SINGAPORE is set to see more dramatic changes in its rail landscape with new developments in the pipeline. The world's first integrated bus and train depot will be built - estimated to cost a whopping S$6.2 billion - in an attempt to improve Singapore's increasingly congested transport system in the midst of land scarcity challenges.
The integrated depot, announced by Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew yesterday, will comprise a bus depot as well as a three-storey rail depot, with each storey housing trains serving a different line. The existing Changi depot will be relocated as the new depot will be able to house around 220 trains and park 550 buses when completed.
"While the cost of building such a depot is high due to complexities such as having tracks from three MRT lines leading to the depot, compared to having four separate depots occupying 80 hectares of land, this four-in-one depot requires only 36 hectares," a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said. "The estimated land savings of 44 hectares is equivalent to an area of approximately 60 football fields, or about one-and-a-quarter Sports Hubs."
Traditionally, train depots are not built upon one another. Explained Park Byung Joon, head of programme for Urban Transport Management at SIM University: "It's very hard to make an elevated train depot because trains are very, very heavy. So that will be a challenge."
However, LTA officials assured that world-class expertise would be consulted in the development of the first-of-its-kind depot.
The announcement came after the other big revelation of the day: the in-progress Thomson Line and the previously announced Eastern Region Line have been set to run as one single line. The new line will be called the Thomson-East Coast Line or TEL for short.
The TEL will provide seamless transport journeys for residents in the east travelling to the city or further north on the island.
Speaking about the TEL during a visit to the Marina South Pier Station, which is set to open by the end of this year, Mr Lui said that trains will begin running at Woodlands before "coming south through the Central Business District, then turning east at Gardens by the Bay to travel along the East Coast".
The final station of the East Coast stretch - Sungei Bedok - will connect with the Downtown Line (DTL) via an interchange on the DTL3 extension (DTL3e). Alignment for DTL3e has also been finalised and it will be 2.2 kilometres long, consisting of two stations including the interchange station.
The TEL's eastern stretch will be completed in two phases with the first seven stations from Tanjong Rhu to Bayshore ready by 2023. The remaining two stations, the DTL3e and the depot will be ready in 2024. Construction is expected to begin in 2016.
The TEL East Coast stretch will also boast Singapore's first underground bicycle parks at MRT stations with four of its nine stations featuring the new initiative.
In total, the 43km-long TEL will have 31 stations with 13km running through the East Coast stretch. When fully operational in 2024, the TEL stations (of which seven will be interchanges) are expected to serve 500,000 commuters daily initially and one million commuters everyday eventually.
The East Coast stretch would cost S$6.8 billion, bringing the total budgeted cost of the TEL to S$24 billion.
Despite efforts to minimise land acquisition in the development of the TEL, over 24,000 square metres of land will be acquired. This entails the full acquisition of six privately owned landed properties on Amber Road and a three-storey walk-up apartment on Tanjong Katong Road.
The most affected will be Laguna National Golf and Country Club with 17,656.4 sq m of its land acquired for the development of the TEL.
Affected properties have been gazetted. As for properties near the new TEL stations, prices are already projected to increase, especially those within a 600m radius of the new stations. However, in the short term, the construction period may lead to a drop in rents for properties located nearby due to security, noise and privacy issues.
According to Nicholas Mak of SLP International Property Consultants: "Overall, we estimate that some property owners may increase their asking prices by 5-10 per cent over the next few months. But the actual change in prices will be subject to other market forces.
"Furthermore, the benefits can be enjoyed by the residents in the East Coast area only when the MRT line is fully operational in 2023. Therefore, the full realisation of this benefit translated in housing prices in these affected areas will take effect only near the completion date of the TEL."
Over the years, the government has introduced plans for the DTL, the Jurong Region Line and the Cross Island Line as part of its plans to widen the local rail network.
Mr Lui said: "We are on track to realise our vision for 2030 - which is to double Singapore's rail network to some 360km and to have eight-in-ten households within a 10-minute walk from an MRT station."