The Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations on Singapore's newest MRT line have opened their doors to passengers.
Three stations on Thomson-East Coast Line open Woodlands commuters welcome alternative to packed buses despite longer train intervals PHOTO: ST FILE

Nearly seven years after the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) was announced, three of its stations began operations on 31 January 2020.

Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South stations on Singapore's newest MRT line opened their doors to passengers at 5.30am.

For some, like Administrative Executive Margaret Yeoh, 53, the line was a welcome alternative to the crowded feeder buses commuters have been taking to get to Woodlands MRT station. She was seen taking a selfie at the Woodlands station, which she called "new and grand".

Ms. Yeoh usually takes feeder buses 962 or 901M from her home in Woodlands to Admiralty MRT station, then takes the train to Commonwealth MRT station to reach her workplace, transferring at Jurong East interchange. "The 901M feeder bus can get very crowded in the morning," she said, adding that with the new Woodlands South station at her doorstep, she can now take the train directly to Woodlands station and transfer to the North-South Line (NSL).

When the TEL is completed in 2024, commuters from Woodlands taking the train into town can expect to halve the time of their current journeys. For now, the limited service in Woodlands allows commuters to use it as an alternative to feeder buses such as 901 and 901M, which are usually packed during the morning rush hour.

Mr. Timothy Swee, 31, said he was trying out the new route to see if it would cut down his travel time to work in the morning. The Project Manager at chipmaker Micron Semiconductor usually takes a train to Admiralty from his home in Ang Mo Kio, and then takes bus service 856 to his workplace in Woodlands North, a journey of about an hour and 10 minutes.

With the new line, he hopes his commute will be faster than taking the bus, although he noted that train intervals at the Woodlands TEL station were slightly longer than at stations on other lines.

The Straits Times observed that trains on the TEL were arriving at nine-minute intervals, compared with the two to three minutes during peak periods on other lines.

The longer waiting period did not seem to deter many commuters, but Mr. Anamul Haque, 28, a Senior Construction Supervisor at the upcoming Woodlands Health Campus, said it took him the usual 30 minutes to get to work on the TEL. "Luckily, my workplace is next to Woodlands South station, so it does not take very long for me to walk to work," he said.

Ms. Lynn Tan, 27, a Technical Support Officer at Republic Polytechnic, said the longer wait for the train might make her go back to taking the shuttle bus as the service she takes to work has "back-to-back" buses with minimal delays.

The TEL is Singapore's sixth MRT line. It will be 43km long, with 32 stations, eight of which are interchange stations, when it is fully operational in 2024. The line will link neighbourhoods such as Thomson, Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and Bedok to the Central Business District. Six more stations, from Springleaf to Caldecott, are expected to open later this year.