Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore)

From Academic Kids

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Logo of Public Transport System
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The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is the primary rapid transit system in Singapore that serves more than a quarter of Singapore's population, with a network spanning the entire city-state. The initial section of the MRT, from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh, was opened in 1987, establishing the MRT as the second oldest metro system in Southeast Asia after the system in Manila. The network has rapidly grown ever since, especially when the white paper on a world-class land transport system, published by the Land Transport Authority shortly after its formation in 1995 detailed how the authority intends to favour developing a comprehensive rail network and reduce dependency on road-based systems such as the bus network. The MRT also works in conjunction with the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system, which links the MRT stations with HDB estates.

The MRT system has both underground and above-ground stations, even on the same line. Underground stations are often built in densely built-up areas, such as stations in the Central Area - Singapore's central business district. The primary reason for this is that the construction of an above-ground station in such built-up areas would be difficult. Although underground stations are more expensive to build and maintain, most of them also function as bomb shelters, and often have the secondary role of being a shopping centre in itself.

As it stands at present, however, the daily ridership on the MRT and LRT networks hovers at about 1.2 million per day, a figure which pales in comparison to nearly 3 million daily ridership on the bus network. The gap is narrowing, however, as the rail network expands, and bus services are often required to be withdrawn or amended to avoid a duplication of services.

The lines are presently constructed by the Land Transport Authority, with operating concessions given to SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit.


System configuration

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The current state of the MRT/LRT network.
LineAlignmentOperationalCompletedStationsLengthTravel timeOperator
North South (NS)Marina Bay - Jurong East7 November 19874 November 19892544 km62 minSMRT
East West (EW)Pasir Ris - Boon Lay12 December 19876 July 19902739 km59 minSMRT
Tanah Merah - Changi Airport10 January 200127 February 200236.4 km7 min
Boon Lay - Joo Koon~2009~200933.8 km~5 min
North East (NE)HarbourFront - Punggol20 June 20031420 km33 minSBS Transit
Circle (CC)Dhoby Ghaut - HarbourFront~2008~20102633.3 km~60 minSMRT
Downtown Extension</font>Millenia - Chinatown~2012~201253.4km~10 minSMRT
Eastern RegionIn planning phase
Bukit TimahIn planning phase

Template:Singapore MRT stations

Construction of backbone network


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Old MRT Map at National Exhibition (Taken in 1984 from National Archives of Singapore)

The idea for the building of a mass rapid transit line in Singapore was initiated in 1967, in a four-year State and City Planning study conducted by the Singapore government and the United Nations Development Program. This study was part of an urban renewal and development project that aimed to formulate a long-term comprehensive concept plan for guiding the future physical development of the country. The study concluded that the physical land constraints faced by the small island nation would not be able to accommodate the construction of more roads to meet the expected rise in transportation demands, and hence forecasted the need for a rail-based urban transport system by the year 1992.

Bus versus rail debate

One particular participant of this early study was Mr Ong Teng Cheong, later Singapore's first elected President. Then a member of the Ministry of National Development's Planning Department when he returned from overseas studies in 1967, he became a fervent supporter and advocate of a rail-based system. His background as an architect and urban planner placed him in good stead, when as Minister of Communications, he had to convince the cabinet in a heated debate in the early 1980s, that the S$5 billion needed for the system would be beneficial for the long-term development of Singapore. He argued that "this is going to be the most expensive single project to be undertaken in Singapore. The last thing that we want to do is to squander away our hard-earned reserves and leave behind enormous debt for our children and our grandchildren. Now since we are sure that this is not going to be the case, we'll proceed with the MRT, and the MRT will usher in a new phase in Singapore's development and bring about a better life for all of us." A provisional Mass Rapid Transit Authority was established in July 1980 after a heated debate.

Mr Ong faced strong opposition from other members of the cabinet, most notably Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee, due especially to the heavy investments involved. Dr Goh had earlier called in a team of specialists from Harvard University, who recommended that an all-bus system would be sufficient into the 1990s, and would cost some 50 percent less then a rail-based system.

