Thursday, 19 June 2008

That Sinking Feeling

In excited tones the reporter on last night's Channel News Asia informed us that traffic had been mysteriously stopped in the area of Marina Boulevard.

A clearly nervous and reticent foreman in a hard hat did his best to avoid answering any questions, even at one point attempting to hide his identity by pulling the brim of his hard hat over his face.

After several seconds of muffled response the hat in question was pushed back to its original position but the answers were no more forthcoming.

Was an event of great national significance unfolding before our eyes? Perchance a threat to national security?

The answer was far more mundane. There had been a subsidence in the road and it appears to be related to the construction of an underground tunnel at an adjacent construction site.

As a result, Marina Boulevard was closed for six hours while inspectors evaluated the situation and determined there was no lasting danger.

I mention all of this because such incidences appear to be an increasing occurrence in Singapore. The underworld of the Republic is becoming a rabbit warren of underground pedestrian walkways, MRT lines and utility tunnels.

Add to this the vibration of the manyfold construction sites and the fact that much of Singapore does not sit on bedrock and it is therefore not surprising that such events occur.

The resulting blockage to road traffic occurred on the same day as government agencies announced a further hike in ERP charges. These increases are an attempt to dissuade the use of motor vehicles in the central city areas at peak periods. The charges are levied electronically as a car passes under an ERP gantry and every vehicle carries a digital box and cash card from which the sum is subtracted.

This miracle of technology appears to to be having some effect in curbing motor vehicle use and enhancing the value of public transport.

As the ERP rates climb, Singaporean motorists are also experiencing that sinking feeling.

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