Highways in land-scarce Singapore are incredibly expensive. According to Singapore's Transport Ministry today, the new 21-km North-South Expressway will cost S$8 billion when completed by 2020.
This works out to an eye-popping S$381 million per km or S$381,000 per metre!!! And it seems to be more than double the price of the 12-km Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway and tunnel that was built at a cost of S$150 million per km, or a total of S$1.8 billion, last year.
Of course, the cost of Singapore's latest Autobahn could include massive compensation for land acquisition for the new highway, tunnels and difficult engineering feat.
Whatever the real scope of the new highway is, the NSE must be one of the most expensive stretches of road in the region.
For example, Malaysia's North-South Expressway -- the 772 km highway stretching from southern Thailand to the border of Singapore -- cost over RM6 billion when completed in the early 1990s.
The price tag for the Malaysian 'mega' project, which caused a political furore then due to a massive cost overrun and charges of corruption, worked out to about RM7.8 million per km. This is equivalent to about S$5 million per km based on the exchange rate then.
This means the NSE in Singapore costs more than 75 times the NSE in Malaysia on a per km basis. Of course, the cost of building materials and labour has gone up substantially since the 1990s. And the landscapes are completely different although the two countries are close neighbours.
But the question remains: Is Singapore's latest Autobahn paved with gold?