ANOTHER 11 MRT stations on the new Circle Line will open in the first half of next year, cutting the travel time for commuters between the east and the north as well as north-east parts of the island.
The timeframe was announced yesterday by Transport Minister Raymond Lim.
These stations, which stretch from Dhoby Ghaut to Bartley via Paya Lebar, will spare MRT commuters the extra journey they now must make through the city centre before reaching their destination.
Also, these stops will bring the MRT for the first time to residents in estates such as Mountbatten and MacPherson.
Their opening adds to the five already in operation and marks the completion of 16 of the 29 stations on the Circle Line.
It will ease crowding on existing lines and encourage more people to take public transport, an outcome that is in line with a government masterplan to reduce travelling times and avoid road congestion.
In making the announcement, Mr Lim said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will give the actual date closer to the opening of the stations.
Meanwhile, tests are being done 'to ensure the system is reliable and safe before they open it to the public', he added.
Mr Lim was speaking at a dialogue with about 500 Bukit Panjang residents after a ministerial visit to the single-seat ward helmed by Dr Teo Ho Pin.
Commuters like bank officer Kenny Ng, 27, who lives near Lorong Chuan station, welcomed the improved connectivity, saying 'going down to town will be much easier and faster'.
By June, a train journey from Bishan to Paya Lebar, for instance, will take 17min instead of the 33min to 35min now.
This is because the journey will bypass the city centre and not require a transfer.
Of the remaining 13 stations on the Circle Line, Mr Lim said 12, from Marymount to Harbourfront, will open in 2011.
The final one, Bukit Brown off Andrew Road, is a future station that will not open until more residents move into the area.
Mr Lim's update on the Circle Line comes a day after LTA announced the easing of the rules of the off-peak car scheme to encourage more motorists to opt for these red-plated cars.
The new rules include allowing these cars, from end-January next year, to be on the road all day on Saturdays, instead of the current restriction: before 7am and after 3pm.
Changes to bus routes are also in the works.
Yesterday, Mr Lim said that from next month, LTA will consult 'on a systematic basis' the advisers and grassroots leaders in all constituencies for ways to improve bus routes in their respective areas.
It hopes to complete the feedback-gathering exercise by March.
At present, LTA works with public transport operators in an ongoing - but rather ad hoc - manner to improve the bus network.
However, operators SBS Transit and SMRT have the final say on any refinements.
This will change.
The new feedback effort will pave the way for the LTA to take over the planning of the bus routes from the operators.
Mr Lim also said the consultation exercise was a better move than an overhaul of the existing system, which he stressed was 'a good and fairly comprehensive one'.
He added: 'Our aim is to benefit as many commuters as possible, while maintaining the overall financial viability of the bus system.'
During his walkabout, Mr Lim distributed ComCare meal vouchers to needy residents and opened a Senior Wellness Centre at Bukit Panjang Community Club.
The centre for elderly folk has exercise machines and massage chairs and organises activities, such as brisk walking and subsidised health screenings.
Mr Lim also took a short ride on the Bukit Panjang LRT, noting that trains were arriving at four-minute intervals.
'I hope it's much shorter at peak hours,' he quipped to an SMRT official, who swiftly replied that the intervals then are 21/2 minutes.
Source: Straits Times, 31 Aug 2009