Land Transport Authority (LTA)
Features | Public Service

Responsibly Building
Our Transport Infrastructure

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is the backbone of our nation’s transport system. LTA scholar Michelle Cheung fills us in on how LTA’s infrastructure projects effectively balance community and environmental considerations.

Singapore boasts a first-rate transport system and this is largely due to the proper planning for and implementation of LTA’s infrastructure projects. These infrastructure fulfil not only the 'hard' aspects of engineering – the aesthetics and sustainability of physical transport networks such as roads, expressways and railway tracks – but also the 'softer' aspects, especially environmental protection.

LTA believes in a holistic approach to its design, planning and construction work to ensure that these are carried out in an environmentally-friendly manner that has minimal impact on the community.

It thus needs a team of capable individuals to plan and implement these sustainable planning and construction practices. One such team member is LTA Undergraduate Scholar Michelle Cheung, who is currently fulfilling her roles as an Assistant Environmental Manager in the Safety (Environmental) division of LTA.

The softer side of engineering

In her role, Michelle ensures contractors' due diligence in keeping with environmentally-friendly practices on-site while making sure that our transport infrastructure is built with minimal negative impact on the community’s daily function.

This includes managing the noise and carbon levels on work sites, ensuring that the daily lives of those living and working nearby can continue unabated while rolling out initiatives to push LTA’s environmental management standards to the next level.

She tells us, “If the environmental management aspect is not taken care of, construction sites will be littered with debris and be filled with pools of stagnant water. These will in turn become sources of dengue and disease transmission, which will naturally affect the surrounding community negatively.

Michelle Cheung Weng
LTA Undergraduate Scholar

Designation: Assistant Environmental Manager,
Safety (Environmental) Division

Studied: Bachelor of Engineering
(Environmental Engineering),
National University of Singapore

“We also encourage contractors to partake in simple things such as rainwater harvesting and greening-up of site offices with plants. These are things we strongly support and continually encourage.”

At the corporate level, Michelle also busies herself with meeting government agency representatives from the National Environment Agency (NEA), PUB the Water Agency or the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to conduct research projects on greening initiatives or simply exchange insights about on-site recycling.

But working with contractors and other stakeholders, both from the public and the Government, comes with its fair share of challenges, considering that conflict of interests often arise from the effusion of differing perspectives.

Michelle shares humbly, “Balancing various viewpoints was certainly a challenge I initially faced. But you learn to compromise as you go along and how to better understand another’s difficulties. It is important to find a way to balance resources such as cost and time to ensure a project’s steady progress.”

A place to learn

As someone who has always been passionate about initiatives that promote saving the earth, Michelle knew she wanted a career that would be reflective of this passion. She did not apply for a scholarship with government agencies that deal straightforwardly with environmental concerns (such as NEA and PUB) as she found it more meaningful to apply her interest in a different industry while being able to make the same impact.

And because she marveled at intelligent transport systems from which she benefitted during her overseas trips, she decided to capture the best of both worlds by pursuing NUS’ Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental Engineering) with a scholarship offered by LTA.

Michelle’s scholarship allowed her a wide range of internship opportunities to choose from. She was attached to the Safety (Environmental) Division during her first internship and had such a good experience that she wanted to kick-start her career there.

Her second internship with the Research and Publication division, combined with the workshops to which she was invited regularly, gave her exposure to policy-making and a broad perspective of LTA’s diversified operations.

The learning did not stop after she graduated from school – in fact, more learning opportunities awaited and continue to await her. She is currently looking forward to a cross-departmental rotation to the Rail (Civil) Division, where her new role will comprise the application of both civil engineering and project management.

She tells us, “LTA scholars are slated for rotation to another division every two years to gain exposure to the operations of various divisions. In my next division, I would be able to capitalise on my prior environmental management knowledge to influence environmentally-friendly regulations and simultaneously learn new things.”

A fulfilling journey

With all these learning experiences, Michelle is glad her job is not desk-bound and she has plenty of opportunities to put theory into practice.

"Even though I am not directly contributing to the construction of these stations, it is important that I help ensure these stations are built responsibly."

When required, Michelle can be found on-site with core civil engineering teams to help oversee each project’s community and environmental impact. Both the civil engineering team and Michelle’s environmental engineering team work together to ensure that LTA’s works proceed as seamlessly as possible without undue impact to the surrounding people or environment.

She is currently working with the Downtown Line’s Civil Construction Team to build tunnels along the Hume Avenue, Beauty World, King Albert Park and Sixth Avenue stations as well as with the team connecting the stations between the Stevens and Havelock stations on the upcoming Thomson East Coast line.

She muses, “Even though I am not directly contributing to the construction of these stations, it is important that I help ensure these stations are built responsibly.”

All in all, Michelle has numerous responsibilities riding on her shoulders, especially when she is required to wield critical problem-solving skills to deliver fast-changing Ministry-level objectives. However, she is thankful that LTA has introduced her to mentors from whom she can seek invaluable guidance and advice. “We are able to pick from three deputy group directors to be our mentors. Our mentors are generous with insights from which we learn immensely and always willing to share their past experiences. I will soon work more closely with my mentor when he becomes my boss in my next rotation!” she enthuses.

Michelle’s excitement about her duties speaks highly about her passion for her work. For aspiring LTA scholars, Michelle advises, “In addition to having an interest in the transport system, it is important to possess enthusiasm and the eagerness to learn. I intend to remain here in the long run because there are so many opportunities to take up and learn from. The things you learn here are things you don’t learn in school, so find fulfilment in learning and enjoy the journey here at LTA.”