SINGAPORE: The Tuas West Extension to the East West Line (TWE) officially opened on Friday (Jun 16) - about six months later than originally planned, and two days before passenger service begins on Sunday.
The opening was pushed back from end of 2016 due to the need for more reliability tests and finetuning, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said. The TWE uses an upgraded signalling system that aims to shorten intervals between trains - the same system currently being tested on the North-South Line (NSL).
NSL commuters have experienced several delays since trials on the new system began in recent months, even as rail operator SMRT warned of "some glitches" as the new system "settles in to full-load operations".
The recent spate of delays and disruptions notwithstanding, Singapore's rail network has performed better in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2016, according to the minister.
From January to May this year, trains travelled 387,000km before a delay of more than five minutes. By contrast, trains clocked 168,000km before a delay of more than five minutes last year.
Based on experts' calculations, clocking 400,000km is equivalent to going about two weeks before a delay.
The latest figure exceeds Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan's March target of 300,000km before delay, but falls shy of the 400,000 km target he set in 2016.
The 7.5-km, four-station extension includes the Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link stations, and is expected to serve 100,000 commuters daily. The opening also comes as more people travel to the Tuas and Jurong industrial estates for work. New sectors have also emerged since the East-West Line was completed in 1990.
"At that time, there were some heavy industries in Tuas, but the number of people working there was too low to warrant an MRT line," Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said at the extension's opening on Friday.
"Since then, however, Tuas has doubled in size. Many new industries like biomedical, water and offshore and marine have sprung up. Today, Tuas is still growing, most significantly with the upcoming Tuas Port."
The TWE is the second major rail extension to begin service this year, ahead of the opening of the Downtown Line 3 (DTL3) in October. Both the TWE and DTL3 will add another 28.5km to Singapore's rail system, Mr Ng said, with projects like the Thomson-East Coast Line, the Circle Line 6, which connects HarbourFront and Marina Bay stations, and the North East Line Extension on the horizon.
Site investigation works and engineering studies for the Cross Island Line have also begun, Mr Ng said, referring to the upcoming 50km line that will connect areas like Jurong and Clementi to Changi Airport. According to LTA's website, the project should be complete by 2030.
Mr Ng added that the Jurong Region Line, which will link Jurong West to areas like the Jurong Innovation District and the Jurong Lake District, is expected to be completed around 2025.
"Our fundamental objective for all our rail projects is to provide public transport which is so convenient, comfortable and reliable, that Singaporeans will go car-lite," he said, adding that the number of commuters taking public transport during morning peak hours has been "growing steadily", from 63 percent in 2012 to about 67 percent in 2016.
Mr Ng said this "should reach 80 per cent by 2030" with the opening of new lines.