North East MRT Line

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North East MRT Line
Laluan MRT Timur Laut
வடக்கு கிழக்கு எம்ஆர்டி வழி
MRT map NE.svg
The North East Line is coloured purple on system maps.
Type Rapid transit
System Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore)
Status Operational
Termini HarbourFront
Stations 16
Services 1
Daily ridership 549,000 (Q3 2015)
Opened 20 June 2003
15 January 2006 (Buangkok)
20 June 2011 (Woodleigh)
Owner Land Transport Authority
Operator(s) SBS Transit (ComfortDelGro Corporation)
Character Underground
Rolling stock Alstom Metropolis C751A
Alstom Metropolis C751C
Line length 20 km (12 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 1500V DC Overhead catenary
Operating speed limit of 90 km/h
Route map
Dhoby Ghaut
 NE1  CC29  HarbourFront
Paya Lebar
 NE3  EW16  TE17  Outram Park
Pasir Ris
  Joo Koon
Woodlands North
  Sungei Bedok
 NE4  DT19  Chinatown
Sungei Bedok
 NE5  Clarke Quay
Singapore River
 NE6  NS24  CC1  Dhoby Ghaut
Marina South Pier
  Jurong East
  Bukit Panjang
 NE7  DT12  Little India
 NE8  Farrer Park
 NE9  Boon Keng
 NE10  Potong Pasir
 NE11  Woodleigh
 NE12  CC13  Serangoon
Dhoby Ghaut
 NE13  Kovan
 NE14  Hougang
 NE15  Buangkok
Sengkang Depot
West Loop:  Fernvale via Renjong 
East Loop:  Bakau via Ranggung 
 NE16  STC  Sengkang
West Loop:  Fernvale via Cheng Lim 
East Loop:  Bakau via Compassvale 
West Loop:  Samudera via Soo Teck 
East Loop  Riviera via Cove 
 NE17  PTC  Punggol
West Loop:  Samudera via Sam Kee 
East Loop:  Riviera via Damai 
The North East Line is coloured purple in the MRT system map.

The North East Line (NEL) is the third Mass Rapid Transit line in Singapore and the world's second longest fully underground, automated and driverless, rapid transit line after the Circle Line.[1] The line is 20 km long with 16 stations. Travelling from one end of this line to the other end takes 33 minutes.[2] This line is coloured purple in the rail map.


Buangkok MRT Station exterior

As the name implies, the line connects central Singapore to the north-eastern part of the island. Transfer to the North South Line is provided at Dhoby Ghaut, to the East West Line at Outram Park and to the Circle Line at Serangoon, Dhoby Ghaut and HarbourFront. The North East Line interchanges with the Downtown Line at Chinatown and Little India. The North East Line will interchange with the future Thomson-East Coast Line at Outram Park. It passes through the busy areas such as Chinatown, Clarke Quay and Dhoby Ghaut of which it is home to the historical and cultural value, and through the mature and new residential estates at Potong Pasir, Serangoon, Hougang, Sengkang and Punggol. The North East Line passes through the Eu Tong Sen Street, Serangoon Road, Bendemeer Underpass, Upper Serangoon Road and the Upper Serangoon Viaduct. This line is the first in Singapore to be entirely underground and the first line to be operated by SBS Transit.

The North East Line is the first line in Singapore to have artwork integrated into all its 16 stations under the Art in Transit programme. Other than the Art in Transit programme, the interior architecture for the stations are typical of the design of the early 2000s with lots of white, glass and steel. This kind of design can be seen in other subway stations built during this period like the Shenzhen Metro and Hong Kong MTR's Tseung Kwan O line.

As of 2015, trains operate at two-minute intervals during peak hours, five-minute intervals during mid-day service and six-minute intervals in the early morning and night times.


North East Line dates back to 1986, where the Communications Minister Yeo Ning Hong had announced that it would be "feasible to extend the MRT once it is 3 million". The line would have gone from Punggol and Seletar/Jalan Kayu to Outram Park.

In the initial stages of planning, Outram Park was initially planned to be the southern terminus of the North East Line. However, in 1993, the Land Transport Authority decided to extend the line southwards to HarbourFront, after noting that many people liked to go to the World Trade Centre (the present day HarbourFront Centre).

The Land Transport Authority received approval for the construction of the North East Line on 16 January 1996, shortly after the plans were feasible once the Hougang Central Bus Interchange is already opened since 17 December 1994. French company Alstom was chosen as the main contractor and manager of the project. The operating license was given to new rail operator SBS Transit in order to foster competition with SMRT Trains. Construction began on 1 January 1997 and was completed on 20 January 2001, but all the stations had been completed with new signages.

The line was scheduled for completion in December 2002, but due to various problems in the automation, the opening was repeatedly delayed. It was finally opened on 20 June 2003, with higher fares than existing lines supposedly to compensate for the heavy construction costs (S$4.6 billion).

