3 stations on Thomson-East Coast Line begin operations

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First day of Thomson-East Coast Line operations at Woodlands station on Jan 31, 2020. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - After nearly seven years, three stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) began operations on Friday (Jan 31).

Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations on Singapore's newest MRT line opened their doors to passengers at 5.30am.

For some, like administrative executive Margaret Yeoh, the line was a welcome alternative to the crowded feeder buses commuters have been taking to get to Woodlands MRT station.

She was seen taking a selfie at the new Woodlands station, which she called "new and grand".

Ms Yeoh, 53, usually takes feeder buses 962 or 901M from her home in Woodlands to Admiralty station, then takes the train to her workplace at Commonwealth, transferring at Jurong East interchange.

"The 901M feeder bus can get very crowded in the morning," she said, adding that with the new Woodlands South station at her doorstep, she can now take the train directly to Woodlands station and transfer to the North-South Line (NSL).

When the TEL is fully completed in 2024, commuters from Woodlands taking the train into town can expect their journey to take half the time.

For now, the limited service in Woodlands means most commuters will use it instead of feeder buses such as 901 and 901M, which are usually packed during the morning rush hour.

Mr Timothy Swee, 31, said he was trying out the new route to see if it would cut down his travel time to work in the morning.

The project manager at chipmaker Micron Semiconductor usually takes a train to Admiralty from his home in Ang Mo Kio, and then takes service 856 to his workplace in Woodlands North, a journey of about an hour and 10 minutes.

With the new line, he hopes it will be faster than taking the bus, although he noted that the train intervals at the Woodlands TEL station were slightly longer than elsewhere.

The Straits Times observed that trains on the TEL were arriving at nine-minute intervals, compared with the two to three minutes during peak periods on other lines like the NSL.

The longer waiting period did not seem to deter too many commuters, but for Mr Anamul Haque, 28, it meant he did not get to work any faster.

Mr Haque, a senior construction supervisor at the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus, said it took the usual 30 minutes for him to get to work on the TEL.

"Luckily, my workplace is next to Woodlands South station, so it does not take very long for me to walk to work," he said.

Ms Lynn Tan, 27, a technical support officer at Republic Polytechnic, said the longer wait for the train might make her go back to taking the shuttle bus.

She said service 902, which operates from Woodlands interchange and goes to Republic Polytechnic, has "back-to-back" buses with minimal delay.

For commuters to familiarise themselves with the line, as well as its connection to the NSL, there will be free travel for three days on the TEL from Friday to Sunday.

The TEL is Singapore's sixth MRT line and will be 43km long with 32 stations, eight of which are interchange stations, when fully operational in 2024.

The line will link neighbourhoods such as Thomson, Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and Bedok to the Central Business District.

The second stage, comprising six stations from Springleaf to Caldecott, is expected to open later this year.

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