Pan Island Expressway

Singapore Infopedia


The Pan Island Expressway (PIE) is Singapore’s oldest and longest expressway. Built between 1964 and 1981, it spans the length of the island, connecting Tuas in the west and Changi Airport in the east. The PIE was initially 35 km long, but it now spans 42.8 km after a series of extension works.1


The PIE was conceived by the Planning Department and the Public Works Department (PWD) as a high-speed carriageway to provide “quick and uninterrupted” journeys for motorists travelling between the city centre and the satellite towns and industrial estates in the southern portion of Singapore island. These include Jurong Industrial Estate, Toa Payoh New Town and Kallang Basin Industrial Estate.2 At the time, the island did not have any expressways. Instead, motorists travelled to places beyond the city centre by using trunk roads such as Bukit Timah Road, Woodlands Road, Geylang Road and Changi Road.3

The planning of the PIE came at a time when the government was formulating a new long-term land use and transport plan.4 Unveiled later in 1971 as the Concept Plan, it laid out the framework for the physical and infrastructure development of Singapore.5 The plan included the creation of a network of expressways to serve the nation’s rising motor vehicle population, which had reached nearly 200,000 by 1965 and was growing at an average rate of about 80 new vehicles per day.6 The locations of some of Singapore’s earliest expressways, including the PIE and East Coast Parkway, were identified in the plan.


The PIE was very different from existing roads in Singapore at the time. It was a dual three-lane roadway with a central road divider and a hard shoulder, with a provision for widening into a dual four-lane carriageway. To ensure an unhindered flow of traffic, the PIE followed the standards of a controlled-access highway. This means it does not have any traffic signals or intersections and is free of any at-grade crossings with other roads, railways or pedestrian paths.7 At places where the expressway crosses major existing roads, interchanges such as flyovers and grade-separated interchanges were built. These interchanges also link the expressway to major activity centres and high-density areas, which allows vehicles to exit the expressway to join other roads without holding up traffic.8

Construction of the S$200 million PIE was carried out in four phases from 1964 to 1981.9 The first phase took place along the Jalan Eunos and Thomson Road stretch. It saw the clearance of squatters in the section between Woodsville Circus and Thomson Road, and the construction of Jalan Toa Payoh, Jalan Kolam Ayer and Paya Lebar Way. Interchanges that were built during this phase included one on Thomson Road and the Toa Payoh Southern Access.10

Work on the second phase between Mount Pleasant and Jalan Anak Bukit began in 1970 with the 5.6-km stretch between Adam Road and Jalan Anak Bukit. This was followed by the widening of Whitley Road to form part of the expressway, and the construction of several interchanges including the ones at Eng Neo Avenue and Adam Road. The second phase took about nine years and it marked the completion of the central portion of the expressway.11

The third phase took place between Jalan Eunos and Changi Airport. Covering about 10 km, it comprised the construction of interchanges at locations such as Upper Changi Road, Tampines, Bedok and Jalan Eunos.12 Completed in 1981, this phase also saw the construction of a new link road known as Airport Link, which connects Changi Airport and Paya Lebar, as well as a trumpet interchange at the eastern end to link the PIE with the East Coast Parkway.13

The fourth and last phase was carried out along the Jalan Anak Bukit and Jalan Boon Lay stretch. Costing about S$51 million, it involved the construction of a S$15.2 million interchange that crosses Jalan Anak Bukit and Upper Bukit Timah Road. This interchange was also the gateway to the western stretch of the PIE, which was about 10 km long.14 After the completion of this last phase of the expressway in 1981, the PIE was fully opened to traffic.15

The opening of the PIE had a big impact on the way people travelled in Singapore. It drastically reduced the travelling time between Changi Airport and Jurong and also relieved traffic congestion along major roads that ran parallel to and in the vicinity of the expressway, such as Changi Road, Sims Avenue, West Coast Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Jurong Road.16 The PIE not only helped reduce fuel costs, it also offered unquantifiable advantages including a more pleasant driving experience.17

As motorists would be travelling at higher speeds on the PIE, a new set of traffic rules catered to expressways were introduced in 1982 to ensure their safety. Known as the Road Traffic (Expressway) Rules, the rules regulate the behaviour of motorists using expressways. For example, motorists are not allowed to stop their vehicles on the expressway. Motorists whose vehicles have broken down have to pull up to the expressway shoulder.18


