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North East MRT line

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MRT Singapore Destination 6.svg MRT Singapore Destination 7.svg
North East line
North East Line logo.svg
NE17 Punggol MRT Platform A 20220718 184720.jpg
A C751A train at Punggol station, northeastern terminus of the line
Overview
Native nameLaluan MRT Timur Laut
东北地铁线
வடக்கு கிழக்கு எம்ஆர்டி வழி
StatusOperational
Under construction (Punggol Coast)
OwnerLand Transport Authority
LocaleSingapore
Termini
Stations16[a]
1 (Under construction)
Service
TypeRapid transit
SystemMass Rapid Transit (Singapore)
Services1
Operator(s)SBS Transit (ComfortDelGro Corporation)
Depot(s)Sengkang
Rolling stockAlstom Metropolis C751A
Alstom Metropolis C751C
Alstom Metropolis C851E (Future)
Daily ridership230,852 (July 2021)[1]
History
Planned opening2024; 2 years' time (2024) (Punggol Coast)
Opened20 June 2003; 19 years ago (2003-06-20)
15 January 2006; 16 years ago (2006-01-15) (Buangkok)
20 June 2011; 11 years ago (2011-06-20) (Woodleigh)
Technical
Line length20 km (12 mi) (Operational)
1.6 km (0.99 mi) (Under construction)
CharacterFully Underground
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification1,500 V DC from overhead catenary
Operating speedlimit of 90 km/h (56 mph)
Route map

 NE18 
Punggol Coast
Punggol LRT
West loop│East loop
 NE17 
 PTC 
 CP4 
Punggol
Punggol LRT
West loop│East loop
Sengkang LRT
West loop│East loop
 NE16 
 STC 
Sengkang
Sengkang LRT
West loop│East loop
 NE15 
Buangkok
 NE14 
Hougang
 CR8 
 NE13 
Kovan
 CC13 
 NE12 
Serangoon
 NE11 
Woodleigh
 NE10 
Potong Pasir
 NE9 
Boon Keng
 NE8 
Farrer Park
 NE7 
Little India
 DT12 
 NE6 
Dhoby Ghaut
 CC1 
 NS24 
 NE5 
Clarke Quay
 DT19 
 NE4 
Chinatown
 TE17 
 EW16 
 NE3 
Outram Park
 NE1 
HarbourFront Singapore Cruise Centre Singapore Cable Car Sentosa Express
 CC29 

The North East MRT line (NEL) is a high-capacity Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line in Singapore. Operated by SBS Transit, it is the shortest MRT line at 20 kilometres (12 mi). The line runs from HarbourFront station in southern Singapore to Punggol station in the northeast, serving 16 stations via Chinatown, Little India, Serangoon and Hougang. Coloured purple on official maps, it is the country's first fully automated underground rail line.

The third MRT line in Singapore, the NEL was conceptualised in the 1980s and 1990s. The line was planned to alleviate traffic congestion on the roads leading to the northeast suburbs. The alignment and stations were finalised in 1996. Completed at a cost of S$5 billion, the line began operations on 20 June 2003, with the exception of two stations. Buangkok station opened on 15 January 2006, and Woodleigh station began operations on 20 June 2011. A one-station extension to Punggol Coast station is under construction and expected to be completed in 2024.

Being driverless, the line adopts the moving-block Alstom Urbalis 300 CBTC signalling system. Two rolling stocks supplied by Alstom – C751A and C751C – run the line, and are powered by an overhead catenary system. The NEL also saw the launch of the Art-in-Transit programme, with eighteen artworks displayed across the 16 stations.

History[edit]

Conceptualisation and plans[edit]

Conceptual plans for the North East Line.

The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) first proposed an additional MRT line serving the northeastern areas of Punggol and Jalan Kayu in September 1984.[2] In its preliminary studies, the Communications Ministry concluded that roads would be insufficient to serve the future housing estates that will be built in the 21st century. To minimise the impact on other developments, plans for the line were developed early to determine the parcels of land needed for the line's construction.[3] In December, a British consultancy team, consisting of Sir William Halcrow and Partners, Merz & McLellan and London Transport International, was appointed to look into possible routes for the line.[4]

In March 1986, the British firm drew up a tentative route from Outram Park to Punggol. The line would interchange with the existing MRT system at Dhoby Ghaut station and pass through Kandang Kerbau and Hougang, paralleling the major roads of Serangoon Road and Upper Serangoon Road. A branch line from Hougang to Jalan Kayu was also proposed. The segment of the line in the city would be underground, while the portion after Braddell Road would be elevated.[5] The MRTC, which approved the project in October,[6] had proposed that the line be linked with Bishan Depot, which would maintain and service trains running on the future line.[7] In February 1991, it was further proposed to extend the line to Pulau Tekong via Pulau Ubin. The extension would serve future residential and industrial developments outlined in the long-term plans for these islands.[8]

