Govt to reveal underground master plan in 2019

Romesh Navaratnarajah24 Dec 2018

PGNV 115 National Spotlight

With rising sea levels and negative effects on the environment, the authorities are opting to tap on subterranean space instead.

The Singapore government plans to announce an Underground Master Plan next year in a bid to maximise the use of its precious resources, reported Reuters.

“Given Singapore’s limited land, we need to make better use of our surface land and systematically consider how to tap our underground space for future needs,” said the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) group director Ler Seng Ann.

“Currently, our focus is on using underground space for utility, transport, storage and industrial facilities to free up surface land for housing, offices, community uses and greenery, to enhance liveability,” he said.

Get more details on the property market outlook for 2019 here

The city-state has been reclaiming land for decades to help meet its space needs amidst its land area of 721.5 sq km, which is smaller than neighbouring Johor’s 19,102 sq km land area. But due to rising sea levels and negative effects on the environment, the authorities are opting to tap on its subterranean space instead. It is also becoming imperative to do so in light of Singapore’s 5.6 million population, which is forecasted to reach 6.9 million by 2030.

The city-state has already moved some properties and infrastructure underground, including rail lines, retail premises, pedestrian walkways, a five-lane highway and air-conditioning cooling pipes, as well as fuel and ammunition depots.

Although there are no plans yet to locate offices and residential properties underground, the Master Plan will feature pilot areas for bus depots, data centres, power plants, warehousing, water reservoirs and a deep-tunnel sewerage system.

Singapore is among the few cities in the world that are surveying their subterranean space, according to Peter Stones, a senior engineer with consultancy Arup, which conducted a research for URA that compares the city-state’s utilisation of underground space with other metropolises.

“Globally, underground spaces are still back of mind; it’s a Wild West of development. Singapore wants to look at it holistically and have a master plan so it can plan and manage the use of its underground space, and avoid potential conflicts,” he said.

Arup’s research revealed that the density of Singapore’s underground rail facilities is slightly behind Tokyo’s. The city-state also trails Tokyo and Hong Kong in terms of underground road density as of 2014.

Besides space constraints, another reason for going underground is to cope with Singapore’s tropical climate.

“You have rising heat and humidity, and increasingly heavy rainfall. People want to avoid that. Plus, utility networks are subject to more wear and tear in these conditions, so placing them underground is a viable option,” Stones noted.

However, URA’s Ler said the government will only undertake underground construction if it’s “meaningful and practical”, as such endeavours are more complicated and expensive.

“In many cases, it does make sense to build underground, considering benefits such as land saving, improving the quality of the environment and better connectivity. Our underground MRT network and expressways in the city area are some examples where the benefits of going underground outweigh the higher construction cost and technical challenges.”

Furthermore, the Underground Master Plan will leverage on 3D technology to let people explore subterranean space.

To know more about the master plans for different areas in Singapore, check out PropertyGuru AreaInsider


Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email


You may also like these articles

URA to further explore utilising underground space

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is looking for more opportunities to develop underground space, URA's Chief Planner and Deputy CEO Lim Eng Hwee said in a media interview recently. “At so

Continue Reading6 Feb 2015

Scrapping $5bil underground road frees up land, lifts restrictions

The cancellation of the 30km Singapore Underground Road System will free up land for other developments.The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Tuesday

Continue Reading30 Aug 2017

Govt to unveil pilot areas of underground masterplan in 2019

Artist's impression of an underground city in Singapore. (Photo: JTC Corporation)UPDATED: In a bid to provide a comprehensive look of what lies beneath, the government will unveil pilot areas of an un

Continue Reading5 Feb 2018