Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beyond 2024

In the years leading up to the announcement of the East Coast Line, there have been numerous revisions and as such, misinformation as well. Some of the more notorious ones have been in regards to the line's length. In the line's second incarnation, it was announced to be 21km long with 12 stations in 2008. As of 2012, the line had an 'active' part of 13 km with 10 stations, which we now know as the unveiled East Coast sector of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL). It was never increased again to 21km in 2013 as some sources would state, but neither did the authorities confirm that the active route was now 13km long. In view of this, what has happened to the remaining 8 km and 2 stations (or 3 depending on how you look at it)?

Indicative alignment from URA

Let's tackle this one by one. Last Friday, the unveiled section saw 9 stations being announced. There is a 10th station on this 13km sector that, as we mentioned in our earlier posts, will be partially constructed and remain unopened during the initial operation years from 2024. We believe that this station will be site in Marina East and was labelled station E1 on our predictive map. As the area is currently a golf course, there is not much commercial viability for completing the station yet until the area sees development and can provide a good number of commuters who would use the station. This is reminiscent of the Buangkok station saga which saw the station opening to serve less than 2,000 commuters a day deeming the station a loss-incurring operation.

This station will be constructed in two stages. The first stage consists of the station basic structure which would be the station box and necessary ventilation shafts, similar to Bukit Brown station on the Circle Line. When this section of the line opens in 2023, trains would run through the station that does not have many fittings most other stations would have - no lifts, no escalators and no Platform Screen Doors. Think of it as just a concrete shell (skeleton) without the fixtures. These will only come in during the second stage of construction - the fit-out stage. When the green light is given for the station to be operationalised, entrances will be constructed from knock-out panels in the station box, escalators and lifts installed, the interior fittings placed in as well as machines like the air-conditioning system and ticket machines. Only then will the station be ready for use.

Now onto the 'missing' 8km sector. This is a very long-term plan for the future probably beyond-2024 and in tandem with further developments in the east beyond the current Sungei Bedok station. With the Downtown Line serving the Changi Business Park area, it does not make sense for the TEL to duplicate the coverage area. We believe that the line will run further south instead, heading towards the Changi Airport area. Development of this sector may possibly tie in with the future Changi Airport Terminal 5 which is planned as a mega terminal for the airport. With the Cross Island Line (CRL) on the horizon as well, these lines can be planned to allow for an integrated transport hub to serve the new terminal.

A new station can also be built to widen the service area of the TEL. This station will probably be situated around the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal area. As there is not much demand as yet for rail service to these areas, this sector has been pushed back to allow a more efficient and effective integration with developments due in the area. Such benefits may allow commuters to see the ease of transfer through an integrated interchange (like that seen at Sungei Bedok) or connectivity to the airport by integrating the MRT station with the airport terminal itself (for instance like in KLIA or the Bangkok airport). This explains why you see LTA referring to the southbound track as "Changi bound" in some of their diagrams.

Diagram showing the construction of Marina Bay station tunnels

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