Delay in implementation[edit]

While the government approved the NEL "in principle" in January 1989, Communications Minister Yeo Ning Hong said the line's construction was dependent on developments in the northeast.[9] The Woodlands line extension,[b] costing S$1.35 billion (US$0.7 billion), took precedence over the S$4.3 billion (US$2.4 billion) NEL. Yeo's successor, Mah Bow Tan, had explained that, given the low population of the northeast area, it would not be financially viable to build the NEL in lieu of the Woodlands extension.[11] Mah had also earlier explained in 1992 that the Woodlands extension was built because, unlike the northeast, plans were already "firmed up" for developments in Woodlands. Mah said the line would be built when housing developments in the northeast were completed.[12] The four Members of Parliament (MPs) in the northeast, however, called for the line to be built earlier, stating that there would be sufficient demand given the area's population. They also said the MRT line would resolve the area's traffic congestion.[11]

Reviewing the line's feasibility,[13] the Communications Ministry stated in 1995 that if construction on the NEL started promptly, it could be completed in 2002. However, the line was projected to cost S$5 billion (US$3.5 billion) and would operate at a loss of S$250 million (US$176.4 million) during its first four years of operation, with lower daily passenger numbers of 240,000. Nevertheless, the Communications Ministry recommended to the Cabinet that the NEL be constructed, citing "wider benefits" such as enhanced travelling time and reduced reliance on cars for Singaporeans.[14]

There's no question about our desire or willingness to bring this extension forward. I believe it's worth the effort. It's worth doing. I believe residents will show their commitment and willingness to help us bring the gap in operating costs.

– Mah Bow Tan, during his engagement with the grassroots leaders at Punggol Community Club on 22 October 1995.[15]

Due to the line's higher costs and the projected deficit, Mah, in his engagements with the grassroots leaders in October, suggested that the residents would have to be prepared to pay higher fares on the NEL to cover the initial losses. The decision was divisive among the leaders. Some felt it would be unfair for the residents, while others were confident that the residents would be willing "to pay for a better quality of life". Increased fares for the entire network were also suggested, but Mah replied that it would be more difficult to apply such a principle. During the engagements, Mah assured the leaders that the government was willing to bring the line's construction forward and that he would make the recommendation to the government for the line to be constructed.[15][16]

The 1996 White Paper, unveiled on 2 January 1996, outlined that the NEL would be built earlier to address congestion on the northeast corridor, which would also be enhanced by express bus services.[17][18] Shortly after on 19 January, during the debate on the White Paper, the government announced it had decided to build the NEL "immediately", which was met with applause in the Parliament.[19]

Construction and opening[edit]

Exterior of Punggol
Punggol station's construction was brought forward to serve the new developments in the area
North East Line stations timeline
Date Project Description
20 June 2003 North East Line HarbourFrontPunggol (14 stations)
15 January 2006 Opening of Buangkok station
20 June 2011 Opening of Woodleigh station
2024 North East Line Extension PunggolPunggol Coast (1 station)

The 16 NEL stations and their locations were announced on 4 March 1996.[20] Many residents and politicians welcomed the announcement, as the line was expected to relieve traffic congestion, improve transport connections in the northeast and stimulate developments around the station sites.[21][22] Thirteen civil contracts for the trackwork and for construction of the stations, Sengkang Depot and associated tunnels were awarded at a total sum of S$2.8 billion (US$1.9 billion). Sixteen more contracts related to electrical and mechanical works were awarded at a total sum of S$1 billion (US$3.5 billion).[23]

To construct the line, 20 ha (49 acres) of private land was acquired, while 43 ha (110 acres) of government land were returned to the State.[20] Several rental HDB blocks, private homes and shophouses had to be acquired,[24] which dismayed many affected residents.[25] Those who had been asked to relocate in July requested more time to seek new premises.[26] Construction of the line began with a groundbreaking ceremony at Farrer Park station on 25 November 1997.[27][28] On 20 May 1999, SBS Transit (then Singapore Bus Service Ltd) was appointed to operate the line along with the Sengkang and Punggol LRT systems. With bus operations in the area handed over from Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) to the newly appointed operator, SBS then had control over both bus and rail services in the northeast, allowing the inter-modal integration that the government aimed for.[29][30]