Two independent American transport and urban planning specialist teams were then appointed by the government to conduct their own independent reviews as part of the Comprehensive Traffic Study in 1981, and the debate was also brought to national television in September 1980, a rarity at that time. The study came to the conclusion that an all-bus system would be inadequate as it would have to compete for road space which would have been increasingly overcrowded by then, an issue which would be solved by a rail system. Mr Ong hence declared in triumph on 28 March 1982, that the "Government has now taken a firm decision to build the MRT. The MRT is much more than a transport investment, and must be viewed in its wider economic perspective. The boost it'll provide to long term investors' confidence, the multiplier effect and how MRT will lead to the enhancement of the intrinsic value of Singapore's real estate are spin-offs that cannot be ignored."

Construction begins

Ground breaking ceremony of MRT construction (Photo from National Archives of Singapore)
Ground breaking ceremony of MRT construction (Photo from National Archives of Singapore)

The green light to begin construction of Singapore's then largest public works project was given in May 1982, with groundbreaking on 22 October 1983 at Shan Road, and the work expected to be completed in 1992. Sixty-seven kilometres of track was to be constructed, along with 42 stations, of which 26 would be elevated, 1 at grade, and 15 underground. The network was constructed in stages, with the North South Line given priority as it passed through the Orchard Road corridor as well as the Central Business District, two of the most transport-dependent areas then. The MRT Corporation, now SMRT Corporation, was established on 14 October 1983, taking over the roles and responsibilities of the former provisional Mass Rapid Transit Authority.

Initial opening

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Commencement of MRT passenger service between Yio Chu Kang Station to Toa Payoh Station(Photo from National Archives of Singapore)

On 7 November 1987, the first 6-kilometre section of the North South Line from Yio Chu Kang Station to Toa Payoh Station went into operation. The novelty resulted in thousands flocking to the 5-station segment just to experience and try out the system. At the launching of Toa Payoh Station, Mr Ong was quoted as saying that "this is like a 20-year affair from conception to delivery. Now the baby is born, to say that I am happy and pleased is an understatement."

Nine more stations from Novena to Outram Park were opened on 12 December 1987 by then DPM Goh Chok Tong, with the trains running as a through service from one end to the other although it included what were to later become interchange stations at City Hall and Raffles Place, and with Tanjong Pagar and Outram Park on the East West Line.

The MRT system was officially launched on 12 March 1988 by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore, coinciding with the opening of six more stations from Tiong Bahru to Clementi.

Nearing completion

Rapidly, the rest of the system opened in stages:

Subsequent extensions

North South Line Woodlands extension

In less than a year after the completion of the MRT project, the government announced in February 1991 their intentions to extend the system to Woodlands. Construction commenced in 1993, and the 16 kilometre, 6 station elevated line was opened on 10 February 1996 at a total cost of SGD$1.2 billion. With this extension, the North South Line was reconfigured to include the three stations on the former Choa Chu Kang Branch Line (Jurong East station, Bukit Batok station, Bukit Gombak station and Choa Chu Kang station), forming a continuous line from Jurong East MRT Station to Marina Bay MRT Station.

The construction of this line was not without political fallout. For a long time, the politicians representing residences in the North-east area of the island have been calling for the construction of a planned North East Line. The announcement of the Woodlands Extension has led to protests especially from opposition members of parliament, in particular from Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Khiang, representatives of Potong Pasir and Hougang constituencies respectively, with both areas potentially benefitting from such a line. The opposition members accused the government of favouring the Woodlands Extension over the North East Line due to opposition representation in the north-east area, arguing that there were far more residents in the north-east compared to the north, and questioned the rationale of building the Woodlands extension when the north was relatively undeveloped. Woodlands New Town was only half completed, and Sembawang New Town was still in the planning stage at that time.

More than a decade later, however, when the disputes with Malaysia over the railway land used by KTM escalated, it came to the fore, that one of the criteria the Malaysian authorities had listed before they would consider shifting the existing railway station away from Tanjong Pagar was for the MRT system to be introduced to Woodlands. On 16 October 2003, in response to a question fielded in parliament, Professor S. Jayakumar, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, mentioned, that the Points of Agreement concluded between the two sides on 27 November 1990 included a clause stating that KTM will shift the station to a site adjacent or close to the Woodlands MRT station within five years from the day the MRT to Woodlands is opened, something the KTM has not yet done.

Considering that the Points of Agreement was made in the year 1990, and followed quickly by an announcement to build the MRT line a year later in 1991, there is a possibility, that the line was given priority over the North East Line due more to international and local political concerns than economic considerations alone.

