Construction begins on RTS Link station in Woodlands

Terminus station and immigration complex will be about 10 times the size of a typical MRT station

(From left) Land Transport Authority chief executive Ng Lang, LTA chairman Alan Chan, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung, Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar and Ministry of Transport Permane
(From left) Land Transport Authority chief executive Ng Lang, LTA chairman Alan Chan, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung, Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar and Ministry of Transport Permanent Secretary Loh Ngai Seng at a ceremony marking the start of construction at the Woodlands North terminus station site yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

When the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link starts running in end-2026, commuters crossing the border to Johor Baru via the line will be served by a terminus station and an immigration complex in Woodlands North about 10 times the size of a typical MRT station.

Built underground at a maximum depth of 28m, the Woodlands North RTS Link station will have three storeys, including two basement levels and an underground linkway to the Customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) building, and will be connected to the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) station via an underground concourse.

The 4km rail link's tunnels will be connected to a 25m-tall viaduct spanning the Strait of Johor.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) unveiled these details on the RTS Link yesterday at a ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of construction at the Woodlands North terminus station site.

Singapore and Malaysia had held a joint ceremony last July to mark the resumption of the cross-border line after the project was put on hold at Malaysia's request to review its scope, structure and costs.

Speaking at yesterday's ceremony, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the resumption "was a significant milestone in strengthening and enhancing the connectivity of our peoples, and the relations of the two countries".

He noted that Malaysia has broken ground for the project at the site of the future Bukit Chagar station in Johor Baru.

"I am glad to see both countries taking concrete action on the project, and I am confident that we will work hard together to deliver the project on time, scheduled to be 2026. When the RTS Link is up and running, we will have an additional land linkage between Singapore and Malaysia," he said.

CIQ facilities for both Singapore and Malaysia will be co-located at each station, meaning commuters have to clear immigration only once, at their point of departure.

Calling it a game-changer in easing congestion on the Causeway, Mr Ong said that while the rail link is a short service, its economic and social benefits are significant.

Before the Covid-19 restrictions, close to 300,000 people crossed the Causeway daily.

In Woodlands, there will eventually be a transport hub connected to the RTS Link and TEL stations.

Such transport connections will support and enhance larger plans to transform Woodlands into a key growth hub and thriving employment gateway for the northern region of Singapore, just like Jurong and Tampines, Mr Ong said.

"Woodlands will be revamped, revitalised and rejuvenated. There will be a new buzz here... The RTS Link, when operational, will serve as a key gateway to all these exciting developments," he added.

Penta-Ocean Construction will build the Woodlands North station, the tunnels and the CIQ building.


An artist’s impression of the Woodlands North RTS Link station, which will have three storeys, including two basement levels and an underground linkway to the Customs, immigration and quarantine building, and will be connected to the Thomson-East Coast Line. PHOTO: LTA

The Japanese firm, which is also working on the Bright Hill and Orchard TEL stations, was awarded the first of two civil contracts - worth $932.8 million - last November. The second contract, which covers the viaduct's construction, will be awarded this quarter.

LTA said ground conditions at the Woodlands site, which is part of the Bukit Timah formation, are expected to be challenging due to the presence of granite.

Therefore, construction will involve high-capacity drilling machines, extended piling works and rock demolition during excavation. About 2,000 piles will be driven as deep as 50m below ground.

As the site is near an operational MRT station and live utilities, construction activities will be carefully managed to minimise the impact on the public and ensure the structural safety of surrounding infrastructure, LTA added.

It will also implement additional measures such as real-time instrumentation monitoring and rigorous survey checks.

Meanwhile, the viaduct will be constructed using the balanced cantilever method and will entail the lifting of concrete segments weighing up to 180 tonnes.

Announced in 2010, the rail link project was initially targeted to be ready by 2018. A new starting date of end-2024 was agreed in 2017 and both countries signed a deal the following year, with construction due to start in 2019.

But the project stalled after the Pakatan Harapan government came to power in Malaysia, and it was suspended several times.

The project got back on track in July last year, one day before the final deadline. Several key changes were made, including the use of a standalone light rail transit system instead of the same trains and systems as the TEL.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2021, with the headline 'Construction begins on RTS Link station in Woodlands'. Subscribe