Visitors have been able to visit the Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations to familiarise themselves with their various entrances and exits.
Thomson-East Coast Line stations open for preview Free train rides will be offered between the three stations from 31 January to 2 February 2020 PHOTO: ST FILE

The Woodlands North MRT station, meant to connect to the delayed cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Singapore and Johor Baru, welcomed visitors yesterday as Singapore's new MRT line opened for preview.

The MRT station will be adjacent to the RTS Link station "if and when" it materialises, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday when he opened three stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) a few weeks before passenger service starts on 31 January 2020.

For now, people will be able to visit the Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations to familiarise themselves with the various entrances, exits and amenities.

Those who went to the open house yesterday got to ride the trains between the three stations for free. There will also be free train rides from 31 January to 2 February 2020.

The Woodlands North station, located between Woodlands Avenue 9 and Admiralty Road West, is among the biggest of the 32 stations on the TEL and was designed with the RTS Link in mind. The station is about 270m long, 48m wide and 22m below ground level.

As he declared the stations open, Mr. Khaw said in a short speech that the Woodlands North station was "sized accordingly, to accommodate the peak-hour traffic travelling between Singapore and JB via the RTS Link", and will be connected seamlessly to the RTS Link station at the basement concourse level.

The RTS Link agreement, first signed in 2018, has been delayed several times after Malaysia requested a suspension to review the project last year. Malaysia has since proposed amending the scope and structure of the S$1.3 billion project to cut costs, and both sides are discussing the changes.

Mr. Khaw's comments on the RTS Link came a day after he met his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke in Singapore. Mr. Loke later said in a Facebook post that they had a "fruitful discussion" and both sides were committed to concluding the RTS Link agreement by April. The 4km cross-border MRT link from Woodlands in Singapore to Bukit Chagar in Johor was envisioned to help alleviate congestion on the Causeway.

As he opened the three stations in Woodlands town in Stage 1 of the TEL, Mr. Khaw thanked residents in the area for their patience and understanding since construction started in 2014. "Now it is time for you to enjoy the fruits of your patience," he said.

The comment resonated with Ms. Julianah Daud, 47, whose flat is located beside the new Woodlands station. The quality control inspector at a printer factory, who works night shifts, stacked a mattress against her room window to dampen the noise from construction in the past few years. "I'm very relieved that it's open, I'm also excited, I felt like I can't wait anymore, so we came today," she said, laughing. 

Singapore's sixth MRT line will span more than 43km and have 32 stations when completely open by 2024. It will be the longest MRT line, linking up neighbourhoods such as Thomson, Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and Bedok to the Central Business District.

While the $25 billion construction cost is a "financial burden on taxpayers... it is money well spent", said Mr. Khaw. He also said he has asked the Land Transport Authority for a briefing on the progress of the rest of the TEL, and will share more details in due course.

He quipped, "Like many of you, I am keen to know the estimated completion date of Stage 2. Stage 2 is of personal interest as Lentor station is near my house."

Stage 2 comprises six stations from Springleaf to Caldecott, with two interchange stations - Bright Hill, which will link to the future Cross Island Line, and Caldecott, which will link to the Circle Line.

Yesterday's open house drew Singaporeans from other parts of the island and train enthusiasts such as Presbyterian High School student Isaac Kong, 15. "I have been checking the train map updates," he said. "I hope to try out all the MRT lines."