Saturday 19 January 2013

MRT network size to double by 2030

80% of homes here will be within 10-minute walk of a station by then
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2013

SINGAPORE'S train network is set to double in size over the next 17 years, with two new lines and three extensions announced yesterday.

The slew of new projects means 80 per cent of households will be no more than 10 minutes' walk from a station by 2030, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

They come on top of half a dozen others that are already in various stages of planning and construction.

The new projects will boost the size of the network to about 360km - the current size is 178km - and increase the proportion of households within a 10-minute walk of a station from the current 57 per cent. They are:
Cross Island Line, a 50km train line running from Changi in the east to Jurong industrial estate in the west.
In between, it will link towns and districts such as West Coast, Clementi, Bukit Timah, Sin Ming, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Pasir Ris. From Pasir Ris, it will have an offshoot that goes to Punggol - forming the first rail link between the two northern estates.
Jurong Region Line, a 20km H-shaped network targeted for completion by 2025.
It will link Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Jurong East, West Coast, Boon Lay and Jurong West to the North-South and East-West lines. It is expected to have a stop at the Nanyang Technological University.
- A 4km extension that will join the two southern ends of the orbital Circle Line, making it a complete circle by 2025.
- A 2km extension of the North-East Line north of Punggol, to serve the future "new Punggol downtown" by 2030.
- A 2km extension to link Downtown Line 3 to the future Eastern Region Line. When it is completed by 2025, commuters will be able to travel from Singapore Expo to Marine Parade in less than 10 minutes.

Planners are also considering building a new station on the North-South Line between Yishun and Sembawang stations to serve future mixed developments there. Speaking during a visit to Downtown Line 1's Chinatown station yesterday, Mr Lui said the denser network will not only give commuters better connectivity but will also create "a more resilient network that can better mitigate disruptions".

This means that if there is an incident on one line, commuters can switch to another fairly easily to continue their journey.

The minister said it will also allow parts of the network to be closed for extended periods for improvement works.

Asked if the timing of his announcement was in any way linked to the Punggol by-election, he said: "No, no, we've been planning to announce these for some time now. In any case, the new lines are not quite at the Punggol East SMC (single-member constituency). They will benefit everybody in Singapore."

Although no details of the cost were available as engineering studies have not started, observers estimate that the cost of the new lines - totalling 78km in length - could come to between $70 billion and $100 billion.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo said: "Some commuters will say that the completion date is not ambitious enough.

"But in adding some 180km of rail, there are many second-order effects that the Government needs to balance against. Some of which are disruptions, more foreign workers, the capacity of contractors and sub-contractors, demand for materials" and so on.

He added: "On the other hand, our response cannot always be to build more lines... we need to find other options, such as a more aggressive decentralisation strategy so that there is a better geographical balance of jobs and people."

He was referring to a plan spelt out as early as the 1980s to create regional centres such as Tampines and Jurong East to bring jobs closer to where people lived. One benefit is shorter, fewer commutes.

Cross Island Line is most ambitious yet
It could be first in Singapore to have trains with more than six carriages
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2013

SINGAPORE is embarking on its most ambitious MRT project yet: the 50km Cross Island Line (CRL), expected to be ready by 2030.

While it is not the longest line here - that is the 57km East-West Line - it could be the first in Singapore to have trains with more than six carriages.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) would not confirm this, merely saying that the CRL will be "a heavy-load system".

Currently the East-West, North-South and North-East lines have six-car trains while the others have three- or four-car trains. In other countries, eight- and 10-car trains are common.

The CRL will also pass through densely built up areas such as Sin Ming, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Clementi.

This will pose engineering challenges and raise the possibility of property acquisitions, thus lifting the overall cost.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, vice-president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said: "It really depends on the exact alignment, but if you're going through densely occupied areas, some acquisition may be unavoidable."

But construction methods might improve in the next few years to facilitate things not feasible now, he added.

The CRL will also cut through the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Area.

Observers said provisions must be made to minimise the environmental impact of construction.

Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of engineering firm Kok Thong Holdings and former head of rail projects at the LTA, said it is not hard to ensure the plan will be sound environmentally. But he admits that a higher-capacity system and one that passes through dense developments can have cost implications.

"The first thing that struck me was that there are going to be a lot of projects going on between 2016 and 2018.

"That will exert a huge demand on resources and that will have an impact on cost."

He would not hazard a guess as to how much the line would cost, but said it will not be less than the Thomson Line, a four-car system that costs $600 million per km.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Cedric Foo said: "In a small island state, upgrading public transport is a strategic imperative and not a choice.

"Singaporeans should support it by bearing with the short-term inconveniences that come with such an ambitious project."

National University of Singapore's transport economist Anthony Chin added: "As we position ourselves as a liveable city competing for high-value jobs, the implications on land use will be tremendous. And we can't afford to build many more roads."

Commuter benefits will be significant. The line will have a fork that goes from Pasir Ris to Punggol - the first rail link between the two north-eastern towns.

Residents will be able to travel from one to the other in 10 to 15 minutes, compared with a 40-minute bus ride today.

This, according to the LTA, will form the first leg of yet another possible line: a so-called Northshore line to link up to Woodlands.

Punggol resident Noriezah Idris, 39, a logistics worker at Zuellig Pharma in Changi North, said: "It will be much more convenient for me in the future. Currently, I have to take two bus transfers to get to work."

The CRL will have interchanges at all existing radial lines so it will relieve loads on these systems - in particular the North-East and East-West lines.

