Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore)
|Native name||Singapore Mass Rapid Transit
Sistem Pengangkutan Gerak Cepat
துரிதக் கடவு ரயில்
|Owner||Land Transport Authority|
|Transit type||Rapid transit|
|Number of lines||5|
|Number of stations||113|
|Daily ridership||2.755 million (2013)|
|Began operation||November 7, 1987|
|Operator(s)||SBS Transit (ComfortDelGro Corporation)
SMRT Trains (SMRT Corporation)
|System length||152.9 km (95.0 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Mass Rapid Transit or MRT is a rapid transit system forming the major component of the railway system in Singapore, spanning the entire city-state. The initial section of the MRT, between Yio Chu Kang and Toa Payoh, opened in 1987, making it the second-oldest metro system in Southeast Asia, after Manila's LRT System. The network has since grown rapidly in accordance with Singapore's aim of developing a comprehensive rail network as the backbone of the public transport system in Singapore, with an average daily ridership of 2.755 million in 2013, approximately 77% of the bus network's 3.601 million in the same period.
The MRT network encompasses 152.9 kilometres (95.0 mi) of route, with 113 stations in operation, on standard gauge. The lines are built by the Land Transport Authority, a statutory board of the Government of Singapore, which allocates operating concessions to the profit-based corporations, SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit. These operators also run bus and taxi services, thus facilitating full integration of public transport services. The MRT is complemented by a small number of regional Light Rail Transit (LRT) networks in Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol that link MRT stations with HDB public housing estates. Services operate from about 5:30 am and usually end before 1 a.m. daily with trains arriving approximately every 1 to 2 minutes during rush hours and at least every 6 minutes or less at all other times. Services operate all night during festive periods such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya Puasa.
- 1 History
- 2 Infrastructure
- 3 Expansion
- 4 Rolling stock
- 5 Fares and ticketing
- 6 Safety
- 7 Security
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The origins of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are derived from a forecast by city planners in 1967 which stated the need for a rail-based urban transport system by 1992. Following a debate on whether a bus-only system would be more cost-effective, the then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew came to the conclusion that an all-bus system would be inadequate, as it would have to compete for road space in a land-scarce country. The initial S$5 billion construction of the Mass Rapid Transit network was Singapore's largest public works project at the time, starting on 22 October 1983 at Shan Road. The network was built in stages, with the North South Line given priority because it passed through the Central Area that has a high demand for public transport. The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC), later renamed as SMRT Corporation — was established on 14 October 1983; it took over the roles and responsibilities of the former provisional Mass Rapid Transit Authority. On 7 November 1987, the first section of the North South Line started operations, consisting of five stations over six kilometres. Fifteen more stations were opened later, and the MRT system was officially launched on 12 March 1988 by Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore. Another 21 stations were subsequently added to the system; the opening of Boon Lay on the East West Line on 6 July 1990 marked the completion of the system two years ahead of schedule.
The MRT has subsequently been expanded. This includes a S$1.2 billion expansion of the North South Line into Woodlands, completing a continuous loop on 10 February 1996. The concept of having rail lines that bring people almost directly to their homes led to the introduction of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines connecting with the MRT network. On 6 November 1999, the first LRT trains on the Bukit Panjang LRT went into operation. In 2002, the Changi Airport and Expo stations were added to the MRT network. The North East Line, the first line operated by SBS Transit, opened on 20 June 2003, one of the first fully automated heavy rail lines in the world. On 15 January 2006, after intense lobbying by the public, Buangkok station was opened. The Boon Lay Extension of the East West Line, consisting of Pioneer and Joo Koon stations, began revenue service on 28 February 2009. The Circle Line opened in four stages from 28 May 2009 to 14 January 2012. Stage 1 of Downtown Line opened on 22 December 2013 with its official opening made on 21 December 2013 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The following table lists the Mass Rapid Transit lines that are currently operational:
|Name||Commencement||Next extension||Terminal||Stations||Length (km)||Depot||Operator|
|North South Line||7 November 1987||2019||Jurong East||Marina South Pier||26||45||Bishan Depot
Ulu Pandan Depot
|East West Line||12 December 1987||2016||Pasir Ris
|Circle Line||28 May 2009||2025||Dhoby Ghaut
|30†||35.4||Kim Chuan Depot||SMRT Trains|
|† excluding Bukit Brown, which is not operational.|
|Subtotal (Lines under SMRT Trains):||91||128.6|
|North East Line||20 June 2003||2030||HarbourFront||Punggol||16||20||Sengkang Depot||SBS Transit|
|Downtown Line||22 December 2013
|2024||Bugis||Chinatown||6||4.3||Kim Chuan Depot||SBS Transit|
|Subtotal (Lines under SBS Transit):||22||24.3|
Facilities and services
Except for the partly at-grade Bishan, the entirety of the MRT is elevated or underground. Most below-ground stations are deep and hardened enough to withstand conventional aerial bomb attacks and to serve as bomb shelters. Mobile phone service is available in and between all stations on the entire MRT network. Underground stations and the trains themselves are air-conditioned, though some above-ground stations have fans.
