Monday, December 30, 2013

End-December update

Soil Investigations (SIs) seem to have intensified along the probable Eastern Region Line (ERL) alignment recently. Boreholes and rigs have been spotted at multiple locations along the corridor and may help to determine where the line runs and locations of the stations. In previous updates, we found that boreholes are noticed at Marine Parade, Marine Terrace, Siglap, Bayshore, Upper East Coast near Temasek Secondary School and at Bedok Corner. Today, we cover these areas again and provide a little more information.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Updates on Marine Parade & Siglap

Some updates on the soil investigations at Siglap and Marine Parade.

15 December 2013 - Marine Parade: Standard Chartered bank

Saturday, December 14, 2013

SIs at Upper East Coast

Several SI rigs were noted near Upper East Coast bus terminal towards Temasek Secondary school. This is along the inferred route of the ERL from Bayshore towards Bedok Corner.

With thanks to deskoh91 for his submission

With thanks to deskoh91 for his submission

Friday, December 13, 2013

SIs in Tanjong Rhu

As mentioned in the previous post, there has been a pick up in intensity of Soil Investigations in Tanjong Rhu lately. With a second trip down, the locations of the SI are more accurately plotted on the map below.

Map showing the spread of SI rigs in Tanjong Rhu. Blue triangles represent approximate locations of the SI rigs as at
13 December 2013.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Early December update

Just a quick and short update for the first part of the month. Soil Investigations have seemed to move out of the Marina East Gardens and are now out in full force along Tanjong Rhu. There are at least 5 machines in operation between the East Gardens and the first condo near Tanjong Rhu View I believe. Another 2 machines sit in front of a condo on the other end of Tanjong Rhu near the KPE.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November update

Been awhile since we've had any updates on the Eastern Region Line (ERL) construction. At this point, there's not much moving yet that is visible from the ground apart from Soil Investigations. Expect more from next year when they will probably announce the station locations. From January next year, expect to see more of the markers for soil investigations near the proposed alignment and stations. These include various equipment that monitors water levels and soil composition, usually encased in blue, red or yellow boxes or cylinders. The top may mention the client (which should be LTA) and the date that the borehole was drilled. If it says LTA and is along the corridor of Marine Parade Rd, Upper East Coast Rd, Tanjong Rhu Rd or Meyer/Amber Rd, it is probably for the ERL. We'd appreciate any pictures being submitted if you happen to come across any.

Additionally, this month saw the release of the Draft Masterplan 2013. Some highlights of the eastern region of Singapore include the building up of more MRT lines in the years to come.

URA summary of potential future lines in eastern Singapore

Currently, URA uses a teal colour to represent the ERL. It remains unknown if this would be the final colour representing the ERL as it is meant to operate together with the Thomson Line offering a through-service between Woodlands and the east coast. URA lists the ERL at 16km whereas LTA sources mention 13km. This is probably due to 13km being the main focus as a commercially-viable alignment from Marina East area to the Bedok corner area where it meets the Downtown Line extension (DTLe). The remaining 3km may be used to bring the line further into Changi to meet with other line extensions (yet announced) and the future Cross Island Line (CRL). These plans are sketchy at most for now.

Representation of future eastern rail network by URA. Do note this is neither final nor definite as there are a few errors.

For now, not much that can be done to determine the station locations nor the timeline other than to wait for next year. We do know, however, from educated guessing that the earliest the ERL could be completed is 2023. Based on the TSL announced 2012, the line fully completes in 2021. ERL will be announced at least 2 years later, making its completion 2 years later at 2023 potentially. This is later than the intended 2020 target set initially, but to be expected as with recent construction projects which get delayed due to various reasons. Once again, we'd appreciate if you'd be willing to share any photos of Soil Investigations you spot to help us pin point the alignment better.

Photo credits - URA Draft Masterplan 2013 Eastern Region

Friday, November 1, 2013

Challenges to Construction

The Eastern Region Line poses a challenging alignment, also in part due to its location and geography. Today we look at some of the challenges that LTA is faced with in implementing this line. Firstly, the alignment runs along the east coast corridor of Singapore, intending to serve estates along the eastern stretch that do not currently have easy access to the MRT network. These include Tanjong Rhu, Marine Parade and Siglap areas.