Construction challenges on the line include having to divert the Eu Tong Seng canal into pipes for the construction of Chinatown station[31][32] and having to avoid flooding the tunnels and station while boring the tunnels underneath the Singapore River between the Clarke Quay and Dhoby Ghaut stations.[33] At Outram Park station, to minimise any movement to the East West line (EWL) tunnels, an arch roof of steel pipes filled with cement were laid underneath the EWL tunnels.[34] Jet grout arches were also used to support the North South line (NSL) tunnels when explosives were used to remove the hard rock while tunnelling from Clarke Quay to Dhoby Ghaut.[35] Various roads around the line's route had to be temporarily diverted for the line's construction.[36]

When the 16 stations were announced, Potong Pasir (then named Sennett), Woodleigh and Punggol were not to be built along with the other stations due to the lack of developments around the stations' sites at the time.[37] The timeline for constructing Punggol station was brought forward to serve the upcoming Punggol 21 developments.[38][39] The decision not to build and open Sennett station, however, generated political controversy, with claims by residents and opposition MP Chiam See Tong that the station would only open if the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) secured the constituency.[40][41] In 2002, following a revised study on ridership numbers, the government decided to open the station when the other NEL stations opened, citing projected developments around the site. The station was also given its present name.[42]

The NEL was initially expected to be completed by the end of 2002,[43][44] with various SBS staff being trained on train maintenance and the various technical aspects of the fully automated system.[45] However, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in September 2002 stated that the line might be opened later, in April 2003, to allow sufficient time for tests on the line.[46] The line's systems were handed over to SBS Transit on 16 December, with the operator carrying out further tests.[47] Due to a glitch in the signalling system, however, the NEL's opening was delayed further to June, with tests briefly being handed over to the LTA.[48] As it had to bear the cost of maintenance and manpower, SBS Transit sought compensation from the government for the delay.[49]

With the exception of two stations (Buangkok and Woodleigh),[50] the NEL commenced operations on 20 June 2003.[51] About 140,000 people visited and took the NEL on its opening day. Many who visited were impressed by the comfort and fast speed of the new line. However, two delays occurred on the opening day. A train, stalled between Boon Keng and Potong Pasir, had to be manually steered to Farrer Park. Another train failed to depart Dhoby Ghaut station, as its sensors mistakenly indicated that a set of doors remained open, and hence was pulled from service.[52] The line's official opening ceremony took place on 28 August.[53]

Though the NEL has seen a few glitches since its opening, it has been very reliable and generally well received by commuters, with operations running smoothly.[54] In July 2003, the International Association of Public Transport heralded the NEL as a model public transport system for the future, with other driverless systems being planned around the world.[55] In June 2004, SBS Transit reported that it had only experienced one 15-minute delay every six weeks, compared to the expected twice-a-week delay.[56]

Opening of reserved stations[edit]

Buangkok station entrance
An entrance to Buangkok MRT station in August 2006, shortly after its opening

On 17 June 2003, operator SBS Transit announced that two stations – Woodleigh and Buangkok – would not open along with the other NEL stations. Due to the lack of developments, the operator said keeping the stations closed would reduce operating costs by S$2–3 million.[57] Residents around the system were upset by the sudden decision to keep Buangkok station closed, but they were assured by MPs and grassroots leaders that the station would be opened.[58][59]

The government initially stood by SBS Transit's decision to keep the station closed, with plans to open the station only in 2006 when there were more residential flats built in the area.[53][60] It was further pushed to 2008, following projections for the housing development plans for the area.[61] With public pressure and after residents promised to use the station,[62] SBS Transit announced at the end of 2005 that it would open the station on 15 January 2006.[63][64]

The station opened "with much fanfare", with various activities, including a walk-a-jog, organised for the opening event.[65][66] Since its opening, however, the station only had 1,386 daily riders on average, as opposed to the expected 6,000 daily riders.[67] Many residents still traveled to the adjacent stations of Sengkang and Hougang due to the amenities around these stations.[68] Nevertheless, SBS Transit, after stating that it was still "too early to draw a conclusion" on the ridership,[67] remained committed to keeping the station open so it could serve future developments nearby.[68]

Woodleigh station, built near the former Bidadari cemetery,[69] was scheduled to be opened about seven or eight years after the rest of the NEL opened.[70][71] In January 2011, The Straits Times reported that preparations for the station's opening had been ongoing since the second half of 2010; the newspaper speculated that the station would open in mid-2011 to serve new developments in the area.[72] In a parliament session in March, Transport Minister Raymond Lim confirmed that Woodleigh station would open on 20 June 2011.[73] On the opening day, however, several commuters alighted at Woodleigh station by accident, having intended to alight at the adjacent Serangoon station and being unaware that Woodleigh had opened. The operator deployed several staff to assist the confused commuters. Other curious commuters alighted to view the station interior or try an alternative route from the station.[74][75]

