SINGAPORE: While the first stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL1) will improve connectivity within Woodlands, commuters may have to wait up to 15 minutes for a train during the initial operating period.
There will be intervals of 10 minutes between trains during peak hours and
15 minutes during off-peak hours when passenger service commences at the end of this month, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
On other lines, trains usually run at intervals of about two to three minutes during peak hours, and about five to seven minutes during off-peak periods.
This is because of low projected ridership during the early days of the new line, said LTA.
"As ridership on TEL1 increases, the frequencies for both peak and off-peak hours will be reviewed and adjusted," said the authority.
The 32-station Thomson-East Coast Line is expected to initially serve about 500,000 commuters when it is fully operational in 2024, a number that is expected to eventually double to 1 million.
The first three stations of Singapore's sixth MRT line - namely Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South - opened their doors to the public on Saturday (Jan 11).
Commuters were able to enjoy free rides on the Thomson-East Coast Line as part of a special open house event, ahead of passenger service starting on Jan 31.
OPENING FIRST STAGE A "NO-BRAINER" FOR RESIDENTS
Speaking at the event, Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan noted the first stage is the shortest section of the 43km line, which will open progressively in five stages.
"We could have combined it with stage two, which will extend southwards to Caldecott through five stations, but we decided to open stage one first," he said. "Doing this allows us to run in all the new systems, before the remaining stages open in the next few years."
The line, which is expected to cost more than S$25 billion to build, will provide “additional capacity and network resilience”, said the minister, noting it runs parallel to the North-South and East-West lines along different stretches, both of which have heavy commuter loads.
Mr Khaw - who is also a Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC - said opening the three stations was a "no-brainer" for Woodlands residents, providing them with greater convenience and shorter commuting times.
Engineer Edmund Kwok welcomed the opening of the new line, adding that the new Woodlands South station, which is a two minute walk from his home, could help him shave 10 to 15 minutes off his morning commute compared to taking the bus.
“There is a bus stop nearby, but it is usually very crowded in the morning,” said the 40-year-old, who has lived in Woodlands for five years.
THE JOHOR BAHRU-SINGAPORE RTS LINK
Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, said the Woodlands North station was designed to connect to the proposed Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link station, "if and when it materialises".
"The station was therefore sized accordingly, to accommodate the peak hour traffic travelling between Singapore and Johor Bahru via the RTS Link,” he said.
The RTS Link has been suspended thrice following the election of Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan government in 2018, as the new government sought to review agreements signed by the previous administration.
On Friday, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke said he had visited his Singaporean counterpart for a “fruitful discussion” on the RTS project, adding both countries were committed to concluding the agreement by April this year.
Each new line provides the authorities with the opportunity to exploit new technology and apply new operating and commercial models so as to provide better service, added Mr Khaw.
For example, he said the Mandai Depot has 6,200 solar panels as part of efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, while trains and operating systems on the new line use condition monitoring devices to improve reliability and make operations and maintenance more efficient.
The Thomson-East Coast Line will also feature a new ticketing machine, the assisted service kiosk, which allows a central pool of officers to serve commuters via video call.
Mr Khaw said he had asked the LTA for a briefing on the progress for the rest of the line, in particular the second stage, and said more details would be shared in due course.