Few problems despite 19 MRT stations closing early

Commuters queueing for the shuttle bus service towards Jurong East Station at Outram Park Station. PHOTO: Wan Ting Koh/Yahoo News Singapore

by Nicholas Yong, Wong Casandra and Wan Ting Koh

The first day of reduced service hours at 19 MRT stations on the North-South and East-West Lines went off with little drama on Friday evening (8 December), with bridging bus services filling the gap for thousands of commuters.

At Outram Park and Jurong East stations, Yahoo News Singapore saw dozens of SMRT staff and crowd marshals in luminous vests smoothly directing commuters away from the stations and towards the various bus pick-up points. Flyers with detailed information about shutdown hours and bus services were also handed out at Jurong East Station.

Crowd marshals gather for a briefing at Jurong East Station shortly before 11pm on Friday, 8 December 2017. PHOTO: Nicholas Yong/Yahoo News Singapore

The crowds, which were of a manageable size, queued up in an orderly fashion. At some pick-up points, as many as 10 buses were spotted waiting for passengers. Clearly labelled signs were also put up at both stations.

Signs demarcating the shuttle bus point were in place up to an hour before train service ended. PHOTO: Wan Ting Koh/Yahoo News Singapore

Not all the staff were perfectly informed about the logistics of the operations – several crowd marshals whom Yahoo News Singapore asked about bus timings responded with blank faces. Many of the marshals were tertiary students hired as temp staff, reportedly for $8.50 an hour. Two were overheard saying that they had applied for the role via a job portal.

But even commuters who were unaware of the early shutdowns seemed largely unfazed by the situation.

Trader Andrea Lee, 26, was headed home from work and was initially unaware of the early closure. “I am a bit annoyed but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

When asked how SMRT was handling the situation, he replied nonchalantly, “Its okay. It’s just a simple job of redirecting.”

WATCH: Scenes from Outram Park and Jurong East MRT stations on Friday (8 Dec) night. Services at 19 stations on the East-West and North-South Lines ended early and commuters were redirected to shuttle bus services to continue their journey.Read more: http://bit.ly/2z85pLO

Posted by Yahoo Singapore on Friday, December 8, 2017

From 8 December till the end of 2017, 17 EWL stations – from Tiong Bahru to Tuas Link – and two North-South Line (NSL) stations – Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak – will close at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and open at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays.

These stretches will also be fully closed on 10 and 17 December, which both fall on a Sunday. Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak stations are also affected as the works will extend to Jurong East station, which is a heavily used intersection of the NSL and EWL.

Over at Jurong East Station, three shuttle bus services were provided at three pick-up points. At times, as few as four commuters boarded individual buses. An additional shuttle bus service will be provided on the affected Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The first bus for shuttle bus service 4 heading towards Choa Chu Kang arrived at Jurong East Station at around 11.15pm. Around 40-50 commuters were spotted in line for the service. PHOTO: Wong Casandra/Yahoo News Singapore

Low Zi Jia, 24, a nurse at the National University Hospital who lives in Bukit Batok, was first in line at 11.20pm for shuttle bus service 4 heading towards Choa Chu Kang.

The closure will see Lim taking a bus trip that is estimated to last 15 minutes, three times longer than her usual train trip from Jurong East Station to Bukit Batok Station.

Despite the slight inconvenience, she remained upbeat.

“After the maintenance, if the trains can be on time, have lesser problems and show improvements in their services, I think (dealing with) the closure is fine,” she said.