SINGAPORE: Traveling from Senkang to Pungol takes 20 minutes by bus, but for a husband of Denise Wong the journey home usually lasts an hour.
“My husband was already exhausted after work, and the cork plugged him even more,” the 33-year-old housewives complained.
In the five years since they bought a new apartment on housing and development (HDB) on the Pungol road, the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the northeast line serving the city have also become more crowded, said Ms Wong
In fact, she is already thinking of leaving the new city, which has become too “hot and overcrowded” due to urban sprawl:
“Transport, facilities and shopping centers are not growing as fast as the population. This caused a lot of inconvenience, ”she said.
The traffic jam also serves as a real headache for Ms. Alia Mohamed, who has lived on the Edgelail plains for over a year and travels to Suntec City for work.
“I will need from 15 to 20 minutes if I go to work on weekends. On weekdays, this may take an hour, ”said the 33-year-old object manager.
Traffic congestion in Punggol was a long-standing problem, having first appeared at least five years ago. In 2013, Punggol residents captured the pace of improvements in transport infrastructure, which, in their opinion, lagged behind the demographic boom.
As Punggol is turning into one of the largest residential complexes in Singapore with many new developments – it is projected to be twice as high as Ang Mo Kio, its transport problems continue to persist. The ongoing road works to help the transport infrastructure play catch-up, further aggravating the accumulation and inconvenience, much to the chagrin of the residents.
Not so long ago, when the mere mention of "Pungole" recalled the Bundoki. Back in the 1970s and 80s, pig farms were a common species in Punggol, recalled 44-year-old Lee Nge Chong.
“My relatives and grandmothers and grandfathers used to live in the apartment houses in Pungol. Every Sunday (my family and I) traveled to the “countryside” and the “Upper Serangun Road” was the only way for Pungol, so this place has a lot of memories for me, ”said Li with a grin.
Life has become a full circle for the self-employed Mr. Lee, who has lived in a four-room HDB apartment on Punggol Way with his family for the past five years. They moved from Toa Payo, where they stayed for over 20 years.
While he finds the environment in Pungol to relax, cork is a serious annoyance to him – enough for him to also consider moving.
If the movement gets worse, I might want to get out of (Punggol). During the five years that I lived here, the movement has deteriorated.
Last week, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that a new communication link connecting Punggol’s center to Callan-Pai Lebar (KPE) and Tampines Highway (TPE) will open on November 25 almost a year ahead of schedule.
Last June, LTA also unveiled the opening date of the Punggol Coast MRT metro station from 2030 to 2023 — a good seven years — to strengthen transport infrastructure in the area.
The station will serve residential estates in the Northern District and Punggol Point, while the first batch of 5,300 “on demand” kits for seven projects should be completed in 2020.
Long-Liver Dominic Cheong, who lived in Punhol for more than 20 years, said that, waiting for a new line of communication, he expects that it will last only a few years.
A 56-year-old businessman said:
New roads may temporarily soften the situation, but when the population starts to grow again, it will be a status quo in two or three years.
The journey of Pungol from the sleepy district to the slap new embankment began in 1996, when then-Prime Minister Guo Chok Tong first announced the idea of developing Pungol. But the project, known as “Punggol 21,” went to a rocky start due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998.
Punggol's vision was restarted in 2007 by the Punggol 21-plus project, presented by Prime Minister Li Xian Lung. The goal is to turn this area into a coastal city of the 21st century.
Of the 11 districts in Pungol, there are seven waterfront facilities. Of the seven waterfront areas, five were launched, and the other two will be located on a stretch of land on Coney Island and in the area of the current shrimp area in Tebing Lane.
Since then, the government has sought to ensure that amenities in Punggol do not lag behind the rapidly growing resident population.
Today, there are two shopping centers in Punggol: Waterway Point and Punggol Plaza, and the third commercial district center, Oasis Terraces, also has one of Singapore’s largest health centers.
By 2021, the upcoming Punggol city center, which includes a hunter’s center, a regional library, a kindergarten and medical facilities, and the Pungola Regional Sports Center, will also be ready for use.
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Currently, there are almost 50,000 HDB apartments in Punggol, and the number will grow rapidly in the next few years. The latest HDB annual report showed that the number of residential units in Punggol is projected to eventually double to 96,000 people.
Over the past decade, the residential population in Pungol has almost tripled from 54,560 in 2008 to 161,570 as of June of this year, based on data from the Department of Statistics of Singapore. This is close to the population in Ang Mo Kio (165,710).
Until a new communication line opens, Punggol has only three trunk lines leading to TPE and KPE – Punggol Way, Punggol Road, Punggol East – for its residents.
By comparison, Ang Mo Kio is served by the Central Highway, Yio Chu Kang Road and Upper Thomson Road. They, in turn, are connected to five arterial roads (Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
In 2013, LTA announced that, if necessary, road improvement works would be carried out in order to “improve public transport services as needed in accordance with the pace of development in the area”.
However, such road improvement works do not provide solace to Mr. Lee, who said:
If the government knows that in the future Punggol will grow, they should have made the expansion of the road in the first place and not respond to (growing population).
