Monday , July 26 2021

The Big Read: From a remote area to a seaside town, Punggol wrestles with growing pain and traffic jams

SINGAPORE: The trip from Sengkang to Punggol takes 20 minutes by bus, but for Mrs. Denise Wong's husband, the return trip usually takes an hour.

"My husband was exhausted after work, and traffic jams made him even more tired," said the 33-year-old housewife.

In the five years since they bought a new Housing and Development Building (HDB) on Punggol Way, Light Rail Transit (LRT) and North East Line serving the city also became more crowded, said Ms Wong.

In fact, he had thought of moving from a new city, which had become too "hot and congested" because of urban sprawl:

"Transportation, facilities and malls don't grow as fast as the population. That has caused a lot of inconvenience, "he said.

new hdb flat

A man sees a new flat model at the HDB Hub. (Photo file: TODAY / Ooi Boon Keong)

Traffic jams also function as a real headache for Ms. Alia Mohamed, who has lived in Edgedale Plains for more than a year and went to Suntec City to work.

"It will take 15 to 20 minutes if I travel to work on weekends. During working days, it can take one hour, "said the 33-year-old facility manager.

Traffic congestion in Punggol has been a problem that has long existed since it first appeared at least five years ago. In 2013, Punggol residents complained about the rate of improvement in transportation infrastructure, which they felt lagged behind the population explosion.

When Punggol turned into one of the largest housing estates in Singapore with many new developments – it was projected to be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio – transportation woes continued without stopping. Ongoing roads are working to help improve transportation infrastructure, increase congestion and inconvenience, many things make people disappointed.

Not long ago when the mention of "Punggol" only reminded us of boondocks. In the 1970s and 80s, pig farming was a common sight in Punggol, remember 44-year-old Lee Ngee Chong.

"My family and grandparents used to live in conclusion houses in Punggol. Every Sunday, (my family and I) will go to & # 39; countryside & # 39; and Upper Serangoon Road is the only road to Punggol, so this place has many memories for me, "Lee said, chuckling.

Life has become a full circle for entrepreneur Mr. Lee, who has lived in a four-room HDB flat on Punggol Way with his family over the past five years. They moved from Toa Payoh, where they lived for more than 20 years.

When he found the neighborhood in Punggol to relax, traffic jams were the main disturbance for him – enough for him to also consider moving.

If the traffic gets worse, I might want to get out of (Punggol). During my five years here, the traffic got worse.

Last week, the Land Transportation Authority (LTA) announced that a new connecting road connecting Punggol Central to Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and Tampines Expressway (TPE) will open on November 25, almost a year earlier than scheduled.

In June last year, the LTA also brought the opening date of Punggol Coast MRT Station from 2030 to 2023 – seven good years – to strengthen transportation infrastructure in the area.

The new connecting road connects Punggol Central to KPE and TPE (PIE)

A new connecting road connects Punggol Central to the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway and Tampines Expressway. (Photo: Land Transportation Authority)

The station will serve residential areas in Northshore District and Punggol Point District, in time for the first batch of 5,300 Build-to-Order units in seven projects to be completed by 2020.

Old resident Dominic Cheong, who has lived in Punggol for more than 20 years, said that while he was looking forward to the new connecting road, he hoped it would not be enough in just a few years.

The 56-year-old businessman said:

A new road can alleviate a temporary situation, but when the population begins to grow again, it will become the status quo in two to three years.

Punggol's journey from a quiet district to a new seaside town began in 1996, when Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong first announced the idea of ​​developing Punggol. But the project – known as "Punggol 21" – dropped to a difficult start due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998.

The vision for Punggol began again in 2007 with the "Punggol 21-plus" project launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The aim is to turn the area into a 21st century seaside city.

Of the 11 districts in Punggol, seven display seaside life. Of the seven seaside residential districts, five have been launched, while the remaining two will be located on the inland stretch bordering Coney Island and in the current shrimp fishing area on Tebing Lane.

water views

Waterway View housing project in Punggol (Photo: ADDP)

Since then, the Government has been trying to ensure that the facilities at Punggol have followed the pace of the rapidly growing population.

Until now, there are two shopping centers in Punggol: Waterway Point and Punggol Plaza, while the third commercial environment center – Oasis Terraces – is also one of the largest polyclinics in Singapore.

In 2021, the upcoming Punggol Town Hub – which includes hawker centers, regional libraries, childcare centers and health facilities – and the Punggol Regional Sports Center will also be ready.

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Punggol currently has nearly 50,000 HDB flats, and the number will increase rapidly over the next few years. The latest HDB annual report shows that the number of residential units in Punggol is projected to double to 96,000.

Over the past decade, the housing population in Punggol has nearly tripled from 54,560 in 2008 to 161,570 in June this year, based on data from the Singapore Department of Statistics. This is close to the size of the population in Ang Mo Kio (165,710).

Until the new connecting road is open, Punggol only has three main arterial roads leading to TPE and KPE – Punggol Way, Punggol Road, Punggol East – for its residents.

For comparison, Ang Mo Kio is served by Central Expressway, Yio Chu Kang Road, and Upper Thomson Road. This, in turn, is connected to five arterial roads (Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6).

In 2013, LTA said that road repair work would be carried out if needed to "improve public transport services needed in accordance with the pace of developments in the region".

Traffic congestion on Punggol during rush hour (2)

The peak traffic jam on the toll road to Punggol is normal. (Photo: Chandramohan Style)

However, such road repairs provide little comfort for Mr. Lee who said:

If the Government knows that Punggol will grow bigger in the future, they should have expanded the road in the first place and did not react (a growing population).

