New Tuas West Extension to cut travel time for many

7.5km line opening next week will be a relief for workers in industrial heartland

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The Tuas West Extension, a four-station segment extending westwards from the East-West Line, will open on June 18, 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Starting Monday next week, Ms Cherine Au can enjoy the luxury of an extra half-hour of shut-eye on weekday mornings.

With the new Tuas West Extension (TWE) open, the assistant manager's 90-minute commute from her Bishan home to her Raffles Marina office will be cut to about an hour.

Instead of transferring to a company shuttle bus at Jurong East MRT station mid-journey, Ms Au, 56, will be able to stay on the East-West Line (EWL) and ride to the new Tuas Link station, which is just a short stroll from the marina.

The smoother commute for her and other workers in the area is possible with the TWE, a 7.5km rail segment with four stations that extends the EWL further west into the Tuas industrial heartland.

At the western end, the EWL currently terminates at Joo Koon MRT station, but starting next Sunday, commuters can travel further to the Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link stations.

The extension is expected to boost the connectivity of the industrial area, where workers now have to rely on company-catered shuttles or public feeder buses.

The new MRT line will benefit 100,000 commuters daily, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said. In conjunction with the TWE's opening, two new bus services, 247 and 248, will also be launched, which will link to the new line's stations and expand connectivity.

Construction of the TWE started in 2012, and the line was targeted to open at the end of last year. But this was pushed back as more time was needed to test and fine-tune the line's signalling system, which is more advanced than what the rest of the EWL is currently using.

Tuas workers are hoping the MRT and new buses can address their transport woes. Administrative executive Amy Seow, 68, who also works in Raffles Marina and uses the company shuttle, said that traffic can snarl up during peak hours. "There are a lot of heavy lorries which are going to the (Tuas) checkpoint," she told The Sunday Times.

Supply chain manager Patrick Yap, 47, who takes service 193 from Joo Koon to his office at Tuas Avenue 12, said: "The bus can be overcrowded so I have to wait for another one. Depending on the traffic conditions, the ride takes between 30min and 45min."

However, Mr Yap will soon be able to beat the jam, by taking the TWE to the Tuas West Road MRT station, just outside chemical manufacturing company Michelman Asia-Pacific where he works.

Sales administrator Cindy Tan, 33, who commutes between Bukit Batok and Gul Circle in Tuas via MRT and public bus, said the time she will save will make a difference to her childcare arrangements. She expects her trips to be 15 to 20 minutes shorter, letting her get home before 7pm.

Ms Tan, who works with material sciences firm Isola Asia Pacific near the Gul Circle MRT station, said: "I can pick up one of my two kids who are in daycare, instead of leaving it to my mother."

Private bus fleet owners who serve the Tuas area say companies will likely change their shuttle arrangements for workers with the opening of the new MRT line.

Mr Roger Wong, general manager of Woodlands Transport, said: "Some of the companies with a small workforce that are within walking distance from the (new) stations have started to end their bus service (contracts)."

Chemical firm Michelman, which has 65 staff and a 24-7 operation, is looking to adjust its shift timings so workers can take advantage of the new MRT line. It does not provide employees with a shuttle service, but gives them a monthly transport allowance of between $200 and $500, depending on their job scope.

The firm's managing director, Mr Steven Wong, said this will remain to give staff flexibility in how they choose to come to work.

Ms Sharon Ng, Michelman's human resources leader for Asia, said: "Some taxis don't want to come to Tuas, especially after 5pm on Fridays. Now those who drive can consider going car-free."

With the Tuas Link MRT station on its doorstep, Raffles Marina chief executive officer Ray Parry said that in a month or so, it plans to cancel its shuttle service, which is used by most of its 130 employees.

He declined to say how much the service costs the marina, but said it is "a lot". He said there are plans to build a pedestrian walkway to enhance access to the MRT station.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline New Tuas West Extension to cut travel time for many. Subscribe