North East Line extension (NELe)[edit]

Construction of connecting tunnels to Punggol Coast station

On 17 January 2013, then-Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew announced that it would construct a one-station extension to the NEL to serve the upcoming developments in Punggol North.[76] While it was initially planned to extend the line by 2030,[77][78] then-Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng announced on 7 June 2017 that the 1.6-kilometre (0.99 mi) extension would be accelerated to 2023 in conjunction with development plans for the area.[79][80][81]

The contract for the construction of the extension was awarded in December, and construction began that month.[82][83][84] While tunneling works were completed on 13 November 2020, transport minister Ong Ye Kung announced that Punggol Coast station's completion would be delayed to 2024 due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.[85][86]

Network and operations[edit]

Services[edit]

Geographically accurate map of the North East MRT line.

As of July 2021, the NEL has a daily ridership of 230,852.[1] The NEL generally operates between 5:30 am and 12:30 am daily. On weekdays and Saturdays, the first train on the line departs from the northern terminus Punggol at 5.42 am, while the last train on the line departs from the southern terminus HarbourFront at 11:56 pm.[87] Trains on the NEL run every 2.5 to 5 minutes.[88] The total travel time between the NEL's termini is 32 minutes.[89]

The NEL initially had a higher fare structure compared to the North South and East West lines due to the higher operating costs.[90] On 30 December 2016, however, fares on the NEL were lowered to match the other modes of transport under a "purely distance-based approach". This revision, undertaken following a fare review by the Public Transport Council, was intended to minimise confusion for commuters.[91][92]

The NEL is the first line to be operated by SBS Transit.[30] Since 2018, the NEL has transited into the New Rail Financing Framework (NRFF). Previously, the operator, being the owner of the rail assets, had to bear the full cost for maintaining and upgrading trains and the signalling system. Under the NRFF, the LTA and SBS Transit will share the profits and financial risks in operating the line, with LTA taking control of the operating assets from 1 April. SBS Transit will operate the line under a 15-year license that is set to expire on 31 March 2033.[93]

Route[edit]

As the name implies, the fully-underground 20-kilometre (12 mi) North East line runs from Singapore's city centre to the northeastern parts of the island.[94] Beginning at HarbourFront station,[95] the line runs northeast, paralleling the New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Street in Chinatown between Outram Park and Clarke Quay stations.[96] Passing underneath the Singapore River and Fort Canning Hill to Dhoby Ghaut station,[97] the NEL continues north to Little India station, cutting underneath Bukit Timah Road.[98] Following Race Course Road and Serangoon Road through Little India and Boon Keng,[99] it cuts through Whampoa River and Kallang River before reaching Potong Pasir.[100]

Between the Potong Pasir and Kovan stations, the line parallels Upper Serangoon Road before curving north to Hougang station.[101] The line then runs along Hougang Avenue 6 and Sengkang Central to Sengkang station in Sengkang and further extends to Punggol station in Punggol town, where the line terminates.[102] The NEL will continue towards Punggol Coast station in 2024, curving eastward past Punggol.[103]

Stations[edit]

The 20-kilometre (12 mi) line serves 16 underground stations from HarbourFront to Punggol. Six of the stations interchange with other MRT lines.[104] It is coloured purple on official maps.[105] Punggol Coast, the seventeenth station on the line, will open in 2024.[106] A reserved station "NE2" between the HarbourFront and Outram Park stations, may be built in the future depending on the developments between the two stations.[107]

Legend

Aiga escalator up.svg
Elevated
MRT Singapore Destination 1.svg MRT Singapore Destination 14.svg
Line terminus
Barrier turnstile icon.svg
Transfer outside paid area
Aiga escalator.svg
Ground-level
MUTCD D9-6.svg
Wheelchair accessible
Bus-logo.svg
Bus interchange
Aiga escalator down.svg
Underground
ISO 7010 W003.svg
Civil Defence Shelter
Aiga carrental cropped.svg BSicon CHN-Mono.svg BSicon AETRAM.svg Aiga watertransportation.svg 20 airtransportation.svg Aiga immigration.svg
Other transportation modes

List

Station code Station name Images Interchange;
Adjacent transportation
Opening Cost
MRT Singapore Destination 6.svg MRT Singapore Destination 9.svg
 NE1  CC29 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
HarbourFront NE1 HarbourFront MRT platforms 20201030 162302.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  Circle Line 

