Sunday 23 June 2024

‘When we say we’ll do something, we make sure we deliver it’: PM Lawrence Wong at opening of Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 4

Political stability key to large long-term infrastructure projects: PM Wong
By Esther Loi and Whitney William, The Straits Times, 22 Jun 2024

It is easy to take for granted how things get built in Singapore, where the authorities ensure that projects get done and are delivered, said Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at the opening of the fourth stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) on June 21.

We say we want to do something, and eventually it gets done,” said PM Wong at Marine Parade station, one of seven new stops along TEL Stage 4 (TEL4). The others are Tanjong Rhu, Katong Park, Tanjong Katong, Marine Terrace, Siglap and Bayshore.

He noted that in many other countries around the world, including advanced ones, there may be difficulties in completing projects due to funding issues, resistance from residents or people who are inconvenienced.

“Sometimes, political parties change and the new party comes into power, and they shelve the plans from the previous party,” he added.

“So, in many of these places, people talk about wanting to do things, but after a long time, things still cannot get done. Here in Singapore, when we say we will do something, we make sure we deliver it.”

Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and former transport minister Khaw Boon Wan also attended the opening ceremony on June 21.

They were joined by MPs for the various constituencies that TEL4 serves, including Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat (East Coast GRC) and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng (Marine Parade GRC).

PM Wong said the TEL is just a part of the Government’s investment in the public transport system and that “we are certainly not done expanding our rail network”.

He noted that more than 50 new MRT stations will open over the next decade, including those along the new Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line, which will improve connectivity within Singapore’s west, east and north-east.

New stations and extensions will also open on the North-South, Circle and Downtown lines.

By the 2030s, eight in 10 households will be within a 10-minute walk of an MRT station, said PM Wong.

The seven new stations along TEL4 were opened to the public on June 21 for a preview that drew around 380,000 people, two days before passenger service starts on June 23.

PM Wong recounted his days growing up in Marine Terrace in the 1980s, when he had wished for an MRT station closer to his home.

While he no longer lives in the estate, he said residents along TEL4 can enjoy fast, convenient and affordable public transport.

A direct train ride on the TEL from Marine Parade to Shenton Way, in the heart of the Central Business District, will take 20 minutes, halving commutes for residents who had to take a combination of bus and train before, he noted.

Students stand to benefit, too, with more than 10 schools within walking distance of a TEL4 station, said PM Wong.

The new stretch will also bring the East Coast area, including Joo Chiat and Katong, closer to Singaporeans from other parts of the island, and make it easier to reach East Coast Park.

“If you grew up in the east, there’s always a special place here. You know that there are excellent food options in Joo Chiat, in Katong, and I think some people have even called this TEL4 line the ‘makan’ line,” PM Wong quipped.

“Makan” means to eat in Malay.

The Prime Minister noted that people with special needs were among the passenger groups the authorities had in mind when designing the line.

For instance, station signs have larger fonts and there are more braille texts to aid the visually impaired.

Hearing enhancement systems that minimise background noise for those with hearing aids and allow them to communicate more easily with station staff have also been fitted at passenger service centres in TEL stations.

The stations come with more lifts and entrances, too, making it more convenient for those with mobility challenges, said PM Wong.

The next stage of TEL, comprising Bedok South and Sungei Bedok stations, will be completed by 2026.

This comes after the opening of the stations was delayed twice from the original 2024 deadline, first due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and later, the construction challenges of tunnelling near existing critical infrastructure.

“For residents who are farther east, please be patient. Construction is ongoing,” PM Wong said.

The TEL’s eastern end will eventually be connected to Changi Airport via an extension set to be completed in the mid-2030s, together with the opening of the airport’s Terminal 5. Its western end will link passengers to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link at Woodlands North station.

Adding that TEL4 is just the latest stop in building a better home for all Singaporeans, PM Wong said the improvements are not just in the area of public transport, but also in public housing, creating more liveable neighbourhoods, and in making the city-state greener and more sustainable.

“I hope (the TEL4) opening will give all of us confidence and hope for the future, that working together, we can build a more liveable and sustainable Singapore, and make this a place we are all proud to call home.”

The public preview was due to begin at noon on June 21. But even before that time, crowds had already formed at Gardens by the Bay station, waiting for the first shuttle train service for TEL4’s Tanjong Rhu station to depart.

Some confusion arose when the public address system informing commuters about the shuttle train’s destination appeared to malfunction, but Land Transport Authority staff were present to direct the crowd into the shuttle trains.

At Marine Parade station, 20 to 30 people began to gather outside as early as 45 minutes before noon.

Scores of people were also seen waiting in line to try out a train simulator and check out a merchandise booth at Marine Parade station.

Members of the public told The Straits Times that they welcomed the new stations and enjoyed the preview, where there were free MRT rides along TEL4.

At Marine Parade station were retiree Celine Ang, 75, and her husband. The couple were second in line to enter the station.

Having sold their car a few years ago, Madam Ang and her husband use public transport to get around daily. She said TEL4 will make it even more convenient to travel to places such as Orchard, Woodlands North and even Johor Bahru.

Housewife Bess Thum, who visited and enjoyed the preview for TEL Stage 1 in Woodlands in 2020, decided to attend this preview as well.

Despite the long queues at some booths and a malfunctioning game station at Katong Park station, Ms Thum, 37, and her daughter enjoyed the games and activities offered.

Company manager Thyag Venkatesan, 48, visited the station near his home, Siglap, to check out the activities and ride the train. He said the TEL will be a more convenient mode of transport, as it will be quicker for him to reach his office at Raffles Place and for his child to get to school at Caldecott.

Madam Ang, however, said the wayfinding signs on TEL4 train platforms could be improved.

She said it was not easy to figure out which exit to head towards, because the map diagram was not clear in displaying the directions.

At about 6pm, there were long lines of passengers waiting at Gardens by the Bay station. They were allowed to enter in batches, whenever the shuttle train arrived.


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