Friday 6 November 2015

Downtown Line 2: Free travel on 5 Dec 2015 preview

Public can check out new stations, amenities ahead of line's official opening on Dec 27
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 5 Nov 2015

The public will get a preview of the Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) on Dec 5, ahead of its official opening later in the month.

They can travel for free on the DTL2 that day from 10am to 6pm, and check out the station layouts and surrounding amenities of the 12 new stations. The 16.6km DTL2, officially opening on Dec 27, extends the MRT network to the north-western region of Singapore, such as Bukit Panjang, and passes through the Bukit Timah corridor.

* Downtown Line 2 starts 27 Dec 2015

Travel time for commuters is expected to be cut by up to 40 per cent with the new line. For example, a trip from Bukit Panjang to Bugis, which now takes about 50 minutes, will be slashed to 30 minutes.

The 12 stations on the DTL2 are: Bukit Panjang (interchange), Cashew, Hillview, Beauty World, King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue, Tan Kah Kee, Botanic Gardens (interchange), Stevens, Newton (interchange), Little India (interchange) and Rochor.

The interchange stations link to the Bukit Panjang LRT, Circle Line, North-South Line and North-East Line respectively.

Upon its launch on Dec 27, the DTL2 will connect commuters to the existing six-station DTL1 that now takes riders to the Marina Bay area.

To encourage more commuters to try out the DTL2, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will offer free travel on the entire Downtown Line from Dec 27 to Jan 1 next year. They need only start and end their journey at any of the 18 DTL stations to enjoy free travel, the LTA said.

Meanwhile, commuters who try out the DTL2 on Dec 5's open house will be treated to games and activities held at six stations - Rochor, Little India, Newton, Botanic Gardens, Beauty World and Bukit Panjang. Celebrities, including Chua Enlai, Irene Ang and Suhaimi Yusof, will lead the festivities.

The six stations on the DTL1 had an average daily ridership of 67,000 as of the first quarter of the year. The entire Downtown Line, with the third phase (DTL3) opening in 2017, is expected to have a daily ridership of 500,000.

The DTL3 will be 21km long, with 16 stations including MacPherson, Tampines and Expo.

Another welcome change for commuters on Dec 27 will be the reduction of bus and train fares. The adjustment, which takes into account last year's drop in energy prices, will see fares cut by up to 4 cents per journey.

Commuters such as Mr Jagathishwaran Rajo, 28, an industrial relations officer, said the DTL2 will give him another option. "On days when I don't drive to work, I'll take the bus, but now I can also take the train," said the Bukit Panjang resident, who works in the Marina Bay area.

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* Public get first peek at second phase of Downtown Line
More trains and shorter waiting times promised by train operator when DTL2 opens on Dec 27
By Melissa Lin and Adrian Lim, The Sunday Times, 6 Dec 2015

People taking the Downtown Line can expect shorter waits for the train when the second phase of the network (DTL2) opens on Dec 27.

During peak hours, trains will run at 21/2 to three minute intervals, more frequent than the three to four minute intervals on the six-station Downtown Line 1 (DTL1), which opened two years ago.

The 16.6km DTL2 will start from Bukit Panjang, and pass through the Bukit Timah corridor towards Rochor, before connecting to the DTL1 at Bugis station.

During off-peak periods, train intervals will be no more than five minutes, faster than the current five to six minutes on the DTL1.

While the signalling system on the DTL allows trains to be run as frequently as every 100 seconds, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it will monitor the intervals and "tailor them" based on the line's operational requirements.

Yesterday, the 12-station DTL2 was opened for a one-day preview. Travel was free between 10am and 6pm for the public to explore the stations' layouts and amenities.

At six stations, commuters were treated to games and activities hosted by celebrities such as Irene Ang, Glenn Ong and Chua En Lai.

The Botanic Gardens station hosted a photo exhibition, while the Little India Station offered pinball games. Roaming around the stations were life-size mascots of Move-In Martin, Give-Way Glenda and Stand-Up Stacey - cartoon characters from an LTA campaign to promote thoughtfulness on public transport. LTA said 200,000 people attended the open house.

The 12 stations on the DTL2 are: Bukit Panjang (interchange), Cashew, Hillview, Beauty World, King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue, Tan Kah Kee, Botanic Gardens (interchange), Stevens, Newton (interchange), Little India (interchange) and Rochor. The interchange stations link to the Bukit Panjang LRT, Circle Line, North-South Line and North-East Line, respectively.

Among the crowd waiting for Beauty World station to open yesterday morning was programme manager Irene Tay, 43, who had sold her car in October in anticipation of the line's opening.

She intends to take the train from her King Albert Park home to her office in Alexandra when the line opens. Her two daughters, who study at Singapore Chinese Girls' School, will be able to wake up 25 minutes later, as the new Stevens station is within walking distance from their school, she said, adding: "Traffic is usually bad in the morning and there's a whole line of cars waiting to drop children off at the school. It'll be faster by train."

