Transportation division of the Ministry of Communications – merged to form the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Bus in the 1900s

In the early 1900s, getting around Singapore was a challenge. Those who did not drive had to use rickshaws, ‘pirate’ taxis, or the slow and unreliable public bus services.

The completion of the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1971 led to Singapore’s first concept plan that envisaged a network of expressways and a mass rapid transit (MRT) system to provide islandwide connectivity. In the 1970s, the Road Transport Action Committee was set up to plan for a growing transport system and manage traffic congestion.

In 1970, based on a White Paper recommendation, 10 Chinese bus companies were consolidated into three which then merged in 1973 to form the Singapore Bus Service (SBS).

Passengers at a bus stop in the 1970s

In 1974, Government intervention led to the regulation and improvement of services, streamlining of bus routes, training for staff, repairing bus fleets and implementing policies to raise overall standards.

The Bus Lane Scheme for peak hours was implemented in 1974 and enhanced over the years. In 1975, the City Shuttle Service Company began to serve commuters working in the Central Business District.

A double deck air-conditioned bus in the 1990s

To develop a more competitive and diverse bus industry, a second bus operating license was issued to Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) in 1982.

In 1987, the SBS, SMRT and TIBS jointly set up TransitLink to develop a common fare platform. It would later become a subsidiary of LTA to manage concession schemes.

Over the next few decades, buses evolved with improvements to capacity, comfort and accessibility. In 2006, nine wheelchair-accessible buses (WABs) were introduced. All buses will be wheelchair accessible by 2020.

SG Bus in Lush Green livery

LTA introduced the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP) in 2012 and the Bus Contracting Model (BCM) in 2016 to enhance connectivity and improve bus service levels. These LTA bus regulations serve to encourage competition, raise service standards and make public bus operators more responsive to changes in ridership and commuter needs.

In tandem with the transition to BCM, a nation-wide vote was held to decide on new bus livery. The winner, Lush Green, edged out Bright Red by 114 votes, and is now used for all government-owned Singapore buses.

The vision for a rail system started as early as 1967, just two years after independence, but only picked up steam in the late 1970s.

In 1981, a Comprehensive Traffic Study concluded that a mass transit rail system would best complement the existing bus network. This was met with opposition, with high cost being a main factor. Lively discussions in parliament, the press and among the public, known as the ‘Great MRT Debate’, culminated in a rare televised discussion. Even Harvard University specialists brought in to consult on the matter preferred an expansion of the bus network. Ultimately, the rail-based option prevailed, and the construction of Singapore’s first rail line began in 1983.

Right: Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visiting the North-South Line, left: Guests at the opening of Toa Payoh MRT station

A MRT timeline

Expansions and upcoming projects continue on our rail lines, with the goal to have 8 in 10 homes located within a 10-minute walk from a train station. LTA also continues to renew the system; build, replace and upgrade rail assets; maintain the reliability of the network; and ensure that operators provide quality services.

Vehicles traveling on the roads at night

Developing and regulating Singapore’s land transport network is a balance between improving road capacity and maintaining a sustainable vehicle population while managing traffic flow. Development of bus and rail services has been matched by new infrastructure and policies to manage growing vehicle ownership.

In 1967, the government commissioned a new land use and transport plan, later known as the Concept Plan, that would guide the location of the first expressways in Singapore.

These are some of the key milestones in the development of our road network and the various measures we implemented over the years to manage road usage:

With the rail system bringing added connectivity to the bus and road network in the 1980s, Singapore’s public transport system moved towards a more integrated model.

LTA has worked to make getting around Singapore seamless, safe and efficient, whether on buses, aboard trains, by taxi or private hire cars, or on foot, bicycles or personal mobility devices.

Bus tickets then and now

The first step towards integration was the launch of a stored value magnetic strip fare card in 1990. This common payment system for bus and rail paved the way for contactless cards and the setting-up of EZ-Link as an LTA subsidiary.

As the MRT system expanded to complement bus services, public transport operators also evolved. Bus operator TIBS and train operator SMRT merged in 2001, while bus operator SBS renamed itself as SBS Transit, reflecting the multi-modal nature of their companies.

The development of Integrated Transport Hubs allows commuters to seamlessly run errands in air-conditioned comfort as part of their journey. The first hub at Toa Payoh opened in 2002. At the same time, five older MRT stations (Dhoby Ghaut, Outram Park, Somerset, Novena and Tampines) were upgraded to include disabled-friendly facilities.

Distance fares were implemented in 2010 for a more equitable fare structure, and give commuters more flexibility and encourage them to take the most efficient travel route, whether by bus or train.

By 2013, the focus moved towards increasing public transport usage, increasing connectivity, improving journey times and ensuring that more train stations were closer to homes. The aim of the Walk Cycle Ride initiative was to make access to transport hubs more seamless. The Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (LTMP 2040) will set the vision for 2040 and the future of land transport in Singapore.

As we move towards a car-lite future, we are exploring more commuting options. In addition to improving walking and cycling facilities, we are tapping on the potential of new technologies such as the latest in autonomous and electric vehicles, and other intelligent systems, to better allocate resources and shape the future of commuting to be even more safe, reliable and comfortable.

The story of LTA does not end here. As LTA moves into the next decade and beyond, we continue to look within and outside the organisation to improve, and create an excellent transport system that Singaporeans can be proud of.

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