Bus-logo.svg HarbourFront

BSicon CHN-Mono.svg Sentosa Express VivoCity
BSicon AETRAM.svg Singapore Cable Car Mount Faber Line
Aiga watertransportation.svg HarbourFront Centre Aiga immigration.svg
Aiga watertransportation.svg Singapore Cruise Centre Aiga immigration.svg
20 June 2003;
19 years ago
S$4.6 billion
 NE2 
Infill station
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg
TBA Does not appear TBA TBA
 NE3  EW16  TE17 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Outram Park NE3 Outram Park MRT platforms 20210201 133314.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  East West Line 
Aiga escalator down.svg  Thomson–East Coast Line  (2022)

Bus-logo.svg Kampong Bahru
20 June 2003;
19 years ago
S$4.6 billion
 NE4  DT19 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Chinatown NE4 Chinatown MRT platforms 20201017 150247.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  Downtown Line 
 NE5 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Clarke Quay NE5 Clarke Quay MRT Exit A 20201101 144608.jpg
MRT Singapore Destination 8.svg
 NE6  NS24  CC1 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg
Dhoby Ghaut NE6 Dhoby Ghaut MRT platforms 20210409 142829.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  North South Line 
Aiga escalator down.svg  Circle Line 
 NE7  DT12 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Little India NE7 Little India NEL station.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  Downtown Line 
 NE8 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Farrer Park NE8 Farrer Park MRT Platforms 20201002 165554.jpg
 NE9 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Boon Keng NE9 Boon Keng MRT Exit A 20201002 174715.jpg
 NE10 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Potong Pasir NE10 Potong Pasir MRT Platform A 20201201 165328.jpg
 NE11 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Woodleigh NE11 Woodleigh MRT platforms 20201030 141256.jpg Bus-logo.svg Bidadari[108] 20 June 2011;
11 years ago
 NE12  CC13 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Serangoon NE12 CC13 Serangoon MRT Exit A 20210113 131203.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  Circle Line 

Bus-logo.svg Serangoon
20 June 2003;
19 years ago
 NE13 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Kovan NE13 Kovan MRT Exit B 20201205 111324.jpg
 NE14  CR8 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Hougang NE14 Hougang MRT Platforms 20201128 111900.jpg Aiga escalator down.svg  Cross Island Line  (2030)

Bus-logo.svg Hougang Central
 NE15 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg ISO 7010 W003.svg
Buangkok NE15 Buangkok MRT 20201020 080807.jpg Bus-logo.svg Buangkok[108] 15 January 2006;
16 years ago
 NE16  STC 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg
Sengkang NE16 Sengkang MRT platforms 20210827 132922.jpg Aiga escalator up.svg  Sengkang LRT 

Bus-logo.svg Sengkang
20 June 2003;
19 years ago
 NE17  PTC  CP4 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg
Punggol NE17 Punggol MRT Platform B 20201223 130016.jpg Aiga escalator up.svg  Punggol LRT 
Aiga escalator down.svg  CRL Punggol Extension  (2032)

Bus-logo.svg Punggol
NEL extension (under construction, to be ready by 2024)
MRT Singapore Destination 7.svg
 NE18 
Aiga escalator down.svg MUTCD D9-6.svg
Punggol Coast NE18 Punggol Coast NEL tunnels construction site at Sam Kee.jpg Bus-logo.svg Punggol North[108] 2024;
2 years' time
S$79 million[109]

Depots[edit]

Number Depot name;
Lines
Location Images Line-specific
stabling capacity
Cost Opening
1
Aiga escalator.svg  Sengkang 
Aiga escalator up.svg  SKLRT 
Aiga escalator up.svg  PGLRT 
Sengkang North East Line Depot 2, Aug 06.JPG 49 trains S$350 million[110]
2003;
19 years ago

Culture[edit]

Architecture[edit]

A variety of architecture on NEL stations
HarbourFront station
HarbourFront station with the ship hull elliptical motif
Little India station
An entrance to Little India station with the leaf-shaped patterns on the metal grills
Serangoon station entrance
Each of the triangular-shaped entrances at Serangoon station are enclosed by a cubic-structure
Sengkang station concourse
The spaciousness of the concourse level that allows visual navigations in Sengkang station

The 16 NEL stations have their own unique design that reflects their locations.[111] HarbourFront station, being located by the sea, has a maritime theme with the ship hull elliptical motif used for the ceiling and the concourse openings to the platforms.[112] At Little India station, the metal grills of the station walls have leaf-shaped patterns similar to the door patterns to the Hindu prayer rooms.[111] The station design is intended to reflect Indian traditions.[113]

The NEL station entrances utilise glass that allows natural light into the station during the day.[111] Exit A of Chinatown station features a pavilion-style transparent roof structure which allows natural light into the station and provides an unobstructed view of the shophouses along Pagoda Street.[104][114] At Serangoon, each of the four triangular-shaped entrances is painted with a unique colour and encased in a cubic structure.[94] Unlike the other NEL stations, the entrances of Buangkok station do not employ glass in their design; white Teflon sheets supported by metal frames envelops the entrances.[111]

