Speech by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran at the Cross Island Line Phase 1 Ground-breaking Ceremony

18 Jan 2023Speeches

Fellow Advisers,
Friends and colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1.     Thank you for joining us today to mark the start of construction of Phase 1 of the Cross Island Line.  

2.     Just last week, we broke ground for the Jurong Region Line.  In the span of a fortnight, we have commenced construction on over 50km of rail lines.  With this, we are on track to expand our rail network by 100km in the next decade.  It took us 35 years to grow our rail network to its present length of 260km; that puts into perspective the scale and pace of our current expansion. When completed, 8 in 10 households will live within a 10-minute walk of a train station.  

3.     Rail expansion is a key thrust in our comprehensive effort to enhance our transport system – from the first to the last mile.  By 2030, we will have implemented dedicated bus lanes on 60km of Transit Priority Corridors; added 800km of cycling paths; and repurposed roads for wider footpaths and pedestrianised streets.  By 2040, we will have added 150km of covered linkways between train stations, residential areas and amenities. Each of these initiatives is significant in its own right; collectively, they also help fulfil Singaporeans’ needs and aspirations for a transport network that is sustainable, accessible, and resilient.

Ground-breaking of CRL

4.     As our eighth MRT line, the Cross Island Line will strengthen the connectivity between the eastern, western, and north-eastern parts of Singapore.  It will provide greater access to growth areas such as Jurong Lake District, Punggol Digital District, and Changi Region.

5.     The Cross Island Line also strengthens resilience at the system level.  When fully operational, it will have interchanges with all radial lines – at Pasir Ris and Clementi on the East-West Line, Hougang on the North East Line, Ang Mo Kio on the North South Line, Bright Hill on the Thomson-East Coast Line, and King Albert Park on the Downtown Line.  There will be greater connections that will give commuters many more travel route options, and redistribute commuter traffic from busy interchanges along the Circle Line. 

6.     With almost half of the Cross Island Line stations being interchanges, many Singaporeans will benefit from shorter and faster journeys.  For example, the travel time of a Sin Ming resident from Bright Hill, where we are, to Pasir Ris East, will be more than halved from 80 to 30 minutes.

7.     The Cross Island Line is key to attaining our target of having 9 in 10 peak-period Walk-Cycle-Ride journeys completed in less than 45 minutes.  More than 600,000 commuters are expected to take the CRL when it opens for service in 2030. That will increase to over 1 million in the longer term.  Hence, while the CRL will operate with 6-car trains initially, provisions have been made to expand them to 8-car trains – which would be more train cars than in any other MRT line – to cater to higher demand in future.

Challenges of constructing underground

8.     The CRL will certainly test the professional mettle of our engineers and all our partners.  At over 50km long, it will be our longest fully underground line, traversing the entirety of our island.  That means having to tunnel through a wide variety of soil conditions at different stretches, ranging from soft marine clay to extremely hard rock.  Special machines and added precautions will be needed, to ensure the safety of our workers, the stability of the ground, and the integrity of adjacent buildings.

9.     Our subterranean space has also gotten more crowded over the years.  Hence, construction of the CRL will need to navigate a maze of utilities, telecommunication cables and foundation piles.  LTA and its partners have therefore deployed cutting-edge technologies to enhance construction efficiency and safety.  For example, Augmented Visualisation of Underground Services will help engineers visualise utilities in 3-D, superimposed on existing roads, to minimise the risk of damaging live services.

10.    Conducting such major works in close proximity to densely built-up spaces, with minimal disruption to residents, roads, and existing rail lines, is a tall order and complex undertaking.  Besides engineering innovation, it requires precision, and meticulous planning.  

11.    At its deepest, Phase 1 of the CRL tunnels will extend to almost 50m underground.  That is equivalent to the height of a 16-storey HDB block – twice as deep as the typical underground rail line. The Pasir Ris CRL station will hold the new record of the deepest station in Singapore, at 47m underground. 

12.    One of the largest Tunnel Boring Machines ever deployed in Singapore will be used at various stretches of the CRL tunnels, such as the portion between Defu and Tampines North stations.  Measuring 12.6 metres in diameter, this machine is as tall as a four-storey building, and 75% larger than conventional Tunnel Boring Machines.  It will allow us to build one single tunnel with two tracks, instead of twin tunnels, as is usually the case.

13.    To streamline resources and minimise disruptions to local stakeholders, rail and road works will take place concurrently where possible.  This will be the case, for example, at the intersection between Teck Ghee station and the North South Corridor, and at Loyang station and Loyang Viaducts. 

Renewal of existing rail lines 

14.    While we look forward to the addition of CRL and other lines, the resilience of our rail network does not just depend on building newer and longer rail lines.  A sustained effort to maintain, renew, and rejuvenate our existing lines is just as important, starting from the North-South-East-West Line and the North East Lines, which have served us for 35 and 20 years, respectively.

15.    We have been working on the North-South-East-West Line since 2012.  To date, three of the six core systems have been replaced: the signalling systems, sleepers and third rail.  These have improved the commuting experience, delivering shorter waiting times, smoother rides, and more reliable service. 

16.    As for the other three core systems – the renewal of the power supply system is more than 80% complete, having replaced 1,050km of cables and the equipment at 63 stations and power substations.  Track circuit replacements are about 93% complete, with more than 1000 track circuits replaced to date.  Our trains have also entered their last leg of testing on the mainline.  If all goes well, we should see most of our core system replacements completed by this year.

17.    Because our MRT system runs 20 hours a day, these renewal works can only take place in the middle of the night when the rest of us are asleep.  I want to take this opportunity to recognise and commend our engineers, technicians and railway workers for their hard work and dedication to keeping our trains moving and maintaining our systems. 


18.    Even as the Cross Island Line is being built, commuters can expect a regular stream of improvements to their travel experience, as a new or renewed line or station will open almost every year over the next decade.

19.    Once again, I would like to thank advisers, residents, businesses and stakeholders for your cooperation and support, as you bear with some temporary inconveniences for the common and greater good. Together, let us all build a transport system that we can continue to be proud of, one that will serve the needs of all Singaporeans for many generations to come. 

20.    Thank you.



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