Introduction of the Light Rapid Transit

Full article: Light Rapid Transit (Singapore)

The concept of having rail lines which could bring people from door to door without requiring the use of road-clogging buses was much favoured by the government transport planners, especially with the increased emphasis on a rail-based public transport network. On 6 November 1999, the first LRT trains on the Bukit Panjang LRT Line went into operation.

The system, as well as the light rail concept, was not without its criticisms. With the system in Bukit Panjang experiencing lower-than-expected ridership in its earlier years, several feeder bus services to the estate were removed or amended to encourage ridership, much to the chagrin of many local residents. Popular opinion against the LRT system was high, with complaints that the new LRT system was more expensive compared to buses, less comprehensive in coverage, and less reliable. Indeed, the Bukit Panjang system experienced over 50 breakdowns since its opening, prompting the Land Transport Authority to impose hefty fines on its operator, SMRT Corporation.

Public confidence in the overall LRT system was so low, that when SBS Transit announced the commencement of operations in her system in Sengkang, much emphasis was made on the different rail system that has been adopted, as well as constant reassurances on reliabiliy and safety. That this system was linked to the North East MRT Line, the first fully automated and driverless heavy rail system in Singapore and the world, necessitated the increased attention paid to public-confidence.

Expo station

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Inside the Expo MRT station.

The Expo Station opened on 10 January 2001, sporting a space age architecture designed by world renowed architect Sir Norman Foster. The roof is clad in titanium and its design enabled the platform to be free of any columns, freeing up space in a station which will be used by thousands of visitors to the massive 100,000 square metre Singapore Expo next door.

Dover station

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An exterior view of the Dover MRT Station, which was built around existing elevated railway track and has overpasses leading to Singapore Polytechnic and bus stops on both sides of the road.

The Dover MRT Station, built on the East West MRT Line between the Clementi MRT Station and the Buona Vista MRT Station, was opened on October 18, 2001. The first station to be built over an operating rail line with no disruptions to train services (although trains drove by the site at a reduced speed during the construction phase), it was also the first elevated station with two side platforms on either side of the tracks, as opposed to having a central platform in all other elevated stations.

Adjacent to the Singapore Polytechnic on one side, and undeveloped land on the other, the building of the station was met with reservations by some members of the public over its low catchment area. There were criticisms over the spending of "tax payer's money" chiefly for use only by students of one educational institution. The government proceeded with the construction anyway, citing the catchment area extends to public housing flats on either end of the polytechnic, and that the undeveloped land opposite is slated for extensive development, largely residential in nature.

Changi Airport station

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Changi Airport MRT station

For a long time since its opening in 1981, the Singapore Changi Airport has relied on taxis and buses as the primary means of public transportation to the rest of the country. They served the airport well, but concerns over competition from other regional airports which often feature quick rail-based services to their city centres, such as the one in nearby Kuala Lumpur International Airport, has accelerated the government's plans to build a rail link to the airport.

Provision has long been made for a new line branching off from the existing East West MRT Line at the Tanah Merah MRT Station, with some conceptual plans showing a tentative route alignment up to the airport along Airport Boulevard, continuing beyond the airport to Changi point, before turning southwest back towards the city along the east coast of the island. When the extension to the airport was finally announced, however, the route alignment showed a deviation from previous plans.

The final plan involved building only the first two stations, namely Expo Station, an elevated station directly adjacent to the Singapore Expo, and the Changi Airport Station, an underground station built between Terminal Two and the upcoming Terminal Three. The alignment of the station at the airport has been switched perpendicularly to an East-west direction, such that the station leads to two of the terminals directly from either end of the station.

Changi Airport Station was opened on 27 February 2002, giving the airport its first rail link in 21 years. Initially operated as a shuttle service, through services from Boon Lay were commenced after the full opening, but due to ridership falling below expectations the service was reverted into shuttle mode in 2004.

North East Line

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The entrance to Chinatown MRT Station at street level: the completion of the North East Line allowed the prominent ethnic neighbourhood of Chinatown to be connected by rail to the rest of Singapore's towns for the first time.

The North East Line, the first line operated by SBS Transit and among the first fully-automated heavy rail line in the world, opened on June 20, 2003. The construction period of the North-East line was fraught with many delays and some budget problems. It marked the pinnacle of a long and checkered history of over two decades since the conception of the line had taken place along with that of the original system which was eventually completed in 1990. Running from HarbourFront where Singapore's former World Trade Centre building lies to Punggol to the northeast of the island, this line allowed for previously isolated or distanced areas to be linked up with the rest of Singapore by rail. Trains on the North East line are driverless & fully automated.

