In the early eighties, the Government was debating on whether to build the MRT station. The Minister for Communications, Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, was in favor of MRT. Dr. Goh Keng Swee, Deputy Prime Minister, was in favor an all-bus alternative. The Government commissioned a team of transport experts from America who advised that an all-bus system was feasible. The Cabinet finally decided in favor of the MRT system.
Most Singaporeans would agree that the MRT system was a better approach, as it was able to carry large number of people quickly, and was not affected by road congestion. Our MRT system was considered to be a "world class transport system" for several years.
Many people did not realize the valuable contribution of Dr. Goh in this debate. By arguing in favor of the all-bus system, he presented an alternative proposal, which was more economical and quicker to implement. This alternative presented a benchmark to compare the cost of the MRT system .
For example, if the all-bus alternative was, say $1.5 billion, the MRT system can be more expensive, but cannot be "too far off". This allowed the cost of the MRT system to be kept under proper financial control. I suspect that this was the key reason who the initial system was kept at a modest cost of $2 billion dollars for the North South and the East West lines. (Note: I am recalling some of these figures from memory, and may not be accurate).
By contrast, the Thomson MRT line was estimated to be $18 billion, and the Marina Costal Highway was $4.3 billion. These sums are staggering.
We now know that people like Dr. Goh Keng Swee played an important role to ensure that the government spending was "value for money". We dearly missed people like him; people who are visionary and courageous, and are willing to argue for alternatives!
Dr. Goh left the cabinet in 1985. Since then, we have seen a gradual deterioration in the quality of leadership in our government and civil service.