Dhoby Ghaut station is the largest station on the MRT network.[115] The five-level underground station is also integrated with the twin-towered office complex Atrium@Orchard above the station.[116] The first such integration on the MRT network,[115][117] it allows for more efficient land use while improving access to public transport.[118] The NEL platforms at the station were one of the deepest platform on the network at 28 metres (92 ft) underground.[119]

The four-level Sengkang station[120][121] is an integrated hub with the three modes of transport – MRT, LRT and bus – serving the Sengkang area. The MRT/LRT station was the first intermodal station on the MRT network for all three modes of transport.[122] The simple layout, the spacious interior and transparency in the station design allow easier navigation in and out of the station.[104] Besides the transport facilities, the station is fully integrated with the property developments of Compass Heights and Compass Point by CentrePoint Properties (now Frasers Property).[120][122][123]

Designed by two architectural firms – 3HPArchitects and Farrells[124][125] – Punggol station is intended to be integrated with the LRT station and the bus interchange.[126] The station's curved aluminium and stainless steel cladding gives it a futuristic outlook, best reflecting the developments of Punggol 21.[127][128] As the station spans over Punggol Central at 320 metres (350 yards) to accommodate the bus stops, taxi stands and passenger drop-off points along that road, Punggol station is the longest station on the NEL.[128]

Public artworks[edit]

The NEL saw the first launch of the Art-in-Transit (AiT) programme – a showcase that integrates public artwork in the MRT network.[129] Across the 16 stations, 18 artworks by 19 artists are featured.[130] The artists involved were selected through the Art Review Panel, which reviews the artists' portfolios and manages the development of the art concepts.[131] Considered a "significant milestone" for public art in Singapore,[132] the artwork project aims to enhance the commuters' experience when travelling.[129] Unlike previous artworks featured in the original NSEWL stations, the artwork has to be integrated into the station design, while reflecting the history and heritage of the station's locality.[130][133]

Station code Station name Artwork name Artist(s)
 NE1  CC29  HarbourFront Engimatic Appearances Ian Woo
 NE3  EW16  TE17  Outram Park Memories Wang Lu Sheng
Commuters Teo Eng Seng
 NE4  DT19  Chinatown The Phoenix's-Eye Domain Tan Swie Hian
 NE5  Clarke Quay The Reflections Chua Ek Kay
 NE6  NS24  CC1  Dhoby Ghaut Interchange Milenko and Delia Prvacki
Universal Language Sun Yu-Li
 NE7  DT12  Little India Memoirs of the Past S. Chandrasekaran
 NE8  Farrer Park Rhythmic Exuberance Poh Siew Wah
 NE9  Boon Keng Metamorphosis Lim Poh Teck
 NE10  Potong Pasir Point of View Matthew Ngui
 NE11  Woodleigh Slow Motion April Ng
 NE12  CC13  Serangoon Memories of Childhood Eng Joo Heng
 NE13  Kovan The Trade-off Eng Tow
 NE14  CR8  Hougang Hands Up for Hougang Seck Yok Ying
 NE15  Buangkok Water, Nature & Contemporary Vincent Leow
 NE16  STC  Sengkang T.R.A.N.S.I.T.I.O.N.S. Koh Bee Liang
 NE17  PTC  CP4  Punggol Water, Landscape & Future Goh Beng Kwan

Infrastructure[edit]

Rolling stock[edit]

Alstom Metropolis trains stabled in Sengkang Depot
The NEL is the only line that uses an overhead catenary electrification system

The rolling stock for the North East Line uses electric multiple unit (EMU) trains operating in a six-car configuration, with four doors per side on each carriage and can accommodate of up to 1,920 passengers in each trainsets.[134][135] It consists of 25 first-generation Alstom Metropolis trains were supplied under contract C751A.[23][136] They are built in France by Alstom between 2000–2001.[134] To increase the capacity of the North East Line, an additional 18 second-generation Alstom Metropolis trains were supplied under contract C751C, a modern version of the first-generation trains,[137] were delivered to Singapore from July 2014.[138] They are also built in Shanghai, China by Alstom between 2014–2016.[134] To increase the capacity of the North East Line for the North East Line Extension, an additional six third-generation Alstom Metropolis trains were supplied under contract C851E with the first train set arrived in Singapore on 4 April 2021.[139][140][141] They are also built in Barcelona, Spain from 2020 onwards.[134]