Circle Line

Currently under construction in 5 stages, the 33.3 kilometre long Circle line will be the first major rail line to be built since the publishing of the land transport white paper. Scheduled to be opened in stages from 2008 to 2010, it will connect all the existing MRT lines, and allow commuters to travel around the country without having to pass the downtown area.

Planned extensions

East West Line Boon Lay Extension

After months of planning, the Land Transport Authority announced on the 29 December 2004 the details of the Boon Lay MRT Extension (BLE). The 3.8 kilometre, 2 station line will extend from Boon Lay MRT Station on the western end of the East West MRT Line, with one station along Jurong West Street 63 between Jurong West Street 61 and Pioneer Road North, and the second station at Joo Koon Circle, near the junction of Benoi Road and International Road.

The fully elevated line will cost about S$436 million, with construction planned to commence in the second half of 2005, and completion targeted by 2009. The extension's alignment along Jurong West Street 63, Upper Jurong Road, and International Road required the acquisition of one full lot and eight part lots, totalling about 28,000 square metres of land.

Downtown Extension

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The MRT/LRT network after the Boon Lay Extension, the Circle Line and the Downtown Extension. Note that the stations names for the Boon Lay Extension, the Circle Line and the Downtown Extension are working names currently.

The Land Transport Authority announced on 14 June 2005 that it would be constructing a Downtown Extension (DTE) of the MRT to serve the Downtown at Marina Bay area, which is to be the site of an integrated resort as well as Singapore's second botanical gardens. Three new stations will be constructed underground linking the Millenia MRT Station on the Circle MRT Line and the Chinatown MRT Station on the North East MRT Line. Two stations tentatively named Bayfront and Landmark will be built to serve the Downtown at Marina Bay (DTMB) area, as well as a station, Cross Street, along Cross Street near the Chinatown area.

The 3.4-km fully underground extension is estimated to cost S$1.4 billion. Construction is to begin by 2007 and the extension to be completed by 2012.

Eastern Region Line, Bukit Timah Line & Jurong Region Line

These lines, when constructed will provide mass public transport to areas that will continue develop years from the present and thus will only need closer services then, especially also with further future land reclamation. They are presumably still in the planning and design stages. The northern segment of the Eastern Region Line, however, is expected to be built first before the rest of the line.

With the announcement of the building of the Downtown Extension, the route in which the Eastern Region Line and the Bukit Timah Line would take has been shown.

Rolling stock

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Inside an MRT train (Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 cars)
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Inside an MRT train (Siemens C651 cars)
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Inside an MRT train (Kawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751B cars)
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Inside an MRT train (Alstom's Metropolis series) on the North East Line. Trains running on this line are driverless and fully automated.

A number of different types of rolling stock can be found on the Mass Rapid Transit system.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 cars

Operating on the North South Line & the East West Line since 1987, these are the first generation of train cars used on the MRT network. These cars are still in operation today (everything still works as well as they did at the beginning), though a major train overhaul programme is on the cards. Regardless of whether the train cars are of the C151, C651 or C751B series, seats in the first train car (from either end) are orange in colour. Seats in the second car (from either end) are blue in colour & lastly the seats in the centre 2 cars are green in colour. 66 trainsets of 6 cars each were purchased.

Siemens C651 cars

Operating on the North South Line & the East West Line since the mid 1990s, these are the second generation of train cars used on the MRT network. These cars come with green tinted glass windows. They look almost identical to the first generation train cars except that they make a very different sound when accelerating/braking and when the train doors open or close due to the different types of systems used. 19 trainsets of 6 cars each were purchased.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751B cars

Operating on the North South Line & the East West Line since early 2000, these are the latest train cars used on the original MRT network. The cars are equipped with (sadly underused) Liquid Crystal Displays and LED Displays showing station information, commercials and movie trailers. They also come with more grab poles, wider seats, more space near the doors and wheelchair space. The interior and exterior design of the train have been improved, incorporating a much sleeker design. 21 trainsets of 6 cars each were purchased.

