Street Lighting

Before switching fully to electricity in 1956, Singapore’s street lights were powered by gas from Kallang Gasworks.1

Gas lighting
Kallang Gasworks was built in 1862 to provide gas for street lighting. Its establishment marked the first time piped gas supply was used in Singapore.2 Gas lamps were first used to light the streets in 1864. Gas generated by Kallang Gasworks was used mainly for street lighting until 1930.3

Electric lighting
The first electric lamp was lit in Singapore in 1906.4 High pressure mercury vapour lamps were used in street lighting in Singapore until they were replaced by sodium vapour lamps. Sodium vapour lamps were more efficient as they used less electricity and were brighter, but they were expensive.

Low pressure sodium lamps were introduced in Singapore in 1969. However, by 1974, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) had plans to light all major roads with high pressure sodium vapour lamps as these were expected to reduce electricity consumption by street lights by a third. By then, more than 500 sodium lamps had been installed along streets such as Nicoll Highway, Maxwell Road, Orchard Boulevard Road, Stamford Road and Connaught Drive.5

Brighter Streetlighting Scheme
In 1975, under the Brighter Streetlighting Scheme, the Public Works Department (PWD) started a project to upgrade street lights when the need arose and according to technological advances. This exercise involved increasing the number of lights or shifting them when roads were widened or changed to expressways. The replacement of mercury vapour lamps with high pressure sodium ones continued under this project.

To conserve energy, PUB also replaced tall lamp posts with shorter ones. Shorter posts had the additional advantage of providing better lighting as they were not shaded by trees.6

Modern street lighting system
In 1987, PUB continued its cost-saving efforts when it announced that it was implementing a new street lighting system that would enable all street lights in Singapore to be turned on or off within one minute.

Called the Centralised Ripple Control Scheme, this new electrical remote system eliminated the need to install additional cables between transmitters and receivers, the latter having the function of receiving coded signals that would switch street lights on or off. It was anticipated that the implementation of this system would save PUB up to S$200,000 annually.7

In 1995, Singapore Power (SP) took over the electricity and gas operations of PUB.8  

Maintenance and improvements

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) maintains more than 95,000 streetlights along public roads, back lanes and service roads. Besides the LTA, the National Parks Board (NParks), Housing & Development Board (HDB) and Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) also provide lighting for facilities and roads under their purview.9

Much effort has been put in to improve the street lighting system. Some initiatives focus on using more energy efficient lights. For instance, in 2014, the LTA began replacing older street lights with light emitting diodes (LED). In 2017, the LTA announced that this would be done for all street lamps within five years. LED lights are about 25 percent more energy efficient, and help reduce maintenance costs as they do not have to be replaced as frequently as sodium vapour lamps do. It was planned that 25,000 street lights in central Singapore will be retrofitted with LED lights by 2019, with more than 95,000 street lights islandwide replaced by 2022. Higher-powered street lights will also be installed along expressways and arterial roads to provide more light.

Additionally, the LTA is developing a remote control and monitoring system to be implemented by 2022. This system allows street lights to be more responsive to weather conditions such as heavy rain. Its automated fault detection and alert capabilities are expected to allow for more efficient maintenance of street lights.10


Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman

1. Joanne Lee, “Farewell to Kallang’s Blue Tin Can,” Straits Times, 24 March 1998, 34. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Lee, “Farewell to Kallang’s Blue Tin Can.” 
3. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 202. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 202.
5. Ismail Kassim, “Now New Lighting to Save Fuel,” New Nation, 21 January 1974, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Shorter Street Lamps to Lighten Energy Load,” Straits Times, 15 May 1989, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “PUB to Save with New Street Lights System,” Straits Times, 16 February 1987, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Public Utilities Board, “Public Utilities Board Annual Report 1995”, press release, 12 September 1996. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. PUB19960912); Public Utilities Board, Singapore, Annual Report (Singapore: Public Utilities Board, 1995), 3, 23. (Call no. RCLOS 354.59570087 SPUB) 
9. “Public Street Lighting,” Land Transport Authority, accessed 28 February 2019.
10. Lee Jian Xuan, “Lights Out for Older Street Lamps,” Straits Times, 9 July 2014, 8; Zhaki Abdullah, “LTA Installing Smarter, Energy-Saving Street Lights,” Straits Times, 5 January 2017, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Zhaki Abdullah, “Smarter, More Energy-Efficient Street Lighting System to Be Installed by 2022: LTA,” Straits Times, 3 January 2017. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

Further resources
Land Transport Authority, “LTA Street Lighting Guidelines,” accessed 28 February 2019. 

Singapore Productivity and Standards Board, Specification for Luminaires. Part 5, Particular Requirements for Luminaires for Road and Street Lighting (Singapore: Productivity and Standards Board, 2000). (From PublicationSG)

The information in this article is valid as at March 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


Public utilities
Public Utilities--Singapore