Stations buzzing on first day of operations for third stage of Thomson-East Coast Line

Commuters at Maxwell TEL station on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Great World TEL station on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung celebrating TEL’s fifth anniversary at the Woodlands South TEL station on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE – The third stage of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) opened for passenger service on Sunday, drawing crowds that took photos of the trains and stations on Singapore’s newest MRT line.

Commuters included families, seniors and fitness enthusiasts on their way to a morning workout.

Mr Jacky Zhu, 40, his wife and their children, aged three to eight, were excited about taking the train on the first day of the official operations. 

The family boarded the MRT at Great World station at 9am and were heading to Gardens by the Bay.  The software engineer, who works in a fintech firm, said: “I wanted to see how long it would take for my daily commute to my office in Marina Bay.” 

The 11 new stations which opened on Sunday are Stevens, Napier, Orchard Boulevard, Orchard, Great World, Havelock, Outram Park, Maxwell, Shenton Way, Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay.

Commuters were given a preview of the line on Friday, when free rides were offered along the 11 new stations, but without any connections to any existing MRT lines. Some 500,000 turned up that day, said the Land Transport Authority.

Stevens station on the TEL connects to the Downtown Line, Orchard station to the North-South Line, Outram Park to the East-West and North East lines, and Marina Bay to the Circle and North-South lines.

Another passenger on the first day was Mr Dylan Tan, 31, who took the train from Havelock station at 9am to meet his friends at Beauty World station for a morning hike at Rifle Range Nature Park, which opened on Saturday.

Mr Tan, a relationship manager in a bank who goes hiking regularly on weekends, said that to visit the Rail Corridor, a trip by public transport from his home in Tiong Bahru would take 45 minutes. The journey is now only 20 minutes as he does not have to take a bus to Newton station before changing to the Downtown Line, he said. 

Commuters taking the Thomson-East Coast Line on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Commuters at Maxwell station on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mr Ajit Nair, 64, and his wife Selina Chin, 63, also welcomed the greater accessibility that the TEL will bring.

The couple, who live in Nassim Hill, had taken a seven-minute walk to Orchard Boulevard station near their home as they wanted to have breakfast at Killiney coffee shop at Camden Medical. 

However, as it was closed, they decided to go for a ride on the train and look for alternative breakfast options along the MRT line. 

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Ms Chin, a lawyer, said: “It’s going to be really convenient for people to visit Tanglin Mall, which is just behind Orchard Boulevard station. In the past, most people would have to drive there if there was a restaurant they really wanted to visit.” 

The TEL’s first stage opened in January 2020 with three stations. The line starts at Woodlands North station and, with the official opening of its third stage on Sunday, will run down to the city centre and Gardens by the Bay.

Ten more stations, stretching from the Founders’ Memorial in Marina East to Sungei Bedok, will open in two stages by 2025.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (third from left) riding the TEL line on Nov 13, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

On Sunday, Health Minister and Sembawang GRC MP Ong Ye Kung and two of his fellow MPs from the GRC, Mr Vikram Nair and Ms Poh Li San, joined 100 residents on a tour of the TEL between Woodlands South and Maxwell stations. 

Organised by grassroots leaders from Sembawang GRC, the half-day excursion included a historical visit to URA Centre. 

Ms Poh said: “The Thomson-East Coast Line is a real gift to our Woodlands residents. Besides the North-South Line, we are also connected by a second MRT line that takes us to town.”

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