SINGAPORE: Commuters heading to the Tuas area on Monday (Nov 20) experienced longer travel times of about 20 minutes following the suspension of train service between Joo Koon and Gul Circle MRT stations.
Passengers on the East-West Line (EWL) who were travelling to Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road or Tuas Link had to get off the train at Joo Koon and board the free shuttle buses to Gul Circle to rejoin the MRT network. They had to do the same for travels in the opposite direction towards Pasir Ris, but were not charged a new fare when re-boarding the train.
The arrangement follows a train collision at Joo Koon station last Wednesday which left 38 people injured. The Land Transport Authority said train service between Joo Koon and Gul Circle will be suspended for up to a month for assurance checks to be carried out.
When Channel NewsAsia visited Joo Koon MRT station at 6.30am on Monday, commuters were spotted waiting patiently for the free shuttle buses. The bus stop started to fill up after 7am, but was never overcrowded as the buses came quite frequently, at about one to three minutes. Staff from transport operators SMRT and SBS Transit were deployed and helped guide commuters to their next destination, with shouts of “Gul Circle, free bus to Gul Circle!” filling the air.
At one point, an SMRT staff could be heard telling his colleague “Wa, no voice already.”
On board the shuttle bus, commuters said they had to factor in extra time for travel. Manager Dewi Nilasari, 34, said, “Usually I take the train from Tampines to Gul Circle. But because I have to take the bus, it just added more time (to my journey). This is gonna take 20 minutes (extra) time.”
Another commuter, 15-year-old Sriraman Pritheksh who works in the Toh Tuck area, said: “It’s been a bit more inconvenient for me because it adds a lot more travel time for me. I came on Friday, it took about 20 minutes or more than when I would go by train. So I think I have to plan my travel.”
It was just one stop to Gul Circle, which took about ten minutes given the morning peak hour traffic. At Gul Circle, another SMRT staff received passengers while informing them they could re-board the train to continue on their journeys.
Some companies in the Tuas area have made adjustments to help their staff get to work easier. A staff of steel distributor AnnAik told Channel NewsAsia that the company used to provide shuttle service from Joo Koon station, but that ceased after the introduction of the Tuas Link extension. Because of the suspension of train service between Joo Koon and Gul Circle stations, the company has resumed the service for staff.
On Monday, train service along the four stations of the Tuas West Extension resumed after it was halted last week for investigations, where it was found that the collision was caused by a software glitch in the new signalling system of the EWL. The line currently operates on the old signalling system from Pasir Ris to Pioneer and the new system from Joo Koon to Tuas Link.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the two sections would be separated so that the trains would not transit from one signalling system to another with its attendant safety risk.