The trains are fully automatic and controlled by an Operations Control Centre (OCC) at Sengkang Depot. The fleet's brake systems, more efficient than other fleets, allow smoother and quieter braking.[142] Train speeds can reach up to 100 km/h (62 mph).[135] Various safety features are installed, such as Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) for monitoring the trains' interiors, and a passenger emergency communication system that allows communication between passengers and the OCC.[142] The trains are spacious with wider seats and dedicated spaces for wheelchair users.[143]

Each train is made of fire-resistant materials, with fire and smoke detectors and a fire barrier underneath the frame.[135] On each train is a pair of beams (rail guards) that detects obstacles in the train's path. While smaller debris could be swept away, the train would automatically stop should the beams detect larger objects.[144] A 1500V Overhead Catenary System (OCS) powers the trains,[c] the first such electrical system on the MRT network. The OCS allows a safer environment for maintenance workers on the tracks and is cheaper with a smaller conductor.[146] In case of emergencies, when the train is stationary, the doors on both sides can be opened easily and without the need for electricity, with ramps lowering for passenger evacuation into the tunnels.[147][148]

The first-generation trains are undergoing a mid-life refurbishment that began in 2019 and is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2024.[136] The upgrades include replacements of interior parts and the installation of a new condition monitoring system that will monitor the train's performance.[149] The first refurbished train entered service on 28 February 2022.[150]

Alongside the passenger trains, the NEL rail tunnels and tracks are maintained by a fleet of engineering trains. The four types of engineering trains are: the locomotive, for towing wagons with equipment; the heavy crane vehicle, for changing tracks; the multi-functional vehicle, for detecting flaws on the rails and tunnel structures; and the rail-grinding machine, for grinding rails "back into shape".[151] These trains are manufactured by Plasser & Theurer, Speno International and Harsco Track Technologies.[152] A new fleet of engineering trains have been supplied by CRRC Zhuzhou Machinery Co Ltd.[153]

Depot[edit]

The administrative building of the Sengkang Depot

The Sengkang Depot, located along Sengkang East Avenue, is the service and storage area for NEL trains.[154] It is between the Buangkok and Sengkang stations.[155][156] Built by Hyundai Engineering and Construction at S$350 million (US$235.72 million),[157] the 27 ha (67-acre) depot includes the OCC,[158] which monitors the trains' and stations' operations on the line.[159]

The NEL depot can accommodate up to 44 trains.[159] Three additional stabling tracks are being built at the depot for the NELe.[145] The depot also houses LRT trains for the Sengkang and Punggol LRT lines above the NEL depot.[158][160]

The facilities at the depot include the four-storey administrative building, maintenance bays, a workshop and a fully automated warehouse. The depot workshop has equipment that can lift up an entire train for repairs – the first such workshop in Singapore. Utilising the NEL signalling system, train movement in the depot is mostly automatic. Staff members access the area via three dedicated tunnels for safety reasons.[161]

The OCC also controls the equipment and systems of tunnels, stations, power substations and the depot, which are all integrated into one terminal. The systems are managed by four to five rotating teams working 24/7. Alongside a training and software development room, the OCC has a depot control centre to monitor and supervise operations in the depot.[159][162]

Signalling[edit]

The NEL is a fully automatic rapid transit line[163] utilising the Urbalis 300 moving-block signalling system provided by Alstom. Automatic Train Control (ATC) for the line is based on Alstom's MASTRIA software, which also manages the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) for the line. The Urbalis system also includes the Computer-based Interlocking system that controls the track switches and interfaces with the ATC and the Data Management System. The DMS oversees the signalling equipment, platform screen doors and trains, monitored by station staff.[135]

The ATP system maintains a buffer between trains that prevents them from getting too close to one another.[164] The minimum distance allowed is 30 metres (98 ft), though the average distance between trains is at least 600 metres (2,000 ft).[144] Using microwave technology, the IAGO waveguide (Informatisation et Automatisation par Guide d’Onde or waveguide transmission line system for computer and automation applications), which allows two-way communication between the trains and the track tubes emitting the microwaves, monitors the trains' positions and movements. If a train were to enter the buffer, the ATP would automatically adjust the train speed accordingly.[164]

At least 500 computer systems control the various aspects of the NEL. Should there be a glitch, backup systems would take over. The system would "go to sleep" should it experience a severe malfunction. In the case of system failure, drivers would be deployed to take manual control over the trains.[148][163] The reliability of the signalling system ensured that the line maintained its "mean kilometres between failures" target of one million train-km (620,000 train-miles). As part of the NEL refurbishment programme announced on 17 December 2018, parts of the power and signalling systems were being renewed, along with the installation of new rail crossings and tracks. These renewal programmes are to ensure the line's continued reliability even as it ages.[149]

