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After Friday’s Cabinet reshuffle, Singapore will have a new Transport Minister come 15 May - current Minister for Communications and Information and West Coast GRC Member of Parliament S. Iswaran.

This means incumbent Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung will have survived the poisoned chalice that is the Transport Ministry portfolio, with his political career still very much intact - he will go on to become Health Minister.

Survivor - Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung. Credit: The Straits Times.

In all, Ong will have served in the Transport Ministry for just nine months.

The previous (and first) four Transport Ministers saw their ministerial careers end with the portfolio:

1. Yeo Cheow Tong (2001-2006) - stepped down from the Cabinet.

Credit: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

2. Raymond Lim (2006-2011) - stepped down from the Cabinet.

Credit: The Straits Times.

3. Lui Tuck Yew (2011-2015) - retired from politics.

Credit: Today.

4. Khaw Boon Wan (2015-2020) - retired from politics.

Credit: Ken Tham.

(Of the four ministers above, I couldn’t find a photo of Raymond Lim taking the train. Ong Ye Kung is exempted because his period of service is so short.)

Now, let’s see whether S. Iswaran will beat the curse too! All the best!

When the North-South Corridor - originally conceptualised as the North-South Expressway - is completed in 2026 as Singapore’s 11th expressway, it will greatly improve connectivity along the entire breadth of Singapore Island.

The 21-km, $8 billion corridor will connect the towns of Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, and Toa Payoh to the Central Business District, relieving heavy traffic on the frequently-jammed Central Expressway.

Singapore’s costliest expressway yet will also be the first to contain dedicated bus and cycling lanes, a boon for the city-state’s attempts to go “car-lite”. The corridor can be a model for present and future expressways to better accommodate viable alternatives to cars.

However, in an increasingly crowded, built-up urban environment, planning and constructing such a corridor while minimising the impact on said environment is no mean feat.

Hence, it is unfortunate that a handful of property owners suddenly had their precious assets acquired, because of the corridor:

A four-storey building in Thomson Road will be demolished to allow excavation for an upcoming North-South Corridor tunnel just metres away to begin safely.

The authorities found that the building was not strong enough to withstand the work.

Consequently, the 57-year-old mixed-use building at 68 to 74 Thomson Road and the 776 sq m plot of freehold land it sits on were acquired by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for demolition.

Credit: The Straits Times.

The owners of its 12 residential units and four commercial units on the ground floor will have to return them to SLA by the end of July.

The building, which previously housed shops such as a Tanjong Rhu Pau outlet and the Animal Infirmary veterinary clinic, will be demolished by the end of this year.

Of its 16 units, 14 had been leased out to tenants.

The owners will be compensated based on the market value at the time of the acquisition.

SLA and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said they will work closely with the owners and assist them through the acquisition process. The value of each unit may differ and the appraisal work will be outsourced to private valuers...

In a joint statement, SLA, LTA and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the building’s foundation required strengthening, but its concrete was not strong enough to allow this...

68-74 Thomson Road was built in 1964. This was the four-storey building in 2009.

Credit: Google Maps.

The building in 2019:

Credit: Google Maps.

And last year, after construction works on the corridor had begun.

Credit: Google Maps.

Property in Singapore is worth its weight in gold, so I can imagine the affected property owners to be quite bitter about this. The knowledge that their properties will be making way for a billion-dollar infrastructural project that will improve nationwide connectivity on a grand scale will be cold comfort to them.

In recent times, the authorities are getting better at planning large-scale infrastructure projects such as MRT lines and expressways, such that as few people are personally affected as possible. But there will always be the few who are inconvenienced.

A reminder that when it comes to transport infrastructure, there is always a trade-off between the greater good and private interests.

Spotted under some trees alongside a Caltex petrol station, next to the Mount Pleasant Flyover of the Pan-Island Expressway, near where Mount Pleasant Road joins Whitley Road:

I see a couple of Laughing Buddhas (actually a depiction of Maitreya, the “Future Buddha”), Guan Yin, Datuk Gong, and Fu Lu Shou - popular Taoist and Buddhist deities seated side by side. The best of Chinese lay religion on display by the roadside.