Five stations open, with work on rest of 33.3km line nearing completion
TRAINS start rolling through the Circle Line's first five stations this morning, as work on the rest of the underground line nears completion.
Marymount, Bishan, Lorong Chuan, Serangoon and Bartley stations will begin operations today, with the first train arriving at about 6am.
The remaining 24 stations will open from next year. Progress at these stations is on track, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said yesterday.
About 98 per cent of the 33.3km-long Circle Line tunnels have been completed. The rest will be finished by September, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
While the LTA would not say which stations will open next, it is likely that Circle Line stages 1 and 2 are next in line.
With 11 stations in all, these two stages include those in the City Hall and Paya Lebar area.
Six stations - Dhoby Ghaut, Bras Basah, Esplanade, Promenade, Stadium and Tai Seng - have already obtained Temporary Occupation Permits, which means they can be occupied.
The Circle Line, which will eventually run from HarbourFront to Dhoby Ghaut, helps commuters transfer between existing lines without the need to travel to the city centre.
Among the five stations open today are two interchanges, Bishan and Serangoon, where commuters can transfer to the North-South line and North-East line respectively.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who opened the stations in a ceremony at Bishan MRT yesterday, said: 'It will open up multiple new connections for residents in the north and the north-east.'
With the Circle Line, a commuter will now take only four minutes to travel from Bishan to Serangoon, compared to 15 minutes by bus or more than 25 minutes on existing rail lines.
Mr Teo added: 'Singaporeans expect high standards and the LTA and the public transport operators must work hard to meet the expectations of the Singaporean commuter.'
A Gallup world poll of 20 cities last year found that Singaporeans were the most satisfied with their public transport system.
With more than $40 billion to be spent on doubling the rail network by 2020, the LTA and the two operators have their work cut out for them maintaining that ranking.
About 55,000 commuters are expected to use the Circle Line's first five stations. Daily ridership will climb to about 500,000 when the entire line opens.
Trains will run at a frequency of one every three to four minutes during peak hours at the five stations.
Adult ez-link fares, ranging from 73 cents to $2.07, are similar to those on the North-East line, but higher than those on the older North-South and East-West lines.
The Circle Line's operator, SMRT, said it will donate takings from the first 22 days of operations to charity.
SMRT's president and chief executive officer Saw Phaik Hwa said the operator expects to collect about $400,000 to $500,000 over the 22 days.
The company also unveiled yesterday a new uniform for its staff, who will now don the company's corporate colours of red, black and white.
The start of the new train service will also mark the launch of new careers for more than 300 SMRT staff hired to run the Circle Line.
They will fill positions like customer service officers, technical officers and engineers.
Among them is Miss Siti Nuraidah, 26, a train service controller for the new line. One of three women in the team of 20 controllers, she said: 'I might be new to the job but I want to challenge myself and prove that I can do as well as the others'.
Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2009
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