Every station is equipped with General Ticketing Machines (GTMs), a Passenger Service Centre, LED and plasma displays that show train service information and announcements. All stations are equipped with restrooms and payphones, although some restrooms are located at street level. Some stations, especially the major ones, have additional amenities and services, such as retail shops and kiosks, supermarkets, convenience stores, automatic teller machines, and self-service automated kiosks for a variety of services. Heavy-duty escalators at stations carry passengers up or down at a rate of 0.75 m/s, 50% faster than conventional escalators.
The older stations on the North South and East West lines were originally built with no accessibility facilities, such as lifts, ramps, tactile guidance systems (Braille tactiles on the floor surface), wider fare gates, or toilets for passengers with disabilities; authorities in the past actively discouraged use of their system by the disabled. Now, these facilities are being progressively installed as part of a programme to make all stations accessible to the elderly and to those with disabilities. All stations are now barrier-free, although works are still ongoing to provide stations with additional barrier-free facilities. The installation of lifts at pedestrian overhead bridges next to six MRT stations and additional bicycle racks at 20 stations is slated to be completed by the end of 2013.
SMRT Corporation has four train depots: Bishan Depot is the central maintenance depot with train overhaul facilities, while Changi Depot and Ulu Pandan Depot inspect and house trains overnight. In March 2012, it was announced the new Tuas Depot would be ready in 2016 for the East West Line. The underground Kim Chuan Depot houses trains for the Circle Line and Downtown Line, now jointly managed by the two operators.
SBS Transit has two depots: Sengkang Depot houses trains for the North East Line, the Sengkang LRT and the Punggol LRT. Kim Chuan Depot is currently jointly operated with SMRT for the Downtown Line. Major operations will eventually be shifted to the main Gali Batu Depot by 2016 although it will continue to operate on a minor capacity.
In August 2014, plans for the world's first four-in-one train and bus depot were announced. It will be built at Tanah Merah beside the original Changi Depot site to serve the East West, Downtown, and Thomson-East Coast lines. The new 36ha depot can house about 220 trains and 550 buses and integrating the depot for both buses and trains will help to save close to 60 football fields of land space.
Architecture and art
Early stages of the MRT's construction paid relatively scant attention to station design, with an emphasis on functionality over aesthetics. This is particularly evident in the first few stages of the North South and East West lines that opened between 1987 and 1988 from Yio Chu Kang to Clementi. An exception to this was Orchard, chosen by its designers to be a "showpiece" of the system and built initially with a domed roof. Architectural themes became a more important issue only in subsequent stages, and resulted in such designs as the cylindrical station shapes on all stations between Kallang and Pasir Ris except Eunos, and west of Boon Lay, and the perched roofs at Boon Lay, Lakeside, Chinese Garden, Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak, Choa Chu Kang, Khatib, Yishun and Eunos stations.