Alstom Metropolis cars

Operating on the North East Line since 2003, and on the Circle Line in 2007, these are the first generation of trains cars to be used on the new MRT lines. These cars are driverless, fully automated, are sleeker in design, come with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), have wider seats, have more grabpoles, more space near the doors, have wheelchair space and are equipped with Liquid Crystal Displays and LED Displays showing station information, safety messages and videos, commercials and movie trailers. For the first time in Singapore MRT history, these train cars are powered by overhead catenary, in contrast to the train cars on all the other operating lines prior to this, which are powered by third rail. This is also the first time in the history of Singapore's MRT history that the seats in every compartment of the train are made up of the same colours. 25 trainsets of 6 cars each were purchased for the North East Line, while another 40 trainsets of 3 cars each were purchased for the Circle Line. Its interior design seems to be related to cubism.


MRT stations are generally always either above-ground stations or underground stations and are classified accordingly.


The first level of an above-ground station is usually only used for access from the other levels to a main street and the two bus stops just outside the above-ground station along that particular main street in order to accommodate for buses travelling both opposite directions.

The second level is the ticketing platform and containing the ticketing machines and the fare-gate between the paid and unpaid areas. Retail shops, ticketing counters and machines, the passenger service centre, restrooms, payphones, automatic teller machines, and self service automated kiosks for a myriad of services tend to be located within the unpaid area, although not all such services might be available at every station. Escalators and stairs providing access to the platform level one floor up is located only the paid area. An passenger overpass may sometimes link the unpaid area of this level to another prominent building nearby, such as a school or a polytechnic.

The third level is the train platform where passengers board and alight from the trains. Most of the time this consists of one actual platform island with two sets of tracks for opposite directions running on either side, but this may not be true such in stations like Jurong East MRT Station and Dover MRT Station, where in the former being an interchange consists of two platform islands and three tracks, and the latter was built alongside an existing MRT track, so it consists of a set of two tracks and a platform island on either side. Levels are always connected by escalators and stairs.

There are many above-ground stations with just two levels as well, meaning the ticketing level is located on the ground floor while the platforms are located a floor up.


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Dhoby Ghaut Station's North East Line Platform Level - All underground MRT stations are air conditioned, have platform screen doors & are equipped with plasma display screens. In the unlikely event that an air assault should threaten Singapore, the station also serves a dual role of a bomb shelter.

These stations generally consist of two levels: the ticketing level described as above, usually containing the same services, and the train platform level. There will be at least two sets of escalators and stairs between the two levels, and a further set leading to a street level. There may be several street accesses depending on how many streets the underground MRT station is adjacent to, especially being underground the area above will probably be dense with multiple streets on top of the station area.

There are exceptions on the number of levels however, when the station is an interchange and thus consists of more levels than two to accommodate the extra train platform(s) for the extra line(s) and linkway(s). Examples include the City Hall MRT Station an interchange between the North South and East West MRT Lines, and contains three levels, a ticketing area with amenities and two platform levels. Its unpaid area also happens to be integrated with the basement of a shopping center, and has two street level access points. Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station happens to be an interchange between the Circle, North East and North South lines. As such, the station boasts of 5 levels (3 platform levels, a concourse level and a retail level). There may also happen to be a structure at ground level housing the escalator access, but this is generally not counted as part as the station. One should note however, that at this station, the number of levels differ at various parts of the station.

Underground MRT stations are often deep enough to be shielded from conventional bomb attacks from the air, and thus also have dual roles of being bomb shelters. This status is enhanced by the fact that underground MRT systems have prebuilt ventilation systems with air-conditioning to even facilitate a degree of comfort in the unlikely case a conventional air assault should occur.

The only exception is the Bishan MRT Station, which is in an interesting position as it rests neither truly above ground nor underground but rather somewhere in between and only consists of two levels. The top level is on the ground while the bottom level is just underground. However, it is exposed to the sky, and thus it cannot also count as a bomb shelter.

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The mundane view of the tunnel from a train of the Alstom's Metropolis Series in the North East Line.

