The 12-station Downtown Line 2 (DTL2), which comes online today, has been described by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as a step towards a "car-lite" Singapore.
Two million people already take the bus or train twice or more each day, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA). That works out to about two out of every five people in Singapore.
"Public transport is the most efficient way for our people to get around in a compact city like ours," said PM Lee, as he opened the new line yesterday during a ceremony at Botanic Gardens Station, one of the stops on DTL2.
"Ultimately we aim to make Singapore a safe, green, car-lite city."
The country has been investing heavily to make public transport accessible and convenient in the last decade, said Mr Lee, so that it will become people's mode of choice for transport. With a new MRT line and extension to be opened almost annually from next year onwards, the rail network will double to 360km by 2030. It will be comparable to those in London, New York and Tokyo, he added. This means that eight in 10 homes will be within a 10-minute walk of a train station.
"From now till 2019, we are also adding 99 new trains. The Sengkang-Punggol LRT system is also currently being upgraded," said the Prime Minister. "And equally important, we are investing heavily in infrastructure and maintenance improvements to reduce train disruptions to make for a more reliable public transport system.
"We are good, notwithstanding the incidents we have from time to time, but we are far from as good as we want to be, as we can be and as some others are. We want to be world class and we are working hard to get there."
Close to 30 schools are within a 10-minute walk of stations along DTL2's route, which starts in Bukit Panjang and passes through the Bukit Timah corridor towards Rochor before connecting to Downtown Line 1 at Bugis Station.
With the new line, PM Lee expressed his hope that morning jams along Bukit Timah Road will become a thing of the past.
PM Lee, together with other ministers, MPs, grassroots leaders and LTA and SBS Transit staff took a ride on the new line from Botanic Gardens to Beauty World Station and back. He also sealed a time capsule which included ez-link cards, bus models and a copy of the letter from Unesco recognising Botanic Gardens as a World Heritage Site. It was buried outside the Botanic Gardens Station and is to be opened in 15 years.
Until Jan 1, commuters who start and end their journeys on DTL will enjoy free travel. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, in a blog post, advised residents looking to try the new line not to rush, or they may experience "severe overcrowding".
"It is a Sunday, during a holiday season, there is novelty value, and travelling is free. If too many rush in to be among the first wave of commuters, there will be overcrowding and long waiting time," he wrote.
"Do note that free service will run for six days to Jan 1. So please spread out..."
He added that commuters will be kept informed of how crowded the DTL stations are, and asked them to check the updates on the MyTransport.SG app. Extra staff will also be deployed to man the stations over the free travel days.
The new line comes into operation on the same day that adjustments to transport fares kick in. Bus and train fares will drop by up to four cents for each journey. The adjustment, which takes into account last year's fall in energy prices, comes four months earlier than usual as it has been timed to coincide with the opening of DTL2.