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Thomson East-Coast Line Completion Delayed Due To COVID-19 Impact

On 15 August 2014, The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the rail alignment and station locations for the Eastern Region Line, which will run with the Thomson Line as a single line. When this is completed, it will be Singapore’s sixth rail line, to be known as the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

Upon completion, the 43-kilometre long TEL will have a total of 31 stations, of which seven are interchanges. The TEL will bring residents living in the east and along the North-South Corridor closer to a train station, giving them easier access to the city. Commuters will enjoy a 35-minute journey from Woodlands South to Orchard on the TEL, compared to a 50-minute journey by bus and MRT today.

The East Coast stretch of the TEL, which is 13-kilometre long, will connect commuters living in the eastern parts of Singapore and who currently are not directly served by the rail network. For those living in the Tanjong Rhu, Siglap, Marine Parade, Upper East Coast and Bedok South areas, the TEL will give them easy access to the heart of the city.

The construction of the TEL officially began on 21 July 2016 with a ground-breaking ceremony. On 4 July 2018, the first Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) train was unveiled by LTA. LTA also stated then that TEL will open in stages from 2020 and when fully operational by 2024, is expected to serve approximately 500,000 commuters daily in the initial years and rising to about one million commuters in the longer term. TEL is set to be opened in 5 stages, with the first stage known as TEL1, which comprises the Woodlands North, Woodlands, and Woodlands South MRT stations began operations on 31st January 2020.

On 17 January this year, LTA announced that the second stage (TEL2) is about 90 per cent complete and on track to open in the later part of 2020. TEL2 comprises six stations, namely Springleaf, Lentor, Mayflower, Bright Hill, Upper Thomson and Caldecott, with two interchange stations at Bright Hill and Caldecott. Bright Hill station will link to the future Cross Island Line, while Caldecott station will link to the existing Circle Line (CCL).

COVID-19's Impact

On September 4, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that the completion of the six stations in TEL2 will be delayed by three months due to the impact of COVID-19. Therefore, the 6 stations - from Springleaf to Caldecott - will only be ready in the first quarter of next year, having initially been scheduled to open on 2020.

Minister Ong also said that "Unlike the TEL2 which is near completion and prioritised for resumption of work, we will only be able to better assess the length of delays on subsequent phases of TEL and other MRT projects when construction activities have more or less fully resumed."

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, all construction work in Singapore were put on hold as the Singapore Government imposed the circuit breaker (CB) from 7 April to 1 June, to minimise further spread of the coronavirus. The CB was partially eased on 2 June and critical and time-sensitive projects, such as MRT and Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS) tunnelling projects were allowed to continue but with COVID-19 safety regulations strictly adhered to.

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