Part of these areas are estates built on reclaimed land, presenting an additional challenge which we'll go into deeper later. The part at Marine Parade is pretty straight, thanks to the presence of Marine Parade Rd, a long a straight boulevard that stretches from the Laguna area to Parkway Parade near Amber Rd.

Marine Parade Rd towards Parkway Parade

But beyond this, the line has to cut through dense condominium developments or thread through narrow roadways. Once such potential roadway is Meyer Road, which happens to be a single lane dual-carriageway road that runs from Tanjong Rhu to Tanjong Katong South. Lined with condominium developments on one side and landed properties on another, this winding road is a pretty narrow corridor that the LTA may be exploring to run the ERL from Tanjong Rhu on to Marine Parade.

A shot showing the width of Meyer Rd.
Should the line go under Meyer Rd, therein lie several challenges to planning and subsequently construction of the line. Firstly, the width of the corridor would dictate that the line's tunnels be stacked one over the other to fit into the tight confines of the roadway above without running into any building foundations. In doing so, there need to be sufficient provisions for emergency egress, in other words, means of escape from tunnels during emergencies. Typical tunnels which run parallel to each other, and therefore side-by-side, have passages connecting the tunnels together allowing commuters to transfer over to an unaffected tunnel during emergency.

Stacked tunnels however, usually feature intervention or emergency exit shafts which are stairways leading to the surface through which commuters can evacuate the tunnels during emergency. With such dense development on both sides of Meyer Road, finding a suitable location itself will prove difficult.

Adding on to the list of challenges besides routing and finding space for facilities lies the geo-technical aspect. As mentioned earlier, much of Marine Parade estate sits on reclaimed land. This means that the line would have to cross the boundary between the original shore line of the island (which is relatively rocky) into the new, compacted reclaimed soil. With detailed records, this task alone can be tedious. But unfortunately for LTA, it seems that the records for the original rocky shoreline are not readily available, leading to either an intense study of the soil along the suspected shore line or coming up with alternatives to keep as far away from it as possible without changing the serving radius of the stations planned (in other words, without changing the number of people served).

Sea wall mole removal in Marina Bay

The above two images show you what a herculean task removing the sea wall can be in a relatively undeveloped area - Marina Bay. However, Marine Parade is a developed estate with established roadways, commercial and residential hubs and educational institutes dotting the stretch. Thus, this provides an additional challenge for the line planners. To combat this, planners and consultants had to come up with 4 alignment options and with results from studies, determine which is the most effective in terms of construction time and challenges against the ability of the line to move commuters efficiently.

A summary of work by an individual on LinkedIn shows that consultants
had to propose 4 alignment options
With 4 options to, not only choose from, but also study, it is understandable that this extends the time taken to properly interpret the information and therein make an informed decision. There are numerous challenges that face the ERL before it enters the construction phase, with more to come once actual building work begins. Best to iron out as many as possible before work begins on moving the soil.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where are the stations?

I suppose one of the more interesting aspects of the line at this stage is determining where the stations are. We know the start point and the end point, so now its getting the 10 points in between nailed down. As mentioned before, this corridor is kind of hard to build along with there being a lack of really long and straight roads through the majority of the areas (Marine Parade Rd is long and straight, yes, but only for the Marine Parade section - still need to get to Marine Parade). So anyway, a few trips through the year reveals some results - in the form of Soil Investigations (SI). These are tests done to obtain samples of the soil for analysis to see whether the soil types are hard or soft so that they can determine what type of  Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) to use during construction among other things. So, a few notable locations..

Gardens by the Bay East

28 October 2013

28 October 2013

28 October 2013

This has been the hot area for SI rigs. In October, a total of 7 rigs and 13 other marked off sites dot the length of the park close to the golf course at Marina East. These correspond to the ventilation shaft area where the Thomson Line (TSL) leaves off for connection to the Eastern Region Line (ERL) in future.

Marine Parade Central

28 October 2013

28 October 2013

28 October 2013

Several SI rigs have been noted in the vicinity and some of the markings from previous rounds can be seen.