From the 1990s to the 2010s, the PIE underwent several upgrades. Between 1992 and 1994, it was extended by some 8 km westward to reach Tuas. This S$81.3 million project, which increased the length of the PIE from 35 km to 42 km, also connected the PIE with the Kranji Expressway (KJE).19 During the same period, another upgrade was carried out in the central portion of the expressway. The S$100 million project saw the construction of additional lanes to increase its capacity as well as eight flyovers to improve the connection between the PIE and the Central Expressway. Another aim of the flyovers was to remove existing bottlenecks, especially for traffic flowing in and out of the expressway.20

Between 2004 and 2006, as the amount of traffic to Jurong Industrial Estate increased on the KJE and PIE, the stretch between Tengah Flyover and Tuas Road was upgraded from a dual three-lane to a dual four-lane carriageway.21 This was followed by a similar upgrade on the stretch from Clementi Avenue 6 to Adam Road. Announced in 2010 and completed in 2014, the upgrade eased the heavy traffic there, especially during peak hours.22

In 2018, works to remove Exit 26A, a westbound exit leading to Woodlands, Clementi Road and Dunearn Road, began. The exit, which was the only right-hand exit on Singapore’s expressway network, is to be replaced with an underpass on the left. Due for completion in 2021, the underpass will loop around under the PIE and lead motorists to the former Exit 26A. It should also alleviate the slowdown in traffic caused by vehicles filtering right to the former Exit 26A.23

Lim Tin Seng

1. Teh Cheang Wan, “The Official Opening of the Pan-Island Expressway between Jalan Eunos and East Coast Parkway,” speech, 10 January 1981, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. tcw19810110s); “PIE Open All the Way from Tomorrow,” Straits Times, 30 January 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Planning Department, Singapore, Annual Report 1966 (Singapore: Planning Department, 1967), 7–8. (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095957 SPDAR)
3. Colony of Singapore, Master Plan: Reports of Study Groups and Working Parties (Singapore: F.S. Horslin, 1955), 101. (Call no. RCLOS 711.4095957 SIN)
4. “Super Road for Singapore,” Straits Times, 30 October 1967, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
5. William Campbell, “New Impetus as Ring Plan Gets Go-Ahead,” Straits Times, 23 March 1970, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Singapore Has 197,945 Motor Vehicles,” Straits Times, 22 January 1966, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Public Works Department, Singapore, Annual Report 1966 (Singapore: Govt. Print. Off., 1966), 8. (Call no. RCLOS 354.59570086 SIN)
8. “$81m Spent So Far on Pan-Island Expressway,” Straits Times, 8 January 1979, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Teh, “Official Opening of the Pan-Island Expressway.”
10. “Four Phases of Design and Construction,” Straits Times, 18 December 1980, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Four Phases of Design and Construction”; “Easier for Traffic,” New Nation, 10 April 1977, 4; “The Adam Road Interchange,” Straits Times, 8 August 1976, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Four Phases of Design and Construction”; “Forthcoming Opening of Singapore Pan Island Expressway,” Straits Times, 18 December 1980, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “Four Phases of Design and Construction”; “Interchanges for Eastern Part of PIE to Cost $34M,” Straits Times, 11 January 1978, 15 (From NewspaperSG); Teh, “Official Opening of the Pan-Island Expressway.”
14. “Four Phases of Design and Construction”; “Opening of Singapore Pan Island Expressway.”
15. “PIE Open All the Way from Tomorrow,” Straits Times, 30 January 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Four Phases of Design and Construction.”
17. Edmund Teo, “Expressway Will Save Users $10 M a Year,” Straits Times, 11 January 1981, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Teo, “Expressway Will Save Users.” 
19. “PIE Will Reach Tuas By ’94,” Straits Times, 8 January 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Leong Chan Teik, “New Flyovers Will Ensure Smoother Traffic along PIE,” Straits Times, 24 March 1994, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Chong Zi Liang, “PIE Section to Be Widened by 2014,” Straits Times, 5 November 2010, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Chong, “PIE Section to Be Widened.” 
23. Land Transport Authority, Singapore, “Construction of Vehicular Underpass at PIE Exit 26A,” press release, 23 April 2018; Christopher Tan, “Singapore's Sole Right-Hand Expressway Exit to Be Replaced,” Straits Times, 22 October 2018.

The information in this article is valid as at 9 September 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.

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