Art pieces, where present, are seldom highlighted; they primarily consist of a few paintings or sculptures representing the recent past of Singapore, mounted in major stations. The opening of the Woodlands Extension introduced bolder pieces of artwork, such as a 4,000 kg sculpture in Woodlands. With the opening of the North East Line, a series of artworks created under a programme called "The Art In Transit" were commissioned by the Land Transport Authority. Created by 19 local artists and integrated into the stations' interior architecture, these works aim to promote the appreciation of public art in high-traffic environments. The artwork for each station is designed to suit the station's identity. All stations on the North East, Circle and Downtown Lines come under this programme. An art contest was held by the authorities in preparation for a similar scheme to be implemented for the Circle Line.
Expo station, located on the Changi Airport branch of the East West Line, is adjacent to the 100,000-square-metre Singapore Expo exhibition facility. Designed by Foster and Partners and completed in January 2001, the station features a large, pillarless, titanium-clad roof in an elliptical shape that sheathes the length of the station platform. This complements a smaller 40-metre reflective stainless-steel disc overlapping the titanium ellipse and visually floats over a glass elevator shaft and the main entrance. The other station with similar architecture is Dover.
Changi Airport, the easternmost station on the MRT network, has the widest platform in any underground MRT station in Singapore. It is rated 10 out of 15 most beautiful subway stops in the world in 2011.
Two Circle Line stations, Bras Basah and Stadium, were commissioned through the Marina Line Architectural Design Competition jointly organized by the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Institute of Architects. The competition required no track record and is acknowledged by the industry as one of the most impartial competitions held in Singapore to date. The winner of both stations was WOHA. In 2009, "Best Transport Building" was awarded to the designers at WOHA Architects at the World Architecture Festival.
The MRT system relied on its two main lines, the North South and East West lines, for more than a decade until the opening of the North East Line in 2003. While plans for these lines as well as those currently under construction were formulated long before, the Land Transport Authority's publication of a White Paper titled "A World Class Land Transport System" in 1996 galvanised the government's intentions to greatly expand the system. It called for the expansion of the 67 kilometres of track in 1995 to 360 in 2030.  It was expected that daily ridership in 2030 would grow to 6.0 million from the 1.4 million passengers at that time
The following table lists Mass Rapid Transit lines that are currently under construction, or that are in the planning stages:
|Name||Commencement||Next extension||Terminal||Stations||Length (km)||Depot||Operator|
|Downtown Line||2016 (Stage 2)
2017 (Stage 3)
|30||37.6||Gali Batu Depot
Kim Chuan Depot
East Coast Line
|2019 (Stage 1)
2020 (Stage 2)
2021 (Stage 3)
2023 (Stage 4)
2024 (Stage 5)
|Sungei Bedok||31||43||Mandai Depot
|Jurong Region Line||2025||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||20||N/A||N/A|
|Cross Island Line||2030||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||50||N/A||N/A|
The 42-kilometre, 36 station fully underground Downtown Line, will connect the northwestern and eastern regions of Singapore to the new downtown at Marina Bay in the south and to the Central Business District. Similar to the Circle Line, three-car trainsets will run on the Downtown Line with line capacity projected for 500,000 commuters daily. Slated to be completed in three stages, Stages 2 from Bukit Panjang to Rochor and 3 from Fort Canning to Expo will begin operations in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Stage 1 from Bugis to Chinatown began operations in December 2013.
Thomson-East Coast Line
The 43-kilometre, 31 station fully underground Thomson-East Coast Line will connect the northern region of Singapore to the south, running parallel to the existing North South Line passing through Woodlands, Sin Ming, Upper Thomson and Marina Bay before turning east and running through Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Marine Parade and Bedok. The line will commence operation in three stages, with Stage 1 from Woodlands North to Woodlands South opening in 2019, Stage 2 from Springleaf to Caldecott opening in 2020 and Stage 3 from Mount Pleasant to Gardens by the Bay opening in 2021, Stage 4 from Tanjong Rhu to Bayshore in 2023 and Stage 5 from Bedok South to Sungei Bedok in 2024. The northern terminus of Woodlands North is also expected to interchange with the Singapore-Johor rail link to provide access to Johor Bahru and the future JB Metro.
