9 First World Problems S’pore’s MRT system faced before breaking down regularly
It's amazing how far Singapore has come.
On Jan. 11, the first major train disruption of 2014 occurred along the North-South Line from Woodlands to Choa Chu Kang stations around lunchtime.
This left thousands stranded, with some evacuating the stalled train via the track between Kranji and Yew Tee.
A broken cable fault ruined everyone’s start to the weekend.
The biggest irony? A day prior to the breakdown, it was reported that SMRT and SBS Transit are increasing train frequencies this year (see details in side box below), which won them some goodwill from the hoi polloi.
Regardless, here are 9 other First World Problems that plagued the MRT system before broken down, overcrowded and infrequent trains got to us.
1. The Lentor Disneyland that never was
The distance between Khatib and Yio Chu Kang MRT is so long because a Disneyland was initially slated to be built there to compete with Hong Kong’s Disneyland. The station was supposed to be called Lentor.
However, the deal went belly up and now we are left with an army training site instead.
2. It took 10 years before the MRT building plan was approved
A fervent advocate of the MRT, President Ong Teng Cheong fought hard from 1972 to justify the cost of building a train system.
However, he faced strong opposition from the cabinet, including then finance minister Goh Keng Swee.
A study by a team from Harvard concluded that an all-bus system would be adequate up till 1990, at 50% the cost of the $5 billion needed for the MRT. It was only in the early 80s that another study, as well as a televised debate, was conducted. Ong Teng Cheong, and Singapore finally got the plan for an MRT approved on March 28, 1982.
[quipbox float=”right” boxcolor=”000000″ boxhead=”SMRT and SBS Transit’s plan to combat waiting time woes for trains”]
Just a day before 2014’s North-South Line break down, SMRT and SBS Transit announced these plans:
– SMRT will be progressively adding 400 more weekly train trips on the North-South and East-West Lines by September to reduce off-peak waiting times to less than five minutes — an increase of 5 percent of train trips.
– SMRT has also added about 200 more weekly train trips to the Circle Line since Jan. 1, while another 150 will be added next month, to reduce waiting times to six minutes or less.
– SBS Transit has added 400 off-peak weekly train trips to the North-East Line (NEL) this month — an increase of 13 per cent — to reduce waiting time to three to five minutes.
3. Construction of MRT was very painful
Many technical and social problems plagued the building of the North-South Line as it was the first train line to be built in Singapore.
Construction works were carried out on the ground level, which meant old buildings had to make way, affected businesses and caused traffic jams.
Technical difficulties resulted in the location of the Newton MRT Station to be shifted from Newton Circus to Scotts Road and the building of the tunnel below the Singapore River.
4. The first MRT line was just 6km short
The first MRT line that open on 7 November, 1987 was the North South Line. It was just 6km long, running from Yio Chu Kang to Toa Payoh.
5. The superstitious $1 coin
The bagua (octagon shape) on our $1 coin was due to the advice given to Lee Kuan Yew by Venerable Hong Chuan, a highly respected monk, that the tunnels would destroy the countries good fengshui. To rectify the problem, every rider had to carry a bagua.
The $1 coin was launched two months before the NS line, and our newly launched coin still possess the bagua.
However, the coincidence in timing between the launch of the coin and the start of NS line has been debunked.
6. The direct airport line that was underused
The Changi Airport station, opened in February 2002, initially had trains running non-stop to Boon Lay. But due to lower than expected ridership, the service was reverted to a shuttle service.
7. Line colours
The train lines on a map was initially depicted by direction. Orange for northbound travel and red for south. Green and blue were for East and West bound travel respectively.
As of 2001, however, the colours were revamped as one colour represented one line due to the addition of multiple lines to avoid making things confusing.
8. Stations colour coding
Some of the older stations have colour coded tiles. Toa Payoh is yellow, Novena is green, and Orchard Maroon. This was done to help passengers easily identify the stations, especially those who were illiterate.
one-north is the only MRT station without a capital letter in it. It opened on 8 October, 2011.
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Top photo from here