Infrastructure & services

All stations along all MRT & LRT lines are equipped with

  • lifts (All stations to be equipped by 2006)
  • ramps (All stations to be equipped by 2006)
  • disabled friendly toilets (All stations to be equipped by 2006)
  • tactile guidance system (All stations to be equipped by 2006)
  • LED displays showing train arrival time information and important messages
  • plasma display screens showing train arrival time information, commercials/movie trailers, date/time and safety messages
  • male & female toilets
  • passenger service centre
  • General Ticketing Machines (GTM)
  • Add Value Machines
  • standard size fare gantries
  • wider fare gantries
  • information boards & maps
  • payphones

Some stations along the MRT & LRT lines also come with

  • a selection of retail shops/kiosks, supermarkets (NTUC FairPrice, Shop N Save), convenience stores (7-Eleven, Cheers)
  • TransitLink ticketing counters
  • Mobile ezlink Card Top Up station
  • Automated Teller Machines (ATM)
  • Self Service Automated Machines for stamps, movie passes, bill payments
  • mailboxes
  • Free Today newspaper distribution point


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Aerial view of Bishan Depot
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View of Sengkang Depot, a depot integrated with NEL, Sengkang and Punggol LRT systems. (Taken from LRT station)

There are four train depots in Singapore, located in Bishan, Ulu Pandan, Changi and Sengkang. These house trains not in use. There are usually diversion tracks that lead to the main MRT lines that are only activated when a train needs to enter or leaves a depot.

For passengers with disabilities

The full range of barrier free & disabled friendly facilities such as lifts, ramps, tactile guidance system & handicapped friendly toilets are present at:

  • 18/25 Stations On The North South Line
  • 21/29 Stations On The East West Line
  • All 16 Stations On The North East Line
  • All 14 Stations On The Bukit Panjang LRT
  • All 14 Stations On The Sengkang LRT
  • All 15 Stations On The Punggol LRT

Retrofitting works are currently ongoing at the remaining:

  • 7 Stations On The North South Line (Due 2006)

(Marina Bay, Raffles Place, City Hall, Orchard, Newton, Braddell, Bishan)

  • 8 Stations On The East West Line (Due 2006)

(Buona Vista, Tiong Bahru, Tanjong Pagar, Raffles Place, City Hall, Bugis, Lavender, Paya Lebar)

All future lines will incorporate barrier free & disabled friendly facilities in its stations & trains. These include:

  • All 29 Stations On The Circle Line (Due 2010)
  • All 2 Stations On The East West Line Boon Lay Extension (Due 2009)


  • Information correct as of 7 May 2005
  • Disabled passengers & passengers travelling with prams or luggage should ensure that their station of origin & your destination station have been retrofitted with these facilities before embarking on their journeys.



There have been multiple accidents on the MRT system since its inception in 1987, although most faults were subsequently rectified. More notable ones include

  • a collision between MRT trains at Clementi MRT station on 5 August 1993, resulting in 132 injuries. The collision happened because a work train that did maintenance work earlier that morning had spilled some oil onto the tracks.
  • the derailing of an empty train in between Yio Chu Kang & Ang Mo Kio stations in the late 1990s/early 2000s
  • the recall of the 21 new Kawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751B cars from service on 23 April 2002 due to faulty gearboxes, though there were no safety implications
  • the mounting of a car onto a stretch of ad grade track along Lentor Avenue in between Khatib and Yio Chu Kang stations, resulting in a collision by an oncoming train
  • commuter deaths as a result of being hit by trains on the tracks at Bukit Batok, Redhill, Ang Mo Kio and Bishan stations, accidental or suicidal.

These incidents have prompted the authorities to consider strengthening the fences along the at grade sections of train track running beside the roads, which was done. There was a proposal to install platform screen doors at elevated stations and platform gates (such as those installed on the Tokyo Monorail) at elevated stations, but was rejected due to the high installation & maintenance costs, which could eventually be borne by the passenger. Safety was also an issue as there was the risk that passengers might get trapped in the gap created between the platform gates and the train as a result of the platform gates. The idea to use CCTV cameras led to all elevated stations as of 2005 having recordable digital CCTV systems. Eventually the remaining underground stations are planned to have this new system too. More CCTV cameras are also progressively being installed in all stations.

Fire safety

After the Daegu subway fire incident in South Korea, fire prevention became the most important consideration of the Mass Rapid Transit system of Singapore. The MRT uses the guidelines of the American National Fire Prevention Authorities (NFPA), which were established for enhancing fire safety within metro systems. The guidelines contain criteria concerning the availability of emergency exits (within 600m), evacuation time (max. 6 min.), escalators, and other design features. All the MRT stations and trains have more than one fire-extinguisher and smoke detection systems are installed in all North-East Line trains.

Yellow line & safety announcements

A wide yellow line is drawn along the platform's edge to remind passengers not to stand too near to the edge.

Safety announcements reminding passengers to stand behind the yellow line are played in all 4 official languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil) on the platforms whenever a train is approaching, especially during peak hours.