Jurong Region Line
First proposed as a LRT line when originally announced in 2001, the Jurong Region Line has since been upgraded to be a medium capacity line after the project was revived in 2013. The new configuration will serve West Coast, Tengah and Choa Chu Kang and Jurong. Details will be announced once Tengah New Town development is up, and the completion will be by 2025.
Cross Island Line
The 50-kilometre Cross Island Line will span the island of Singapore, passing through Tuas, Jurong, Sin Ming, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Punggol, Pasir Ris and Changi. The addition of the new line brings commuters with another alternative for East-West travel to the current East West Line. It will also connect to all the other major lines to serve as a key transfer line, complementing the role currently fulfilled by the orbital Circle Line. This line will even have a longer timeframe due to the environmental study aspects, with the completion by 2031.
Tuas West extension
The Tuas West Extension is an extension of the East West Line from Joo Koon to Tuas Link. The stations — Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link — will extend MRT connectivity to the Tuas area and are expected to serve more than 100,000 commuters daily. Construction began in 2012 and is planned to be completed in 2016.
Circle Line Stage 6
Downtown Line 3 extension
North East Line extension
To be completed by 2030, the 2-kilometre extension will run from Punggol through Punggol North including the new Punggol Downtown. The extension is for future residents in Punggol North to have train access to the city centre as well as other parts of Singapore.
The following table lists the rolling stock of the network:
|Total||Service Start||Power Supply||Price|
|C151||North South Line
East West Line
|6||400||7 November 1987||DC 750 V
|C651||6||114||20 September 1994||N/A|
|C751B||6||126[a]||28 January 2000||N/A|
|C151A||6||210||27 May 2011||S$368 million|
|C751A||North East Line||6||150||20 June 2003||1500 V
|C830||Circle Line||3||120||28 May 2009||DC 750 V
|C951||Downtown Line||3||264||20 December 2013||DC 750 V
East Coast Line
At present, all Singapore lines run with fixed length trains between three and six cars, with the future Thomson-East Coast Line utilizing four cars. Since the system's conception in 1987, all train lines have been powered by the 750 volt DC third rail, with the exception of the North East Line which relies on 1500 volts direct current supplied via overhead lines. The North South and East West lines uses an automatic train operation system that is similar to London Underground's Victoria line.
No rolling stock has been completely scrapped since service began, with the oldest C151 trains operating continuously since 1987. Older trains have been renewed over the years under refurbishment schemes to enhance their lifespan as well as to adhere to updated safety and usability codes. Refurbished and new trains sport sleeker designs, improved passenger information systems, more grab poles, wider seats, more space near the doors, spaces for wheelchairs and CCTV cameras. As a trial run, luggage racks were installed on the C751B trains to serve travellers on the Changi Airport branch line. However, the scheme was subsequently withdrawn in June 2002 and the luggage racks removed.
All trains are contracted by open tender, with their contract numbers forming the most recognized name of the stock. Official sources occasionally refer to the trains of the North South and East West lines as numbered generation trains, with the C151 train being the first and C151B train being the fifth.
Fares and ticketing
Stations are divided into two areas, paid and unpaid, which allow the rail operators to collect fares by restricting entry only through the fare gates, also known as access control gates. These gates, connected to a computer network, can read and update electronic tickets capable of storing data, and can store information such as the initial and destination stations and the duration for each trip. General Ticketing Machines sell tickets for single trips or allow the customer to buy additional value for stored-value tickets. Tickets for single trips, coloured in green, are valid only on the day of purchase, and have a time allowance of 30 minutes beyond the estimated travelling time. Tickets that can be used repeatedly until their expiry date require a minimum amount of stored credit.
As the fare system has been integrated by TransitLink, commuters need to pay only one fare and pass through two fare gates (once on entry, once on exit) for an entire journey, even when transferring between lines operated by different companies. Commuters can choose to extend a trip mid-journey, and pay the difference when they exit their destination station.
