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Monday, April 20, 2009

Faster and cheaper

CIRCLE LINE

Fares same as for North-East Line, when five stations open on May 28

Leong Wee Keat

weekeat@mediacorp.com.sg

WHEN the first five stations of the Circle Line swing into operation two days early on May 28, you would shave as much as two-fifths off the time it takes to travel from Buangkok to Toa Payoh Hub, or 15 per cent off the fare.

That’s because the journey using the new MRT line would be both 7 minutes quicker and cost 26 cents less than on the current train lines. And the Circle Line trip will take 18 minutes less than the direct bus Service 159, though the fare would be 14 cents more.

Overall, with the links that the new line will provide, more than 31,000 adult train trips per week would see fare reductions of between 5 and 77 cents. Commuters will also see travel time cut by as much as 27 minutes, depending on their origin and destination stations, said the Public Transport Council (PTC) yesterday.

Train fares on the new Circle Line will be the same as on the North-East Line (NEL), when service begins at Marymount, Bishan, Lorong Chuan, Serangoon and Bartley stations. Currently, a ride on the NEL costs 5 to 25 cents more than on the North-South and East-West lines.

Announcing this, the PTC noted that the projected unit operating cost of the Circle Line is at least 2.5 times that of the North-South and East-West lines, and similar to that of the NEL. Indeed, the Circle Line “is expected to operate at a loss in its initial years”, observed the council.

On the five-station stretch, automated three-car trains — which can hold about 930 passengers each — will run every 3 to 4 minutes during the peak periods, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Boost for bus connectivity?

Residents can take comfort in the authorities’ assurance that no basic bus route will be changed with the opening of the Circle Line stretch. When the NEL opened in 2003, at least 20 services were stopped or re-routed.

And the good news, for those not within walking distance of the new stations: The LTA said a few private operators have expressed interest in providing bus services to some of the stations.

Cheery Bus Transport Service has applied to run a premium bus service linking Sin Ming Estate to Marymount MRT Station. The PTC is processing the application.

Bus Hub has also shown interest in running a service between Serangoon Gardens and Serangoon MRT.

The operator has conducted a market study and is still exploring the possibility, said director V Anilan. Some factors he is mulling over: Market size, bus schedules and fares. “I’m careful about going in,” Mr Anilan told Today. “We don’t want to enter a service but close the route in less than a year.”

As for the Circle Line operator, when asked about the projected initial operating losses, SMRT Trains vice-president Vincent Tan said: “As the next four stages of the Circle Line complete and open progressively, we expect ridership to grow ... We expect Circle Line to be accretive when the entire line opens.”

By then, it is expected that about 10 to 15 per cent of trips currently made on the most heavily-loaded sections of the MRT network would have moved over to the Circle Line.

From TODAY, News– Friday, 17-April-2009