At the time that the line was opened, all of the stations were operating except Buangkok and Woodleigh. SBS Transit announced that these would open only when there was a critical mass of passengers in those areas. With respect to Buangkok, which had already been fully built, the company claimed that the projected number of passengers was too low to cover operating costs. Constant public pressure, notably the "White Elephant" incident and subsequent media attention, forced it to review the situation and the station duly opened on 15 January 2006. The last station on the line, Woodleigh, opened on 20 June 2011 in anticipation of an American International School which is under construction in the vicinity of the station that is slated to open in 2012.[3]

Punggol Downtown Extension (PGDe)[edit]

On 17 January 2013, a 2-kilometre extension which will run from Punggol through Punggol North including the new Punggol Downtown was announced. It is expected to be completed by 2030.[4]

Busiest MRT Station[edit]

Dhoby Ghaut was previously the busiest station on the line. But a week after VivoCity (a shopping mall) opened, HarbourFront's daily ridership doubled to 60,000 passengers a day, becoming the busiest MRT station on the North East Line.


Doors of the NEL Train, showing the line map above them before Woodleigh and Buangkok opened.
The interior of a NEL train.
Station Number Station Name Interchange/Notes
 NE1  CC29  HarbourFront Change for the Circle Line
 NE2  Future Station (reserved station for future use)
 NE3  EW16  TE17  Outram Park Change for the East West Line or Thomson-East Coast Line (2021)
 NE4  DT19  Chinatown Change for the Downtown Line
 NE5  Clarke Quay  
 NE6  NS24  CC1  Dhoby Ghaut Change for the North South Line or Circle Line
 NE7  DT12  Little India Change for the Downtown Line
 NE8  Farrer Park  
 NE9  Boon Keng  
 NE10  Potong Pasir  
 NE11  Woodleigh  
 NE12  CC13  Serangoon Change for the Circle Line
 NE13  Kovan  
 NE14  Hougang  
 NE15  Buangkok  
 NE16  STC  Sengkang Change for the Sengkang LRT
 NE17  PTC  Punggol Change for the Punggol LRT
 NE18  TBA (Located in Punggol North)

The North East Line's numbering scheme reserves station code NE2 between HarbourFront (NE1) and Outram Park (NE3).

Rolling stock[edit]

The front cabin of a NEL train, showing the emergency exit.

The rolling stock consists of Alstom Metropolis C751A trains, running in six-car formation. These trains operate from Sengkang Depot near Buangkok Station on the North East Line. The Sengkang Depot has maintenance and train overhaul facilities for trains along the North East Line. In 2010, the government announced that they would be looking to increase the number of trains on the North East Line by 70% within 5 to 6 years to cater to an expected increase in passenger traffic. The new trains will be called Alstom Metropolis C751C.[5][6]

This is the only line which uses a pantograph system for collecting power from overhead catenary; all other lines take power from a third rail.

Train Control[edit]

The North East Line is equipped with Alstom Urbalis 300 Communications-based train control (CBTC) moving block signalling system on the MASTRIA system with Automatic train control (ATC) under Automatic train operation (ATO) GoA 4 (UTO).[7] The subsystems consist of Automatic train protection (ATP) to govern train speed, Iconis Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) to track and schedule trains and Smartlock Computer-based interlocking (CBI) system that prevents incorrect signal and track points to be set.

Train Data Management System (TDMS) which concentrate and dispatch the rolling stock information with fixed equipment. The IAGO Waveguide communications network has the capability to transmit video and is almost maintenance-free. Base stations are located within the signalling equipment room.

Automatic platform screen doors supplied by Westinghouse provide safety for passengers, offering protection from arriving and departing trains.

Line disruptions[edit]

On 15 March 2012, more than 117,000 commuters were affected during a peak hour train breakdown between Dhoby Ghaut and HarbourFront, caused by faulty overhead power cables at the tunnel of the Outram Park that had snapped. A second problem was discovered relating to electricity insulation, delaying the service further. Train services resumed at 4.35 pm after nearly 10 hours of disruption making it the third breakdown in 4 months.[8][9][10] Subsequently, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) intends to impose financial penalties amounting to S$400,000 on SBS Transit for the train service disruption along the North East Line on 15 March 2012.[11]

On 13 October 2015, train service was disrupted between Farrer Park and Hougang for more than half an hour due to a power fault. It was triggered by a malfunction of a component in the electrical switchgear at a substation which caused the main circuit breaker to trip. As an interim measure, SBS Transit has increased the protection setting of the circuit breaker to cater for the projected maximum load of the network.

On 26 October 2015, about 41,000 commuters were affected during morning peak hour when a power fault crippled the whole line from Punggol to Harbourfront stations. This is the first time that both the north- and south-bound service are affected which resulted in the mobilization of about 100 free shuttle buses across the NEL. The Alstom Metropolis C751C train was returning to the Sengkang Depot when the driver saw sparks from above the train and stopped the train at a stretch where the mainline and depot catenary system wires overlap. This resulted in arching between the wires of the mainline and the depot. This caused the catenary system wires to melt and eventually snap. As a precautionary measure, SBS Transit has marked non-stopping areas at all overlapping zones and reduced electrical voltage difference between the catenary system wires at the overlap point, in case trains stop at this stretch.[12]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]