Because the rail operators are government-assisted, profit-based corporations, fares on the MRT system are pitched to at least break-even level. The operators collect these fares by selling electronic data-storing tickets, the prices of which are calculated based on the distance between the start and destination stations. These prices increase in fixed stages for standard non-discounted travel. Fares are calculated in increments based on approximate distances between stations, in contrast to the use of fare zones in other subway systems, such as the London Underground.
Although operated by private companies, the system's fare structure is regulated by the Public Transport Council (PTC), to which the operators submit requests for changes in fares. Fares are kept affordable by pegging them approximately to distance-related bus fares, thus encouraging commuters to use the network and reduce its heavy reliance on the bus system. Fare increases over the past few years have caused public concern, the latest one having taken effect from 1 October 2008. There were similar expressions of disapproval over the slightly higher fares charged on SBS Transit's North East Line, a disparity that SBS Transit justified by citing higher costs of operation and maintenance on a completely underground line, as well as lower patronage.
The ticketing system uses the EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay contactless smart cards based upon the Symphony for e-Payment (SeP) system for public transit built on the Singapore Standard for Contactless ePurse Application (CEPAS) system. This system allows for up to 4 card issuers in the market. The EZ-Link card was introduced on 13 April 2002 as a replacement for the original TransitLink farecard, while its competitor the NETS FlashPay card entered the smartcard market on 9 October 2009.
An adult EZ-Link card may be bought at any TransitLink Ticket Office or Passenger Service Centre. The card may also be used for payment for goods and services at merchants displaying the "EZ-Link" logo, Electronic Road Pricing tolls, and Electronic Parking System carparks. Additional credit may be purchased at any General Ticketing Machine, Add Value Machine, TransitLink Ticket Office, Passenger Service Centre, AXS Station, DBS/POSB Automatic Teller Machine, online via a card reader purchased separately, or selected merchants. Additional credit of a predetermined value may also be automatically purchased whenever the card value is low via an automatic recharge service provided by Interbank GIRO or through a manual application at the TransitLink Ticket Office or credit card online. An option for EZ-Link Season Pass for unlimited travel on buses and trains is available for purchase and is non-transferable. Its main competitor, the NETS FlashPay card, may be purchased for at least S$12 for the payment of transport fares in Singapore and at merchants displaying the "NETS FlashPay" logo.
A Standard Ticket contactless smart card for single trips may also be purchased, inclusive of a deposit, for the payment of MRT and LRT fares. The card may be purchased only at the GTM. The deposit may also be retrieved by returning the card to the GTM within 30 days from the date of issue or donated to charity by depositing it in a collection box at any station. This card cannot be recharged with additional credit.
For tourists, a Singapore Tourist Pass contactless smartcard may be purchased. The card may be bought at selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and Singapore Visitors Centres. The deposit may be retrieved by returning the card to selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and Singapore Visitors Centres within 5 days from the date of issue.
Operators and authorities state that numerous measures had been taken to ensure the safety of passengers, and SBS Transit publicised the safety precautions on the driverless North East Line before and after its opening. Safety campaign posters are highly visible in trains and stations, and the operators frequently broadcast safety announcements to passengers and to commuters waiting for trains. Fire safety standards are consistent with the strict guidelines of the US National Fire Protection Association.
There were calls for platform screen doors to be installed at above-ground stations after several incidents in which passengers were killed by oncoming trains when they fell onto the railway tracks at above-ground stations. Underground stations already featured the doors since 1987. The authorities initially rejected the proposal by casting doubts over functionality and concerns about the high installation costs, but made an about-turn when the government announced plans to install half-height platform screen doors on the above-ground stations in January 2008, citing lower costs due to it becoming a more common feature worldwide. They were first installed at Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Yishun stations in 2009 under trials to test their feasibility.
