The first stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) - with three stations in Woodlands - will commence service before Chinese New Year in late January next year.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced this yesterday during a visit to the line's Mandai Depot.
There will be a few days of free travel for commuters before the opening so that they can familiarise themselves with the new stations - Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South - and the connection to the North-South Line, he said.
In January, Mr Khaw had said the first stage would open before Christmas this year.
"TEL's construction started in 2013, when the transport minister was Mr Lui Tuck Yew. When completed around 2024... it will be a different transport minister," he said yesterday. "I will be using it as a passenger."
Singapore's sixth MRT line will be 43km long with 32 stations. Eight of these are interchange stations. The line links neighbourhoods such as Thomson, Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and Bedok to the Central Business District.
It was also supposed to have services from Woodlands to a northern extension that goes into Johor Baru. But after repeated delays, the project is on hold until the end of this month.
Mr Khaw said the TEL "will make our rail network more interconnected and resilient, offering commuters more options".
He noted that stations will have more entrances and exits than existing lines, enhancing connectivity.
The line is being built and opened over a few stages. "This way, commuters can benefit sooner - they need not wait for the entire line to be done first," he added.
The nine trains for Stage 1 are already at the Mandai Depot, being tested and commissioned.
Full testing of the entire system will be done during the December school holidays.
The TEL project is complex, Mr Khaw said. The line is fully underground and requires tunnelling through different earth conditions.
The construction of Woodlands North station involved the excavation of more than 100,000 cubic m of granite - enough to fill up 40 Olympic-size swimming pools.
Mr Khaw said: "The TEL is an example of how we plan long term and invest in infrastructure for future generations. Even as I speak, we have already started work for our seventh line - the Jurong Region Line - and the eighth - the Cross Island Line."
He noted that in 2013, then Transport Minister Lui committed to bringing 80 per cent of households within a 10-minute walk of a train station by 2030.
Mr Khaw said: "We are now at 64 per cent. I am confident that this 2030 target can be achieved."
The minister also thanked rail operator SMRT and its staff yesterday. "When your friends are sound asleep, you are inspecting the tracks to ensure safe and reliable journeys for our commuters," he said.
The efforts are paying off, with the North-South Line now at 1.4 million train-km between delays, the East-West Line at 800,000km and the Circle Line at 808,000km.
The Bukit Panjang LRT is also being renewed, and Mr Khaw said "it is now running more reliably than last year". "But we will only see its full potential when the trains and signalling system are fully renewed by 2022," he said. "I seek commuters' patience and understanding."
Retired lawyer Chia Quee Khee, 74, said: "I am waiting for Katong Park station to open. It is three minutes' walk from my house."