But National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said: "It is simply too far away for us to long for since we are talking about 17 years from now, if there is no delay.

"It'd be great if it can be expedited."

Extensions of current and upcoming rail lines
By Jermyn Chow, Debbie Lee, Priscilla Kham and Tan Sue-Ann, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2013


Although Holland Village and Mountbatten are on the Circle Line, a train ride from one station to the other involves going in a big loop through the western, central and eastern parts of Singapore.

To avoid this hour-long route in getting from her Holland Village home to netball training in Mountbatten, Ms Gladys Teo has to hop on and off three different trains.

Still, she manages to shave only 15 minutes off the ride, no thanks to the fact that the two ends of the current Circle Line - Marina Bay and HarbourFront stations - are not linked.

"It is so inconvenient and does not make sense to take the train, so I have to drive," said the 26-year-old assistant finance manager.

This is why commuters like her are cheering the news of the plan to add new stations to close the Circle Line loop.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said yesterday that closing the Circle Line loop with a 4km extension will cut the 40-minute journey from Kent Ridge to Marina Bay by 15 minutes.

Another bonus when the new-look Circle Line and Thomson Line are ready is that more than 90 per cent of buildings in the Central Business District will be just a five-minute walk from an MRT station.

This will then make it easier for commuters like Ms Teo to ditch their cars for trains.

Her only complaint is that she will have to wait till 2025 to do so. "I'm not sure if I will even be playing netball by then," Ms Teo quipped.


Extending the Downtown Line by 2km may not be much but the change could make a big impact on commuters living in the eastern part of Singapore.

That's because the little extension will link the Downtown Line, East-West Line and the future Eastern Region Line, said Mr Lui, providing "more travel options and better connectivity".

"More critically, this extension strengthens the resilience of our rail network, as commuters can more easily re-route themselves in the event of a disruption," added Mr Lui.

This greatly benefits train operators, said Nanyang Technological University adjunct associate professor Gopinath Menon.

"It gives them the flexibility to close off certain portions of their rail lines for maintenance or repair without making it too troublesome for commuters," said the retired Land Transport Authority (LTA) planner.


While some Punggol residents welcome news of the upcoming Punggol North MRT station, others question if there is a need for it since the area is already served by an LRT line and feeder bus services.

The station will be built by around 2030 to serve residents in the area, including the so-called "new Punggol Downtown". It will connect them to the existing Punggol station.

Punggol North resident Roxanne Chong, 21, said the new station would cut down the waiting time for the feeder bus from her home to Punggol station.

But other residents said the existing public transport network works just fine.

"Punggol MRT station is only a few LRT stops away after all. I have no complaints," said car dealer Jason Tan, 30.

Housewife Siti Aminah, 49, felt that a direct train service to the city would be more useful as "to go to Orchard Road, we still have to change bus services and change trains to get there".


Whenever she has a morning lesson, Singapore Institute of Management psychology student Cheryl Ong misses at least two trains, sometimes three.

The 21-year-old lives in the Seletaris condominium, which is caught in the middle of Sembawang and Yishun MRT stations.

Walking to the nearest station would take up to 45 minutes, said Ms Ong. Instead, she waits for a shuttle bus, which comes every 30 minutes.

If she misses it, she will have to wait for a public bus, which can take up to 20 minutes to arrive, making her late for school in Clementi Road.

Ms Ong is among the residents who can expect to benefit from a possible new station on the North-South Line, between Sembawang and Yishun. The LTA said it was studying this option in tandem with developments in northern Singapore.

"If I have an MRT station near my estate, I can leave for school whenever I want, but right now I have to leave the house according to the various bus schedules, which are very unpredictable," she said.

Nee Soon GRC MP Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said it is "only logical" to have a station there. This is because it will "ease the new load that is coming in to these new developments".

New Jurong rail line was mooted a decade ago
By Jermyn Chow And Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 18 Jan 2013

THE new rail line linking up the Jurong area that will be ready by 2025 was mooted more than 10 years ago.

The Jurong Region Line was was actually first announced in 2001 by then Communications and Information Technology Minister Yeo Cheow Tong.

But the light rail system, which would have linked the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to the East-West MRT Line's Boon Lay station and been called the Jurong Region LRT Line, was never built.

Transport observers said that low ridership then did not make an additional rail line in an area that is dotted with factories and prawn ponds feasible.

But today, western Singapore is buzzing with activity, with the new Jurong Gateway set to become a major commercial hub.

So a new 20km rail line will provide better connectivity for commuters who live, study and work within the area, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday.

They include NTU students and workers in Jurong Industrial Estate and Jurong Island.

Commuters can also bypass the Jurong East MRT interchange, which has become a choke point for commuters who have to switch to trains on the East-West Line to get to the city centre.

Mr Lui said the new line "will not only shorten their travel times, but also redistribute ridership" out of Jurong East station.

Better late than never, said Bukit Gombak resident Manoj Kumar, who has to jostle for space in a train every morning at the Jurong East MRT interchange to get to his Raffles Place workplace.

"It should have come earlier... it is madness trying to squeeze with everyone else to get on the trains," said the 42-year-old equity broker.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said he has heard similar complaints from other residents who say the road network and bus services in the area leave much to be desired.

With upcoming launches of new shopping malls, a hotel and offices in the Jurong area, Mr Ang welcomed the latest decision to build the Jurong Region Line.

And although the line will only be ready by 2025, Mr Ang said residents can look forward to more improvements to be made to bus services.

"We have to build in advance, not just for today's requirements," he said.

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