The construction of Changi Airport Terminal 5 will be paused for at least two years due to the “great uncertainties” about the future of the aviation and travel sectors in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Tuesday (16 June).
Speaking in an online meeting with Ministry of Transport (MOT) scholars, Mr Khaw noted that until a vaccine is found, many questions will be asked on whether there will be a second wave or a third wave and how severe will it be. He also highlighted that such calamities will have implications on aviation and tourism, where it will be challenging to gain back the confidence of travellers.
“Because of all these great uncertainties, we have been doing a major thorough study about aviation, and how it will be like in the next two years, three years, four years, post-pandemic,” he added.
However, with the “big questions remain” – and the answers out of reach within the coming months – Mr Khaw stated that Singapore has decided to “take a pause” in the Changi Airport Terminal 5 project for a minimum two years.
He hinted that under normal circumstances – without COVID-19 in the picture – the Government would have to start calling for a major civil engineering tenders.
With the Government hitting the pause button on the Terminal 5 project, Mr Khaw said that the halt will allow the authorities to consider operational changes as well as the current design of Terminal 5 in order to meet safety requirements of post-pandemic travel.
He explained that these changes would affect how airlines interact with the airport in a seamless and efficient manner, which will inadvertently have implications on the layout and airport design.
“So, for all these various reasons, we think that this decision to take a pause for a couple of years, while we finalise a much better design to suit the future of aviation, is wise,” Mr Khaw added.
As part of Changi East development, Terminal 5 was marked as the biggest expansion project at Changi Airport. The project is expected to commence in 2020, and scheduled for completion in the 2030s.
Last month, Changi Airport suspended all operations at Terminal 4 due to the declining air traffic caused by pandemic, while Terminal 2 has been closed since 1 May for 18 months for the renovation works.
It was also announced on 31 May that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Project has been suspended until the end of this year for the Malaysian government to deliberate on proposed changes to the commercial and technical aspects of the project.
Malaysia and Singapore reached an agreement in September 2018 to delay the HSR project which Malaysia wanted to cancel due to the high cost.
Netizens say it is the right decision to put the Terminal 5 project on hold
Many netizens were quick to respond to Mr Khaw’s announcement of suspending the Terminal 5 project, saying that it is the right decision to put the project on hold during this unprecedented time.
Penning their thoughts on the Facebook pages of Channel New Asia and The Straits Times, netizens commented that the aviation and tourism industries need time to recover as the industries have been affected badly by the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that it would be best to “slow down” the constructions that will cost the country heavily.
A handful of netizens also questioned why the Government need to build more airport terminals, given that the airport has already closed two terminals and the country is small to accommodate “such big numbers of travellers”.
With the suspension of Terminal 5 project, some netizens noted that instead of “letting the large piece of land go to waste unused”, the Government should use the land more wisely for public goods, such as turning the land into agriculture land, amusement park, migrant workers dormitory, or even a COVID-19 isolation centre.
One netizen asserted that the Government should now be prudent and vigilant with any huge and expensive investments, particularly infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile, a few netizens mocked Minister Khaw for using “redesign” as a reason to suspend the construction project. They felt that it was just an excuse for the problem of manpower shortage.
Others also expressed concerns on the terminal fees collected in light of the Terminal 5 construction. They asked whether the fees will also be ceased.