Commuters in the north-west, including Bukit Panjang, will have quicker access to the Central Business District and Marina Bay from Dec 27 with the opening of the second phase of the Downtown Line (DTL).
The 16.6km, 12-station stretch, operated by SBS Transit, will run through areas like Hillview, Beauty World, King Albert Park, Little India and Rochor, before connecting to the six-station DTL1, which opened in 2013. Travel time for commuters is expected to be cut by up to 40 per cent. For example, a trip from Bukit Panjang to Bugis, which now takes about 50 minutes, will be cut to 30 minutes.
Connectivity to other rail lines such as the Bukit Panjang LRT, Circle Line, North-East and North- South Lines, will also be boosted with four interchange stations at Bukit Panjang, Botanic Gardens, Little India and Newton.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who announced the opening date yesterday during a visit to Gali Batu depot, which is the main stabling and maintenance facility for the DTL, said commuters will get to travel for free on the line for "a period of time" as they familiarise themselves with the new network.
Commuters can also expect bus and train fares to be reduced by up to 1.9 per cent from Dec 27.
There will be a total of 45 trains running on the DTL network, up from six currently serving the first phase.
The six stations have an average daily ridership of 67,000 as of the first quarter of the year. The entire Downtown Line, with the third phase opening in 2017, is expected to have a daily ridership of 500,000.
Calling DTL2's opening a "major milestone", Mr Lui noted that it would mean the rail network would have grown by a third over the last four years.
There will be a total of 157 train stations, up from 117 stations at the end of 2010, Mr Lui said, adding that six in 10 households will be within a 10-minute walk to a station.
With the upgrading of train signalling systems and the injection of new train cars, capacity on the MRT network has also been boosted.
In the last four years, the number of train trips has increased by about 25 per cent, with waiting time being reduced by up to 30 per cent with more than 40 new trains, he said.
Crowding has eased, he noted, and the number of commuters who are unable to board either the first or second trains has been reduced significantly, from 10 per cent in 2013 to 5 per cent this year.
However, referring to July 7's breakdown of the North-South and East-West Lines, Mr Lui said: "While overall reliability has improved, large-scale or prolonged disruptions still happen more frequently than what is acceptable."
He added that the Land Transport Authority will work with rail operators to ensure they have a rigorous maintenance regime. Problems such as leaks and worn down insulators - the causes of July 7's incident - can "surely be prevented", he said.
He added that the opening of more MRT lines will give commuters alternative routes in the event of a breakdown.