Speech by Minister For Transport, Mr S Iswaran Opening Event for Thomson-East Coast Line Stage 3

11 Nov 2022Speeches

Fellow advisors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1.     Good morning, and welcome to the Thomson-East Coast Line at Orchard Station. Today we are celebrating the opening of Stage 3 of the Thomson-East Coast Line, or TEL3. TEL3, which is the third of 5 stages, will officially commence service on 13 November. It will add 11 new stations from Stevens to Gardens by the Bay. The first three stations of TEL opened in January 2020, providing connectivity within Woodlands. In August last year, we added six more stations connecting the Thomson area to the line. The fourth and fifth stages will open over the next few years, linking with the East Coast stretch.

2.     The planning, building and eventual opening of an MRT line spans several decades. The history of TEL, for example, dates back 15 to 20 years. TEL was announced in 2014 as a merger between two lines – the Thomson Line, which was announced in 2008, and the Eastern Region Line, which was conceptualised in the early 2000s. Back then, we had three MRT lines – the North South Line, East West Line and North East Line. With the addition of TEL, we have doubled the number of lines to 6. Today’s opening of TEL3 brings to fruition many years of hard work and effort, and paves the way forward in the evolving story of Singapore’s public transport.

Connecting with the past

3.     TEL3 connects commuters between the north and the heart of our city. Segments of this route run parallel to the North South Line, which was our first MRT line, opened in 1987.

4.     The rail network is the backbone of our public transport system. Hence, we have made it a priority to design and build a well-connected and resilient rail network. TEL3 is yet another step towards this goal, as it connects with every other MRT line. For example, with TEL3, both Outram Park and Marina Bay will become triple-line interchange stations – the second and third such interchange stations after Dhoby Ghaut. More interchanges and routing options for journeys help to spread the load across more lines, and enhances the resilience of our network.

5.     TEL3 runs through our city centre with some stations, like Maxwell and Havelock, located in heritage areas. Other stations, like Orchard Boulevard and Gardens by the Bay, are in distinctive locations which are well-known to Singaporeans and also to visitors. Under the Art-in-Transit programme, we have also commissioned unique works by local artists for all TEL stations. This will help to evoke the character of the precincts within which they are situated, and to capture the spirit of their communities.

Participating in the present

6.     Beyond the aesthetics of our stations, a pleasant public transport journey hinges on how we as fellow commuters interact with one another. And we can all contribute to fostering a more gracious and caring commuting culture. This is something that has been emphasised and that we are seeking to promote actively. I was heartened that this was a recurrent view shared by many who participated in our Forward Singapore engagements.

7.     One way we can put this into practice is through the Heart Zone project, which provides a space for us to offer a helping hand to fellow commuters. Under TEL3, we will add another Heart Zone at Outram Park station. This will be especially helpful to those making their way to the Singapore General Hospital campus. We will gradually implement Heart Zones at all MRT stations, bus interchanges and integrated transport hubs where practical.

8.     This is just one example. TEL connects us to different parts of Singapore, from residential areas, schools and hospitals to the Central Business District and tourist destinations. When journeying on our MRT system, and especially along TEL, we are bound to encounter people of diverse backgrounds with different needs. So, let us all remember to Give Time, Give Care, Give a Hand, and Give Thanks in our daily commute.

Looking to the future

9.     As we grow our rail network by 50 percent to 360 km by the 2030s, our commuters will have much to look forward to. TEL alone is projected to serve over 500,000 daily passengers in the initial years, rising to 1 million in the longer term.Another two stations along TEL3, Mount Pleasant and Marina South, will open in future when housing developments around them are ready. Beyond the fifth stage of TEL, the line will be further extended to Changi Airport in future, including Terminal 5. TEL will then provide a seamless link between our city and the airport. Finally, the current TEL Woodlands North station will provide an interchange with the Rapid Transit System Link when it opens in 2026. So, Singaporeans can look forward to even better connectivity, within Singapore and also with Johor Bahru.

10.     In line with our Singapore Green Plan 2030, we also want our public transport system to be environmentally sustainable. We hope that bringing MRT stations closer to homes and destinations will encourage more to use public transport. Taking the train generates 90% less carbon emissions than driving an internal combustion engine car, and the carbon footprint of active modes is practically zero. With this in mind, TEL was designed with more station entrances and covered linkways to nearby residential estates and amenities. This enhances first-mile and last-mile connections, by making walking and cycling to MRT stations more convenient. By building a more extensive MRT system complemented by a pedestrian and cyclist friendly network, we can create a more liveable city and sustainable transport network of the future.


11.     As we celebrate the opening of TEL3, I would like to thank all who have made this day possible. First, to the technicians, engineers, architects, contractors, as well as staff from LTA and SMRT – thank you for working tirelessly especially throughout the pandemic and overcoming the engineering challenges to build, test and commission TEL3 amidst important heritage areas and our densely built-up city centre. Second, I would like to thank the residents, businesses and motorists affected by the construction as they have been understanding and cooperative.

12.     Finally, to all our commuters who are at the heart of our transport story. I would like to thank the many millions of commuters who have become active users of the MRT network. I would like to invite more of you to join in our journey, and write the story of Singapore’s public transport system together. In fact, those of you who have not done so already can begin today. I think the significance would not be lost on you that we are opening 11 new stations on the 11th day of the 11th month. Thank you very much for joining us and I wish all of you good health and all the best.


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