Under the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Regulations 11 and 29, commuters who ignore the instruction not to cross yellow line until the train has stopped at the station may be fined up to $500. For those who are caught trespassing onto the tracks, they may be fined up to $5,000.

An announcement is made when a train is approaching the platform : "Attention all passengers, for your own safety, please stand behind the yellow line." (English) "大家请注意,为了您自己的安全,请站在黄线后面。" (Chinese) "Sila ambi perhatian, untuk keselamatan anda, sila berdiri di belakang barisan kuning." (Malay) "Anbu kuunthu payanigal kavankikavum, unggalin paathukappai minithu mandal kotikku pimaal nilunga." (Tamil)

Platform screen doors

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Platform Screen Doors (1st Version)
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Platform Screen Doors (2nd Version)

Platform screen doors are installed at all underground Mass Rapid Transit stations in Singapore. The Singapore Mass Rapid Transit was the first Heavy Rail system in the world to incorporate platform screen doors in its stations in 1987 (as according to Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors). These doors serve to

  • prevent suicides
  • enable climate control within the station (better ventilation & air conditioning)
  • better security control as access to the tunnels & tracks is restricted
  • passenger safety considerations

These are manufactured by Westinghouse Platform Screen Doors, A Member Of The Knorr-Bremse Group. There are 2 series of the platform screen doors in use. The first series, installed at the underground stations along the North South Line & the East West Line (except Changi Airport station), have been in use since 1987. The latest series of platform screen doors, sporting a sleeker design & incorporating more glass, are installed at the Changi Airport station & all stations (all underground) along the North East Line in 2002 & 2003 respectively.

Safety facilities

The safety facilities in MRT are listed below:

  • Emergency Stop Plunger (ESP) - SMRT/Emergency Train Stop (ETS) - NEL
  • Emergency Telephone - SMRT/NEL
  • Passenger intercom at General Ticketing Machine - NEL
  • Fire-Extinguishers - SMRT/NEL
  • Emergency Stop Button on escalator/travelator - SMRT/NEL
  • Emergency Detrainment Ramp - SMRT/NEL
  • Emergency Communication Button - SMRT/NEL
  • Door Unlock Handle - NEL
  • Emergency Door Handle of platform screen doors - SMRT/NEL


It was noted that overall security concerns related to crime and terrorism are not high on the agenda of the system's planners since its inception. [1] ('s/Transit%20Systems/Singapore%20-%20cp.htm) For instance, there was no physical police presence in the rail system, and nor was private security guards deployed. CCTV systems were not widely used, and there was no passenger service booths on the platform level, the only manned booth being the one at the station control room. These measures has not been necessary, however, as incidents of crime has been very low on the rail system.

In the wake of heightened security concerns as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and also particularly the 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks in which the commuter rail system was targeted, however, the Singapore government initiated several measures aimed at securing the rail system from a similar attack. In the months immediately after the Madrid attacks, the two rail operators, SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit, started employing private unarmed guards who patrol the station platforms, and are empowered to check the belongings of commuters. The Singapore Police Force announced that regular police officers may commence patrolling duties within stations and trains, although this was not visibly apparent except in the immediate period after announcements were made. Waste disposal bins were removed from the stations' premises, followed by post boxes to the station entrances. In addition, recorded audio announcements in trains and stations, notices on LCD screens on station platforms and in train carriages, as well as posters and notices in stations remind commuters to report instances of unattended packages and other suspicious activities to the authorities.

On 14 April 2005, an announcement was made to step-up rail security [2] ( Commencing August 2005, a new specialised rail security department of the Singapore Police Force, the MRT Policing Unit, will start deploying armed police officers on the rail system. This will be complemented by an enhanced CCTV system.

Fares and ticketing

Fares on the MRT system are distance-based, increasing in fixed stages for standard non-concessionary travel. Fares on the SBS Transit's lines are slightly higher compared to those operated by SMRT Corporation, a disparity SBS Transit announced just before the opening of the North East MRT Line, justifying it be citing higher operational and maintenance costs, as well as expected lower ridership than anticipated. Despite protests from the general public, the fare was approved, but as a sweetener, the company set the ticket price comparable to SMRT's rates in the first few months of operation to encourage ridership.