Mr Lee added: "Widening the road creates many obstacles and inconveniences for road users, as well as for residents because of dust and noise. They should have planned ahead and done (road work) once and for all. "

Ms Wong stressed that the infrastructure at Punggol has not developed along with the housing population, while Kok Chee Mun – who has lived in the area for almost 20 years – notes that the Asian Financial Crisis has slowed the growth of Punggol, and the city made up for lost time.

"The development of Punggol is similar to the growth of other cities like Yishun when it was a new plantation, so this teething problem is expected," the 62-year-old watchmaker said in Mandarin.


Traffic congestion was set aside, most residents said that steps had been taken to improve facilities on plantations, such as childcare centers, schools, health facilities and food outlets.

In June 2018, Punggol had the highest proportion of children under the age of five in Singapore, 10.3 percent, or 16,700 children.

childcare children

Children in NTUC My First Skool on Edgefield Plains. (Photo: MCI)

According to data from the Early Childhood Development Agency, there are 57 childcare centers in Punggol at the end of the first semester of this year, compared to 53 at the end of 2017. 57 centers have capacity for 9,743 children, which is the highest in Singapore.

By comparison, only 3.4 percent of the population of Ang Mo Kio, or 5,660, are under five years old. The 68 childcare centers on plantations have capacity for 7,825 children.

In September this year, the Ministry of Education announced that Yusof Ishak Middle School would be permanently moved from the existing Bukit Batok site to Punggol in 2021 to meet the demand for secondary school places in new housing.

The Singapore Institute of Technology will also move to the Punggol North campus in 2023, which will co-exist with a business park in the district.

The SingHealth Polyclinic at Oasis Terraces, which officially opened on May 23 this year, focused on the health of women and children, given the relatively high number of young families on plantations. In addition to medical and dental care, this polyclinic also offers physiotherapy and podiatry services.

Ms Shoba Dayalan, a resident of Punggol since 2007, said that her family used to travel to Sengkang to visit the polyclinic there.

"It was very troublesome (before the Punggol clinic opened). Previously, there were very few general practitioners in Punggol. The number of clinics has now increased, "said the 39-year-old housewife.

poly punggol

Registration counter at Punggol Polyclinic. (Photo: Gwyneth Teo)

And while some residents cite the lack of competition for high prices of groceries in the only wet market in Punggol Plaza, the prevalence of online traders and supermarkets popping up around Punggol has alleviated the problem.

"It's not fashionable to have a wet market now," said Mr Kok, a 20-year-old resident of Punggol. "This is a good-to-have, but not a must-have."

The choice of halal food in coffee shops is also very lacking, said some Muslims.

At the end of the day, many residents said that the city's growth must be moderated, and a balance must be reached between new developments and preserving the calm of Punggol.

"I hope the Government maintains reforestation in Punggol," said Ms Alia. He added: "However, it can also be scary if the land is too quiet."

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In 2013, Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Teo Ser Luck said that the transportation infrastructure in Punggol "must be in harmony with the construction of the city itself".

"If not, there will always be one who follows up with the others," he said.

Apart from the new connecting road that connects Punggol Central to TPE and KPE, there is work available for additional exit points from TPE to Punggol, MP Sun Xueling, who is guarding the Punggol Barat area, said.

Punggol breakthrough

(From left to right) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Ms. Sun Xueling, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, Minister Ng Chee Meng and Mr. Teo Ser Luck.

"In the long term, with more developments in the north and in the western part of Punggol, we are looking for new road infrastructure that serves to increase activity in these areas," he added.

Punggol residents Ms. Wong suggested increasing the frequency of city LRT services.

"There are only two cabins for Punggol LRT. In addition to residents, many foreign workers working on new developments at Punggol also use LRT, which makes it very crowded, "he said.

Ms Wong added: "The line can be very ridiculous. In addition to increasing the frequency of trains, the authorities must consider upgrading (two-cabin trains) to four cabins. "

While the transportation infrastructure that lags behind is a major scourge for many residents, Mr. Cheong feels that it is not only hardware that needs to be improved.


In the midst of rapid growth, Punggol's "village spirit" has disappeared, said Mr Cheong. He believes that the hawker center in the upcoming Punggol Town Hub is a place to foster such a community spirit.

"It will also be good to have a wet market (others). What is now at Punggol Plaza is not really a wet market, and I think some people lose having & # 39; village spirits & # 39; in these places, "he said.

Waterway Cascadia 1

Cascadia Waterway on Punggol. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

When Punggol developed at a very high speed, some of the old residents watched – before their eyes – the tension between developing and preserving the things they liked about the area.

Mr Cheong recalled that he had been able to see the Straits of Johor from his unit at Punggol Field, which was near TPE. The city skyline has also changed dramatically in 20 years at Punggol, he said.

"When I first moved, Punggol was like a ghost town. You can even hear stray dogs barking at night. Punggol felt more relaxed at that time, "he added:

I was disappointed that the sea view had gone, but it had been made with more facilities.

Ms Isabelle Lim, 22, who has lived on the plantation for the past 11 years with her parents, described Punggol's growth as "a little painful".

However, students at Singapore Management University admit that "with more people there are more facilities, and good facilities".

"My family and I used to like Punggol because they were calm, but now Punggol is quite independent, living here is relatively comfortable," he added.

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