The first part of the 34-station Downtown Line will open on Dec 22 this year, marking one step towards a plan that will have eight in 10 households within a 10-minute walk from an MRT station by 2030.

Test runs are under way at the six stations - Chinatown, Telok Ayer, Downtown, Bayfront, Promenade and Bugis. Operator SBS Transit has hired 400 new staff for the first stage of this new line.

"We are intensifying our efforts and significantly investing more resources to improve the quality of public transport in Singapore," said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew when he launched the Land Transport Masterplan 2013 yesterday.

The 55-page blueprint maps out Singapore's plans to enhance the public transport system from now till 2030.

It acknowledges that commuters have had to deal with overcrowding on trains and buses with the population boom.

Mr Lui yesterday promised to improve the public transport system, and spelt out three key strategies to do so.

First, commuters will have more transport connections, especially when the rail network doubles to 360km in the next 17 years.

This will include the 42km Downtown Line, and future lines such as the Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line.

About 40 new bus routes will be added under the $1.1 billion Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), while 200km of sheltered walkways will be built by 2018 to encourage walking.

Second, commuters will get better service, with more trains and an upgraded signalling system on the way, to reduce waiting times and overcrowding on the MRT.

There will also be stricter standards to ensure that more taxis are on the road through the day.

Third, cyclists and the elderly will also be taken care of. Apart from supporting alternative transport modes like cycling, there will be more lifts built at pedestrian overhead bridges to cater to a rapidly ageing population.

The latest Household Interview Travel Survey showed that more people are turning to public transport, although they are also spending more time travelling.

Last year, 63 per cent of trips during the peak periods were made on public transport, up from 59 per cent in 2008.

Overall, trips made on public transport rose by 14 per cent in the last five years.

But the survey also found that the number of public transport journeys within 20km that are completed within an hour fell from 79 per cent to 76 per cent.

The Land Transport Authority attributed this to slower bus speeds, while Mr Lui noted that the first and last mile take up a "disproportionately large amount of time for the entire journey".

To tackle this, buses will be given more priority on the roads and the cycling network expanded, he said.

The authorities will also continue to improve the reliability of the MRT, which has suffered major disruptions in recent years.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chair Cedric Foo said public transport must be made more attractive relative to private transport.

For this to happen, new rail lines must be implemented without delays. More can also be done to stagger the flow of commuters during peak periods and reduce crowding, he said.

"This requires staggered work hours and differentiated pricing to spread out the loads."