Fares and ticketing in 1987

When the system first came into operation in 1987, fares on the Yio Chu Kang to Clementi ranged from S$0.50 to S$1.10 in S$0.10 increments for all adult tickets, regardless of whether they were single-trip or stored tickets. Several concessionary fares were available. Senior citizens and permanent residents above the age of 60 could travel on a flat fare S$0.50 during off-peak hours, namely from 10am to 4pm, and from 7pm onwards on weekdays, from 2.30pm onwards on Saturdays, and for the entire day on Sundays and public holidays. At all other times, standard adult fares were payable. Children below the height of 1.2 metres, and full time students studying in primary, secondary, Pre-university and VITB institutions can pay a flat fare of S$0.30 at any time of the day.

Magnetic strip plastic tickets were used, and comes in various forms. The single trip ticket, coloured in green, has a validity on the day of purchase, as well as a time allowance of 30 minutes above the travelling time. Stored value tickets came in three values: The S$10 blue ticket for adults, the S$10 orange tickets for senior citizens, and the S$5 red tickets for children. In addition, monthly concession tickets can also be purchased, and comes in four values: The beige coloured S$13 ticket for primary students, the peach coloured S$17 ticket for secondary, pre-university and VITB students, the pink coloured S$30 ticket for tertiary students, and the purple coloured S$36 ticket for full time national servicemen. These concession tickets have a validity of one month from the date of purchase, allows up to four trips per day, and are non transferable.

Fares and ticketing today

Missing image
ez_link card

Standard Ticket (single trip) adult fares are S$0.80 to S$2.80, excluding the S$1.00 refundable ticket deposit. With the EZ-Link or Visitors ( Card fares are reduced by 15% to S$0.64 to S$2.33. Concession fares are also available for children, student, senior citizens and national servicemen.

Adult fares on SMRT

Distance (km)ez-link CardStandard Ticket
Up to 3.2$0.64$0.80
3.2 to 4.4$0.74$1.00
4.4 to 5.6$0.84$1.00
5.6 to 7.2$0.94$1.20
7.2 to 8.0$1.04$1.20
8.0 to 10.4$1.14$1.20
10.4 to 12.4$1.24$1.40
12.4 to 14.4$1.29$1.40
14.4 to 16.5$1.34$1.40
16.5 to 18.6$1.39$1.40
18.6 to 21.1$1.44$1.60
21.1 to 23.6$1.49$1.60
23.6 to 26.0$1.54$1.60
26.0 to 28.0$1.59$1.80
28.0 to 30.0$1.64$1.80
Over 30.0$1.69$1.80

Distinction from other metro systems

Missing image
Plasma displays

Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit system has several distinctive features that not all other metro systems in Asia & the world have (either in part or all).

  • The EZ-Link Card enables residents & foreign visitors alike to travel freely on the MRT, LRT & Bus system without the need for multiple cards, saving them both time & effort as they no longer need to figure out which card to use for which system.
  • Commuters travelling on the MRT & LRT system are not hindered when transferring lines (which could be run by different operators), by the need to exit the faregates and re-enter through another in order to change lines. In general, once one has tapped the ezlink Card on the card readers and enters the MRT & LRT system, he or she never has to tap it again until he or she has arrived at the desired destination station.
  • Singapore is one of the few cities in the world to utilise plasma displays in metro stations to display train service information. Metro systems worldwide usually use LED displays (or none at all) instead as they are cheaper to install. Critics have opposed the use of plasma displays as they are considerably more expensive to install and are susceptible to the problem of screen burns. However, the rail operators see this as a medium to earn advertising revenue from commercials shown on these displays. At the same time, they are able to display all the train service information, safety messages and time/date on these screens clearly (Using the flip dot system previously, only a limited amount of information could be displayed).
  • All underground stations, current and future, come with platform screen doors.
  • The train operators in Singapore also run bus and taxi services, thus ensuring that there is a full integration of services (Rail To Bus & Vice Versa).


Academic publications

  • Sock, Y.P. and Walder, Jay H. (1999) Singapore’s Public Transport

Corporate and governmental sources

  • Land Transport Authority, Singapore (1996) A World Class Land Transport System. White Paper presented to Parliament, 2 January. ISBN 9971884887
  • Mass Rapid Transit Corporation, Singapore (1993) Stored Value - A Decade of the MRTC. ISBN 9810050348
  • Singapore MRT Limited (1987) MRT Guide Book. ISBN 9810001509

See also


External links

fr:Métro de Singapour nl:Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) & Light Rapid Transit (LRT)


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