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Taxis Vanish in Rain as Singapore Gets Congested: Southeast Asia

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Taxis Vanish in Rain as Singapore Gets Congested: Southeast Asia

Post by Darkmen on Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:47 am

At 6 a.m. one weekday morning, 64-year-old taxi driver Koh Chia Hock set out to ply Singapore’s roads when it started raining. So he turned around and went home.

“If I go and fetch a customer, it’s very risky,” said Koh, as the heavy traffic raises the chance of an accident that could leave him without earnings while the car is repaired. “I don’t have the stomach for it. I don’t want to drive when it rains.”

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Cab drivers like Koh are avoiding the traffic jams that have become a hallmark of Singapore’s tropical rainstorms after a jump in the city’s population and a surge in vehicles clogged roads. As the government shuts the center of the city this weekend for the annual Formula One street race, residents are bracing for even more delays.

“This is a problem that has been accumulated over many years -- infrastructure investment has not kept pace with the demand,” said Irvin Seah, a senior economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore who was part of the nation’s economic review committee in the early 2000s. “With the congestion, time will be lost in traffic jams and that’s essentially money.”

Singapore’s roads are trying to cope with a population that has jumped by more than 1.1 million since mid-2004 to 5.3 million. Taxi waiting times of an hour or more are tarnishing the city-state’s reputation for efficiency as the government works to turn the island into a regional center for industries such as biotechnology and wealth management.

The 1996 transport system white paper planned for a population of 4 million by 2030. A government report this year said the number of people on the island that’s less than a third of the size of Luxembourg may grow to 6.9 million by then.

Building Railways

Singapore closed roads on Wednesday in the city center for six days for the Formula One night race and related activities, according to the Land Transport Authority. The closures add to the congestion downtown, said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. (CIMB) in Singapore.

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