By 14 March 2012, all above-ground stations have been retrofitted with the doors and are operational. These prevent suicides, enable climate control in underground stations and prevent unauthorised access to restricted areas. Under the Rapid Transit Systems Act, acts such as smoking, eating or drinking on stations and trains, the misuse of emergency equipment and trespassing on the railway tracks are illegal, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
There were a few major accidents in the history of the MRT that raised safety concerns among the public. On 5 August 1993, two trains collided at Clementi station because of an oil spillage on the track, which resulted in 132 injuries. During the construction of the Circle Line on 20 April 2004, a tunnel being constructed under Nicoll Highway collapsed and led to the deaths of four people. The overall reliability of the ageing North South and East West lines were questioned by the public after multiple major train disruptions in December 2011 led to a Committee of Inquiry, which uncovered serious shortcomings in SMRT Corporation's maintenance regime. Since then, every MRT line has been plagued with major to minor disruptions.
Security concerns related to crime and terrorism were not high on the agenda of the system's planners at its inception. However, after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the foiled plot to bomb the Yishun MRT Station, the operators deployed private, unarmed guards to patrol station platforms and check the belongings of commuters.
Recorded announcements are frequently made to remind passengers to report suspicious activity and not to leave their belongings unattended. Digital closed-circuit cameras (CCTVs) have been upgraded with recording-capability at all stations and trains operated by SMRT Corporation. Trash bins and mail boxes have been removed from station platforms and concourse levels to station entrances, to eliminate the risk that bombs will be placed in them. Photography without permission was also banned in all MRT stations since the Madrid bombings, but it was not in the official statement in any public transport security reviews.
On 14 April 2005 the Singapore Police Force announced plans to step up rail security by establishing a specialised security unit for public transport, the unit today is known as the Public Transport Security Command or more commonly known as TRANSCOM. These armed officers began overt patrols on the MRT and LRT systems on 15 August 2005, conducting random patrols in pairs in and around rail stations and within trains. They are trained and authorised to use their firearms at their discretion, including deadly force if deemed necessary. On 8 January 2006, a major civil exercise involving over 2,000 personnel from 22 government agencies, codenamed Exercise Northstar V, simulating bombing and chemical attacks at Dhoby Ghaut, Toa Payoh, Raffles Place and Marina Bay MRT stations was conducted. Thirteen stations were closed and about 3,400 commuters were affected during the three-hour exercise.
Security concerns were brought up by the public when two incidents of vandalism at train depots occurred within two years. In both incidents, graffiti on the affected trains were discovered after they entered revenue service. The first incident, on 17 May 2010, involved a breach in the perimeter fence of Changi Depot and resulted in the imprisonment and caning of a Swiss citizen, and an Interpol arrest warrant for his accomplice. The train involved was a C151 train. SMRT Corporation received a S$50,000 fine by the Land Transport Authority for the first security breach. Measures were put in place by the Public Transport Security Committee to enhance depot security in light of the first incident, but works were yet to be completed by SMRT Corporation when the second incident, on 17 August 2011, occurred at Bishan Depot.
On 22 November 2012, the Land Transport Authority carried out a ground deployment exercise with SMRT to test their incident management plans in the event of a train service disruption. In total, about 135 personnel including representatives from the Singapore Police Force's Transport Command (TransCom) and SBS Transit participated in the exercise. Train service continued as per normal and commuters were not affected by the exercise. Codenamed 'Exercise Greyhound', the exercise went through the scenario of a broken rail on the East West Line at Buona Vista. SMRT had also activated their Rail Incident Management Plan.
On 22 August 2013, ‘Exercise Greyhound 2013’ was carried out by the Land Transport Authority with SBS Transit to validate the procedures of SBST’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) and the workability of its contingency plans for bus bridging, free bus service and deployment of Goodwill Ambassadors (GAs) during a simulated prolonged train service disruption. About 300 personnel including representatives from LTA, SBST, SMRT, the Singapore Police Force’s Transport Command (TransCom), Traffic Police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) participated in the exercise. Train service continued as per normal and commuters were not affected by the exercise.
- List of Singapore MRT stations
- Light Rail Transit (Singapore)
- Transport in Singapore
- List of metro systems
- Medium-capacity rail transport system
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Media related to Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore) at Wikimedia Commons
- Land Transport Authority official website
- SBS Transit official website
- SMRT Corporation official website
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