Free rides today between Stevens and Gardens by the Bay ahead of TEL stage 3 opening

Trains will run in an isolated loop between Stevens and Gardens by the Bay as part of a preview of the third stage of the rail line. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Those who intend to access the new stretch of rail from existing MRT lines must first tap out and use the respective linkways to enter the new stations. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE – Commuters will be able to travel for free along the third stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) on Friday between 10am and 9pm, but only between the 11 new stations.

Trains will run in an isolated loop between Stevens and Gardens by the Bay as part of a preview of the third stage of the rail line, which will start revenue service on Sunday.

With the opening of TEL Stage 3 (TEL3), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Wednesday that it will monitor changes in travel patterns, particularly for bus services that duplicate the MRT line’s route.

Hinting at a longer-term possibility of shortening or re-routing bus services that run parallel to TEL, LTA said it will make adjustments where necessary to optimise the bus network and reallocate resources to other areas of need.

Bus services such as 162, 167 and 75 currently replicate some sections of the TEL3 route.

Similar moves to shorten or change bus routes have previously been made after the opening of new rail lines.

In 2020, LTA had to amend some of its planned changes to key bus services in Bukit Panjang after the initial news led to three petitions being signed by more than 5,000 residents, and criticism from Bukit Panjang MP Liang Eng Hwa. The authorities had cited a fall in bus ridership after the inauguration of the Downtown Line (DTL) in 2015 as the reason for the planned changes.

In December 2021, bus services 22, 66 and 506 were also shortened due to a sustained drop in ridership following the opening of DTL Stage 3 in 2017. Responding to concerns raised by Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam in March, Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said the move would save $9.5 million in subsidies a year.

On Wednesday, LTA said it will enhance first- and last-mile connections to the 11 new TEL3 stations where needed.

For example, bus service 400 will be re-routed to ply Straits View and Park Street in the Central Business District to improve bus connections to Shenton Way station.

For Friday’s preview, passengers can start and end their journeys at any of the 11 TEL3 stations for their free rides. But for those who intend to access the new stretch of rail from existing MRT lines, including the rest of the TEL from Woodlands North to Caldecott, they must first tap out and use the respective linkways to enter the new stations.

For those travelling between Caldecott and Stevens, a free shuttle bus will be provided between the two TEL stations at 10-minute intervals, LTA said.

A series of activities will be held on Friday to mark the opening of TEL3, including an immersive digital game that can be played across all 11 new stations, and a photo exhibition at Orchard station.

More details about the event, called Rail Day Out in the City, can be found on LTA’s social media pages.

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