Station facilities[edit]

Passenger Service Centre (PSC)[edit]

Every station has a Passenger Service Centre (PSC) at the concourse.[165] Generally, the PSCs are curvilinear, unlike the more "boxy" designs of other PSCs in older MRT stations.[166] Besides assisting passengers and helping check and top up their fare cards, the PSC monitors and controls the functions in the connecting tunnels. The PSC communicates with the OCC at the depot. When the station is used as a civil defence (CD) shelter, the PSC becomes the Command Centre for the station.[165]

Lifts and escalators[edit]

Each of the NEL stations is equipped with "energy-smart" Otis escalators connecting the various levels of the station. When not in use by commuters, their speed is reduced by half, reducing energy consumption and wear and tear. Woodleigh station features one of the longest sets of escalators at 38.5 metres (126 ft). Besides escalators, Dhoby Ghaut station is the first MRT station to feature a set of 55 metres (180 ft) travellators that links between the NEL and NSL platforms.[167]

All the NEL stations have lifts that provide step-free access to the platforms. Most of the lifts have glass doors that not only gives an improved look for the lifts but also enhance the security and safety of users. Each of the lifts has a communication system connected to the station's PSC. In case the lift stalls during a station blackout, a battery-operated power backup will provide lighting and ventilation for the lift car for four hours.[168]

Accessibility[edit]

Tactile tiles on the floor linking to the station lift at Outram Park station

In compliance with the Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility, the NEL stations have wheelchair-friendly facilities.[169] Each station has an entrance allowing barrier-free access via lifts and ramps,[170] in contrast to the older stations on previous lines, which lacked such amenities.[171]

The NEL also features Singapore's first tactile system on the network. Consisting of tiles with rounded or elongated raised studs, the tactile system intends to guide visually impaired commuters through the station, with a dedicated route from the entrance to the platforms.[51][170] The station seats also have armrests to assist those who have difficulties in getting up.[169]

These accessibility features were part of the recommendations from a working group set up by the LTA to improve accessibility on the MRT network. Other associations representing the disabled were also consulted. As the group only completed its findings in 1999, only some of the recommendations were adopted as the stations' infrastructure was already at an advanced stage of construction.[170]

Safety[edit]

Platform screen doors at Boon Keng station

Full-height Platform Screen Doors (PSDs) supplied by Westinghouse[172] serves as a safety barrier between passengers on the platforms and the trains.[173] The PSDs also enable climate control within the station, minimising the loss of cool air from the platforms and preventing warm air entering the station from the tunnels.[174] A total of 768 doorways were supplied for the 16 stations on the NEL.[172] For Punggol Coast station, the PSDs will be supplied by ST Engineering Electronics Ltd under Contract 852F.[175] The platforms also have Emergency Stop Plungers (ESPs) that will halt the trains in an emergency.[176]

More than 10,000 smoke and heat detectors are installed in all of the NEL stations as part of the line's fire alarm system.[177] The alarm also automatically alerts SBS Transit if there are any faults in the system. The alarm system is integrated with the public announcement system. Hence, instead of alarm bells, there would be pre-recorded messages delivered that would direct commuters for evacuation. Besides the detectors, there are sprinkler and hose reel systems, dry riser pipeworks and an Inergen gas system that will contain the fire spread.[178]

During a fire, the escalators could be shut down remotely from the PSC, with the fare gates opened for evacuation. The air-conditioning system would be shut down to minimise re-circulation of smoke.[179] The "smoke curtain" system, installed in the station, controls the smoke movements. Smoke extraction fans, which are automatically activated, would remove any contained smoke.[174]

Civil Defence[edit]

An entrance to Farrer Park station with the CD symbol on the left column

With the exception of three stations (Dhoby Ghaut, Sengkang and Punggol), the NEL stations are designated as Civil Defence (CD) shelters.[180][181] Each of the CD stations is designed to accommodate at least 7,500 people and withstand airstrikes and chemical attacks. Equipment essential for the operations in the CD shelter is mounted on shock absorbers to prevent damage during a bombing. When electrical supply to the shelter is disrupted, there are backup generators to keep operations going.[182]

During emergencies, the large sliding doors would seal the entrances, while the tunnel portals would be sealed by tunnel blast doors.[182] The shelters also have dedicated built-in decontamination chambers and dry toilets with collection bins that will send human waste out of the shelter. These toilets are located next to an exhaust ventilation outlet to prevent the accumulation of smell in the shelter.[183]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Excluding reserved station for NE2
  2. ^ The North South line segment from the Yew Tee to Sembawang stations[10]
  3. ^ The NELe will use the overhead conductor rail supplied by Siemens instead of the OCS.[145]

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