Marine Terrace

An abundance of markings from round 1 of the investigations have been noted here. Sitting about 1km away from Marine Parade Central, it seems to be optimal spacing away to place another station for Marine Parade here.

March 2013: The spread of Soil Investigations at Marine Terrace


Another hot spot for SI rigs along the road leading to the East Coast Parkway. Potential to spur development in the area.

21 March 2013: Along Bayshore Rd

21 March 2013: Details of the soil samples and depth

Temasek Secondary

The area around the school is mostly forested vegetation. A station here would enable development of the area and allow Bedok South to grow.

1 April 2013

Bedok Corner

Supposed to be the last stop before the combined depot with the East-West Line and Downtown Line. Several markings noticed near the food centre.

1 April 2013: Spread of SI markings at Bedok Corner

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Projected Timeline

In 2008, the Eastern Region Line (ERL) was announced for projected completion in 2020. Since then, the Land Transport Authority has found planning the line challenging. Part of this stems from having to plot the line parallel to the old sea wall before reclamation works began. As there are no detailed records, this proves to be an uphill task of ensuring that areas where the line runs through are suitable and will not suffer from soil displacement once construction work begins (a very visible effect in similar ground conditions is the 2004 Nicoll Highway collapse). As such, it is not surprising that the line will only see completion after 2020. So what is the probable timeline for the line then?

Going by past instances, notably for Downtown Line Stage 3 (DTL3) and the Thomson Line (TSL), announcement of station locations were done at ministerial inspections of under construction stations. The same can be assumed for the ERL. Probability points to either the North South Line extension to Marina South Pier (due 2014) or the Downtown Line Stage 2 (DTL2 - due 2016). Substantial work is completed on both projects, with Cashew station on the DTL2 at advanced structural works. So potentially, there will be an announcement of the ERL station locations in 2014.

Again, referring to past instances, DTL3 was announced August 2010 and groundbreaking was in end-November 2011, roughly a period of 1 year till construction. Similarly, TSL was announced in August 2012 and construction slated to begin end-2013 or beginning-2014. We can expect ERL construction to begin at roughly end-2015 or even beginning-2016 which is in time for the DTL2 crew to shift over with the resources.

The average time to build an underground line is about 6 years. The North East Line (NEL) took 7 years to complete, Circle Line took a whopping 10 years (due to various delays and accidents), Downtown Line 1 is taking 6 years. Thus, we can expect the completion of the ERL about 2022 to 2023 or 2024.

About ERL

The Eastern Region Line (ERL) was a line announced in 2001 during the Transport Minister's speech at the opening of the Dover station along the East-West Line. This plan saw the ERL envisioned as an oblong line around the eastern districts in Singapore, forming an orbital system there. Subsequently, by 2007 the plans were revised. The northern half of the line which would have been part of phase 1 in the original plan was amalgamated with the then Bukit Timah Line (BTL) and the Circle Line Downtown Extension (DTE) to form the new Downtown Line (DTL). DTE now forms what is DTL1 together with the added Bugis station. BTL now forms what is DTL2 with the northern part of the original ERL being DTL3.

The southern part of the original orbital line is what remains as today's ERL, announced again during the 2008 Land Transport Master Plan. Details were sketchy at best but it now seems to be confirmed that this line will be the eastern extension of the Thomson Line (TSL). This means that trains will run continuously across both systems without the need for passengers to change to another train/line. At this point though, it remains unclear whether the ERL will retain its name and be operated as a single service over 2 lines (like Sydney's Western line & Northern line which share colour on maps and service flow but are named separately) or if the ERL will just be named as the Thomson Line direct.

In any case, current plans see the line having 10 stations along 13km of track with a depot at the current location of SMRT's Changi depot. This depot will be redeveloped to house the East-West Line at an elevated depot, the ERL and bus depot at ground level and the DTL depot underground. It is also understood that one of the stations will be partially built as a shell structure to be fitted out once the surrounding area has suitably developed with sufficient commercial viability to open.

New redeveloped Changi depot (for EWL, ERL & DTL)

Key points of the ERL:
Number of stations - 10 stations
Length of line - 13km
Through-service with Thomson Line (trains will be the same)
Interchange with Downtown Line at eastern terminus