Mr. Li added: “Extending the road creates many obstacles and inconveniences for road users, as well as for residents because of dust and noise. They had to plan ahead and do (the road works) once and for all. ”
Ms. Wong reiterated that the infrastructure in Punhol does not grow along with the residential population, and Mr. Kok Ji Moon, who has lived in the area for almost 20 years, noted that the Asian financial crisis slowed Punggola’s growth and .
“The development of Punggol is similar to the growth of other cities, such as Yishun, when it was a new state, so these dental problems are expected,” said the 62-year-old watchmaker on Mandarin.
STRIDES PERFECTED IN IMPROVEMENT OF AMENITIES
In most cases, the residents of most residents said that steps had been taken to improve the amenities of the estate, such as kindergartens, schools, medical facilities and catering facilities.
As of June 2018, Punggola’s highest proportion of children under five years old in Singapore was 10.3 percent, or 16,700 children.
According to the Agency for Early Childhood Development, at the end of the first half of this year, there are 57 childcare centers in Pungol, compared to 53 at the end of 2017. 57 centers have a capacity of 9,743 children, which is one of the highest in Singapore.
For comparison, only 3.4 percent of Ang Mo Kio residents, or 5,660 people, were less than five years old. 68 child care centers on the estate are designed for 7,825 children.
In September of this year, the Ministry of Education announced that Yusof Ishak High School will be permanently relocated from the existing Bukit-Batok place in Punggol in 2021 to meet the demand for secondary school places in a new residential complex.
The Singapore Institute of Technology will also move to its campus Punggol North 2023, which will be located next to the business park in the area.
The SingHealth Health Center at Oasis Terraces, which officially opened on May 23 this year, is focused on the health of women and children, given the relatively large number of young families on the estate. In addition to medical and dental care, the clinic also offers the services of physiotherapy and podiatry.
Ms. Shoba Dayalan, a resident of Panggola since 2007, said her family went to Sankang to visit the clinic.
“It was very troublesome (before the Pungol health center opened). Earlier in Pungole there were very few general practitioners. The number of clinics has now increased, ”said the 39-year-old housewife.
And while some residents cited a lack of competition for high food prices in the only wet market in Punggol Plaza, the prevalence of online grocers and supermarkets sprouting around Punggol somewhat moderated the problem.
“Now it’s not fashionable to have wet markets,” said Mr. Kok, a 20-year-old resident of Pungola. "This is good, but not necessary."
Some residents of Halal in coffee houses also lack.
In the end, many residents said that the growth of the city should be mitigated, and a balance must be struck between new developments and the preservation of peace in Pungol.
“I hope that the government will keep the greenery in Punggol,” said Ms. Alia. She added: "However, it can also be scary if the estate is too quiet."
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In 2013, the Pasir-Reese-Punggol member of the Parliament (GRC) Teo Ser Luck said that the transport infrastructure in Pungol "must be coordinated with the development of the city itself."
“If not, it will always catch up with each other,” he said.
In addition to the new communication line connecting Punggol Central with TPE and KPE, there are existing works for an additional exit point from TPE to Punggol, said deputy Sun Xueling, who oversees the area of Punggol West.
“In the longer term, with more developments in the northern and western parts of Punggol, we are exploring new works in the field of road infrastructure, which will help revitalize activities in these areas,” she added.
Punggol resident Ms. Wong proposed to increase the frequency of LRT service in the city.
“For Punggol LRT there are only two cabins. In addition to residents, many foreign workers working on new developments in Pungol also use LRT, which makes it very crowded, ”she said.
Ms. Wong added: “Queues can get pretty ridiculous. In addition to increasing the frequency of trains, the authorities should consider the possibility of increasing (double trains) to four cabins. ”
While the lagging transport infrastructure was a major bug for many residents, Mr. Chong believed that not only hardware needs to be improved.
PRICE AND DEVELOPMENT AWARDS
Mr. Chong said that because of his rapid growth, the “spirit of campung” Panggola was lost. He believes that the hawker center in the upcoming town of Punggol Town Hub is one of the places to develop this community spirit.
“It will also be nice to have (one more) a wet market. The current one at Punggol Plaza is not really a wet market, and I think some people miss the “spirit of campung” in these places, ”he said.
As Punggol develops at breakneck speed, some long-time residents become witnesses – in their eyes – the tension between development and the preservation of what they loved in the area.
Mr. Chong recalled that he used to see the Johore Span from his unit on the Punggol field, which is located next to the TPE. He said that the skyline of the city has also changed dramatically over the past 20 years in Pungol.
“When I first moved, Pungol was like a ghost town. You even heard red dogs bark at night. Then Punggol felt more relaxed, ”he added:
I am disappointed that the view of the sea is gone, but it was made up with lots of amenities.
22-year-old Isabel Lim, who lived on the estate for the past 11 years with her parents, described Punggola's growth as “a little painful.”
However, a student from the Singapore University of Management acknowledged that "with more people, there are also more amenities, and the amenities are pleasant."
“My family and I looked like Panggola because it was quiet, but now that Panggol is completely self-sufficient, it’s relatively convenient to live here,” she added.