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The first six stations of the $20.7-billion Downtown Line in Singapore are slated to open on 22 December, local media reported on Monday.
The stations, which comprise the first stage of the line, are Bugis, Promenade, Bayfront, Downtown, Telok Ayer and Chinatown.
These new connections will enhance transport links in the city area, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who announced this at the opening of the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition on Monday morning.
By mid-2016, 12 stations under the Downtown Line's second stage will open: Bukit Panjang, Cashew, Hillview, Beauty World, King Albert Park, Sixth Avenue, Tan Kah Kee, Botanic Gardens, Stevens, Newton, Little India and Rochor.
The second stage of the line was supposed to have been completed in 2015 but had to be delayed as the main contractor, Alpine Bau, went bust.
A further 16 stations located mostly in the East area will start operations in 2017, completing the line. These are Fort Canning, Bencoolen, Jalan Besar, Bendemeer, Geyland Bahru, Mattar, MacPherson, Ubi, Kaki Bukit, Bedok North, Bedok Reservoir, Tampines West, Tampines East, Upper Changi and Expo.
Last year, Lui said the budget for the MRT line surged from $12 billion to $20.7 billion owing to a rise in construction costs and prices of materials.
He said a 60 and 14 per cent rise in the cost of steel bars and concrete, as well as increased construction costs owing to high demand, resulted in actual tender prices being higher than what his ministry had originally planned in early 2007.
Read more about that in our story here.
The LTA's website says that by the time it is fully opened in 2017, the Downtown Line will be Singapore's longest fully-underground driverless train system at a length of 42km.
It adds that the DTL will boast brand-new trains with larger carrying capacities, with perch seats in their gangway areas instead of two-seaters and additional wheelchair spaces for greater wheelchair accessiblity.
LTA expects the line to boost connectivity for commuters living in the eastern and western parts of Singapore, easing their travel into the city and helping to ease the crowded stretches of existing rail lines.
Separately, Lui also launched the Land Transport Authority's masterplan for improvement of Singapore's public transport networks, a report that shares details of initiatives for the coming 10 to 15 years. Click here to read the report and here for a community-friendly guide to the plan.