Smooth start to Tuas West Extension service on first weekday of operation

A train arrives at Gul Circle station, one of the stops along the newly opened Tuas extension line. Photo: Najeer Yusof
The morning crowd at the new Tuas extension line. Photo: Najeer Yusof
Passengers onboard the MRT train on the way to Tuas Link, one of the stations on the newly opened Tuas extension line. Najeer Yusof

Smooth start to Tuas West Extension service on first weekday of operation

SINGAPORE — Three days after wet platforms at several stations dampened a public preview, the Tuas West Extension (TWE) to the East-West Line (EWL) began its first weekday of train services Monday (June 19) without hiccups.

On Sunday, passenger service kicked off on the 7.5km extension beyond Joo Koon, previously the final station on the EWL, widening the line by four stops: Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link.

When TODAY visited the Gul Circle station at about 7.45am, trains were running relatively empty, with seats still available in most cabins.

Commuters who spoke to TODAY said the new extension helped them save time.

Previously, construction maintenance worker Veerayan Muruganandam, 29, travelled from Choa Chu Kang to Joo Koon MRT Station, where he hopped on a bus to his Tuas Avenue 1 workplace. His journey took two hours.

With the new extension, his journey has been shortened by 45 minutes. He now commutes from Choa Chu Kang to Tuas Link station, where he takes a 15-minute bus ride to his workplace. "It's better because (I can) directly come here," said Mr Veerayan.

Mr Liu Dong Ming, a worker at a food-product factory in Tuas, said his journey from Pioneer to his workplace has been pruned by 20 minutes. The 24-year-old Chinese national, who was returning home after completing an overnight shift, said in Mandarin: "It's good. We save a lot of time, which I can use to rest."

However, for a commuter, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ong, the journey took about the same length of time as before. Switching to the EWL at Outram Park, the facility executive took a train yesterday from Hougang to Gul Circle, which is within walking distance of his logistics firm. The 55-year-old previously travelled from Hougang to Boon Lay, where he took a bus to his office. Both routes take him about 1.5 hours, he said.

He said the switchover to the new signalling system that the TWE runs on at Pioneer MRT Station added to his travel time.

TODAY understands that the switch takes between one and two minutes generally, and announcements are made as trains approach Pioneer. The TWE was originally set to open by the end of last year, but its launch was delayed because the new signalling system - the same one being tested on the North-South Line - had to undergo more tests to ensure its reliability.

Monday morning, rail operator SMRT's ground crew were seen stationed on the west-bound platform at Joo Koon station to control the crowds. A staff member from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was also seen at the concourse with a sign advising commuters against leaving the station if they are headed towards Tuas.

Last Friday, during the TWE Open House which included free train rides along all four stations, rainwater was seen entering the Tuas Crescent station from above and the sides of the platform. The east-bound platform at the Gul Circle stop was also completely wet. This was due to the design of the stations which allowed natural light to enter from the roof and the side louvres. The LTA had told TODAY that it was looking to rectify the issue. Built to meet growing travel demand to and from Tuas, the TWE is expected to serve 100,000 commuters daily. Many will also experience shorter travel times. For instance, those going from Woodlands to Tuas West will have their journeys trimmed to less than an hour, from 1.5 hours previously.