Woodlands MRT line

The Woodlands MRT line was constructed in the early 1990s, connecting Choa Chu Kang to Yishun. The S$1.3 billion MRT line was officially opened on 10 February 1996 by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Also known as Woodlands extension line, it is made up of six MRT stations: Yew Tee, Kranji, Marsiling, Woodlands, Admiralty and Sembawang. 

The Planning Phase

The government came up with a proposal to build the Woodlands MRT line in 1990 when it announced its Woodlands MRT line construction plan. The proposal was to extend the existing North-South and East-West lines, thus connecting Choa Chu Kang in the West to Yishun in the North. Many changes were made to the original plan since it was proposed. The changes were made mainly to accommodate the URA's 1991 Concept Plan, which intended to make Woodlands a regional centre for northern Singapore. With the plan, the number of commuters in the Woodlands area were expected to increase. Therefore the government had to change the number of MRT stations it had originally planned to build in order to serve a bigger and growing estate. The stations were also designed in a more user-friendly fashion. Most of the changes were made to the plan by 1992.

In the original plan, the line was supposed to be constructed with only four stations: Admiralty, Woodlands, Marsiling and Yew Tee; to serve commuters in the areas of Choa Chu Kang North, Woodlands West, Woodlands Central and Woodlands East. Two more stations were added to the plan later to cover Sembawang and Kadut Industrial Estate. Construction work was supposed to take place in two phases with four stations opening first and the remaining two (Sembawang and Kadut) opening later. However, the government and the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) later decided to construct and open the whole line at the same time rather than in phases. It was also decided that Kadut Station would be built at a later stage (depending on the development of housing plans in the area), since there was not much of an immediate need for an MRT station seen there. Instead, a new station, Kranji, was added to the plan. The entire line was to be built above the ground and would measure a total of 16 km. The stations to be built were Yew Tee, Kranji, Marsiling, Woodlands, Admiralty and Sembawang, to serve the estates of Choa Chu Kang North, Kadut Industrial Estate, Woodlands West, Woodlands Central, Woodlands East and Sembawang.

In 1991, the government awarded a contract to Soil and Foundation Pte Ltd, for S$1.5 million, to conduct soil tests on the stretch of land between Chua Chu Kang and Yishun through Woodlands for the MRT line. The government then commissioned MRTC to begin work on the construction of the line in the later part of 1991. The civil engineering construction contract was given to a joint venture between Balfour Beatty of the UK and Gammon of Hong Kong called the Balfour Beatty-Gammon venture, while the electrical and mechanical services contract was awarded to the General Electric Company of Singapore. The contract for providing signalling and automatic train control systems was given to Westinghouse Signal Limited for S$33.32 million. It was the largest of all contracts given out, while the second-largest contract for S$17 million to provide communications systems was awarded to a joint venture com prising JS Telecom, Thomson Surveillance Video and Halberthal, from France, led by Singapore Electronic & Engineering Limited (SEEL). In total MRTC pre-qualified 30 firms and joint ventures for six civil engineering contracts and one trackwork contract. Construction work began at both ends of the line, Choa Chu Kang station and Yishun station, simultaneously.

One of the more difficult jobs during the course of the construction was a rock excavation job in 1993 costing S$1.5 million near Woodlands Ave. 3, where explosives were used to make way for the train viaduct. Another difficult project was the levelling of land covered in thick vegetation in Kadut, Woodlands and Sembawang. The laying of a 22 m, 165 tonne concrete beam in October 1994 marked the completion of the structural link between the existing MRT network and the Woodlands extension line. The entire Woodlands extension line consists of around 1,163 beams. The tracks were then laid, followed by the installation of the electrical and mechanical systems and equipment. In 1995, before the official opening of the Woodlands line, electronic display panels were fitted in all its six MRT stations. Costing S$400,00, the real-time timetable system lets passengers know if trains are late or disrupted.

Nineteen new trains were purchased, each for S$13.6 million, and added to the new extension line. Designed by German company, Siemens Aktiengsellschaft, the trains are equipped with automated public address systems where the volume of the announcement can automatically increase or decrease according to the background noise. The trains also have a better propulsion system that ensure smoother rides and save energy.

Official Opening
In 1995, test runs were carried out on the completed Woodlands MRT line to ensure smooth operations. Open houses were held a week before the official opening for users to familiarise themselves with the new stations. The new MRT line was officially opened by Prime Minister Goh Ghok Tong on 10 February 1996. The first train took off at 1:00 pm during the opening ceremony. An estimated 12,000 people travelled on the Woodlands line in the first hour of its opening.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Leong, C. T. (1991, February 26). Work on Woodlands MRT line to begin later this year. The Straits Times, p. 3.

Leong, C. T. (1993, May 8). Woodlands MRT line ready by '96 as planned. The Straits Times, p. 30.

Leong, C. T., Yeo, G., & Wong H. P. (1996, February 11). Crowds came from as far as Hougang and Jurong. The Straits Times, p. 19.

MRTC awards last Woodlands contracts. (1993, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 43.

MRTC to build $34m underground bus interchange in Woodlands. (1992, February 14). The Business Times, p. 3.

Tan, C. (1992, November 19). Another station added to Woodlands MRT line. The Straits Times, p. 1. 

Vaidyanathan, S. (1993, October 14). Bus interchange under Woodlands station. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 14.

Wee, J. (1991, February 23). Woodlands MRT extension: soil tests under way . The Business Times, p. 2.

Woodlands commuters get real-time timetables. (1995, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 3.

Woodlands MRT. (1991, June 19). The Business Times, p. 2.

Further Readings
Clearer messages smoother rides on Woodlands trains. (1992, December 14). The Straits Times, p. 26.

Divyanathan, R. (1992, June 11). MRTC awards $65m worth of contracts for $1b Woodlands extension line. The Business Times, p. 2.

Leong, C. T. (1992, June 11). Work on Woodlands MRT extension to start in July; First step is to carve up slope in the way. The Straits Times, p. 3.

Leong, C. T. (1995, August 15). Test runs on Woodlands line. The Straits Times, p. 2.

Leong, C. T. (1996, January 14). Woodlands MRT line to open next month. The Straits Times, p. 1.

Nadarajah, I. & Kee, J. (1996, January 21). Residents prepare for easier life with Woodlands MRT line. The Straits Times, p. 24.

Seel-led consortium wins S17.6m MRT communication system deal. (1992, May 31). The Business Times, p. 3.

Tan, C. (1992, December 24). HDB unveils blueprint for Woodlands regional centre. The Business Times, p. 2.

$290 million contracts for Woodlands MRT line. (1992, August 16). The Straits Times, p. 17.

Yeo, S. (1997, March 21). Woodlands: Out of the wood. The Straits Times, p. 3.

The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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