Educator Chan Kok Choy, 54, said: "I can't remember when I last took the MRT." He decided to try out the new line after seeing posters about the open house at his Hillview condo.

"I usually drive to Middle Road during Chinese New Year to visit the Guanyin temple. Maybe I will take the MRT instead since the station is so near my home," he added.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng, who rode the DTL2 yesterday and visited six stations, said the general feedback he got from commuters was that it was "very, very convenient".

"It will serve the whole stretch of residents very well," he added.

There was one hiccup though. Facebook user Mani Pariasamy, who posted a photo of Tan Kah Kee station, pointed out that the Tamil translation of the name was inaccurate - it read "paan kah kee" instead. LTA issued an apology and said it would be taking "immediate action" to have the error corrected before the DTL2 officially opens.

The DTL2 will connect commuters to the existing DTL1 that now takes riders to the Marina Bay area.

Travel on the Downtown Line is free from Dec 27 to Jan 1. Commuters need only start and end their journey at any of the 18 DTL stations to enjoy the free travel.

LTA duo keep DTL2 on track

Main contractor's closure in 2013 could have delayed line by months
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2015

The e-mail came like a bolt out of the blue - Austrian builder Alpine Bau, the main contractor for a three-station stretch on the Downtown Line (DTL), had gone bust.

Overnight, work along 2.1km of the DTL ground to a halt.

It was an unprecedented situation, even for Land Transport Authority (LTA) project directors Ng Kee Nam and Tan Kian Thong, who have more than 50 years of rail engineering experience between them.

"This was quite unexpected. Progress was good and we had no signs," said Mr Ng, deputy group director of rail (civil), adding that when contractors go bust, there were often warning signs - such as fewer workers turning up at the worksite or suppliers showing up to cart away equipment.

But with Alpine Bau, there was none of that. It meant the Downtown Line 2 (DTL2), which would link the north-western corridor to the Marina downtown area, would not be able to open as planned by this year.

The company was responsible for three stations - King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue and Tan Kah Kee - that were smack in the middle of the 16.6km 12-station DTL2.

The DTL1, which spans six stations in the downtown area, first opened in 2013.

Optimistic estimates added six months to the deadline because of the company's insolvency.

Two years on, the DTL2 is opening as planned on Dec 27 - a feat both Mr Ng and Mr Tan credited to the ingenuity, team spirit and derring-do of workers and engineers involved.

They pulled additional shifts, sometimes working round the clock, and took calculated risks to get the job done, said Mr Ng.

One of the first steps LTA had to take was to call for a tender for a new contractor and this they did in record time - six weeks, with the contractor appointed two weeks later.

Normally, a tender would require half a year for processing and evaluation, said Mr Ng.

His engineers also had to secure the site and document the progress of work before a new tender could be called.

"This period of time was the most stressful, because we knew the faster we could award (the tender), the lesser the impact on DTL2," noted Mr Ng, adding that he suffered sleepless nights and worked almost every weekend.

At that point, work on the stations was about 60 per cent complete, while tunnelling had barely begun.

Alpine Bau had left four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) under Bukit Timah Road, which were fast becoming a safety risk, said Mr Ng.

"There were concerns... if we left the TBMs too long in the ground, later on we might not be able to restart them as they might get jammed."

So a caretaking contract to continue tunnelling was issued to Australian contractor McConnell Dowell, which was responsible for work just north of the affected area.

And when two new contractors eventually took over work on the three stations, it was all hands on deck.

Manpower was boosted by 25 per cent and workers worked overtime, with an additional graveyard shift that worked through the night.

Every effort was made to save time, and calculated risks were taken so work could be done concurrently throughout the site.

This was highly unusual as work was usually performed in stages.

For example, civil engineering works in a room would be completed before painting or wiring starts.

"A contractor could be doing up one part of a room, while civil engineers could be still cutting something at another part," said Mr Ng, adding that although risks were taken, safety was always a priority.

Precautions were taken, such as using fire blankets while welding work was carried out, said Mr Ng.

The combined effort clawed back time, but it was only in June, when work was about 95 per cent done, that engineers were confident they could stick to schedule.

Their feat so surprised ministry officials that both Mr Ng and Mr Tan - who are now working on the Thomson-East Coast Line - were asked if completion dates could be advanced at other projects.

Said Mr Tan: "We did it then, but it was not ideal in many aspects."

Meanwhile, commuters are just relieved they will be able to ride the trains as scheduled.

Retiree Madam Wang Yi Poh, 75, will be able to hop on the train to visit her three grandsons in Bukit Panjang.

"With the MRT it will be very easy to go now. I don't have to rely on my son to pick me up," said Madam Wang, who lives near the Beauty World Station.

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Downtown Line 2 starts 27 Dec 2015

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