Transportation and Territorial Development in Singapore

Topics: Economics, Economy, Transportation Pages: 41 (8853 words) Published: January 3, 2013
Transportation and Territorial Development in Singapore
Extended Metropolitan Region1
Jean-Paul Rodrigue2
Department of Geography
Centre for Research on Transportation
East Asian Studies Centre
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, Succ. A
Montréal, Québec
Abstract: This paper brings a preliminary viewpoint on the interface between port cities, urban regions and their transportation systems in the particular context of Singapore. The development of the regional Singaporian transactional space includes the province of Johor in Malaysia and the Riau islands in Indonesia. The resulting spatial pattern and linkages form an Extended Metropolitan Region (EMR). We present an EMR spatial model where transportation is a key factor explaining four processes of territorial development, which are densification, dissemination, extension and contraction. Densification is a process of spatial accumulation of economic activities within an area. It aims higher levels of productivity. Dissemination is a spatial relocation of unproductive economic activities towards productive areas. Extension is a space / time collapse enabling economic activities to extend over a large territory while maintaining low distribution costs. Contraction is a rationalization of distribution systems facing growing transportation costs and competition from other systems. Based on the framework provided by the spatial model and available evidence, we undertake an assessment on transportation and territorial development in Singapore EMR. The analysis mainly underlines the role of Singapore as a regional transhipment centre and its maritime / land interface function.

Key Words: Transportation, Urbanization, Extended Metropolitan Regions (EMR), Singapore. Published as (1994) "Transportation and Territorial Development in the Singapore Extended Metropolitan Region", Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 56-74.


This research is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, grant #752-91-0318.

The author would like to thank Terry McGee, Claude Comtois, Francois Soulard and anonymous referees for helpful comments.


Over the last decade, the Pacific Rim has taken a growing part of the international trade and industrial production. Economic development changes the level, pattern and extension of urbanization in that region with maritime transportation playing a crucial role, notably along coastal areas where accessibility to that mode is optimal. Therefore, the territorial context where urban development occurs is mainly coastal based and relies on the maritime / land interface. This is quite different from the more continental based urban system that is found in North America and Europe. Even so, port cities were always very important in those urban systems (Marcadon, 1991). As part of the Pacific Rim, Southeast Asia is affected by fast economic development and urbanization. The political history of several nations of Southeast Asia has influenced the pattern of urbanization and economic development. Colonial incorporation, especially by Great Britain (China, Malaysia), France (Indochina) and The Netherlands (Indonesia) created urban systems oriented towards ports of call.

Singapore represents a particular case of coastal urbanization in Southeast Asia. Established in the 19th century as a port of call for the East and Southeast Asian British trade, Singapore became an entrepôt (Chew and Lee, 1991). Its strategic location at the strait of Malacca, has put Singapore at the crossroads of important maritime routes between economic blocs, mainly Europe and Japan. From an entrepôt, Singapore has emerged in the 60s  with its independence  as an important manufacturing centre and transportation hub. Singapore is also known as one of the "Four Dragons" with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, forming the Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) of the Pacific...
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