Woodlands MRT line

Singapore Infopedia


The Woodlands Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line connecting Choa Chu Kang to Yishun was constructed in the early 1990s.1 Built at a cost of $1.2 billion, the 16-km long line was officially opened on 10 February 1996 by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.2 Also known as the Woodlands extension line, it consists of six MRT stations: Yew Tee, Kranji, Marsiling, Woodlands, Admiralty, and Sembawang.3

Planning and conceptualisation

The government came up with the proposal to build the Woodlands MRT line in 1990 when it announced its Woodlands MRT line construction plan. The proposal called for the extension of the existing North-South and East-West lines to connect Choa Chu Kang in the west to Yishun in the north. Many changes were subsequently made to the original plan. These were mainly made to accommodate the 1991 Concept Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which aimed to make Woodlands a regional centre for northern Singapore. One of the changes was the number of MRT stations along the line. Due to the expected increase in the number of commuters in the Woodlands area, the government had to increase the number of MRT stations from four to the eventual six in order to serve a bigger and growing estate. The stations were also designed in a more user-friendly fashion. Most of the changes were incorporated by 1992.4

In the original plan, only four stations would be built for the Woodlands MRT line: Admiralty, Woodlands, Marsiling, and Yew Tee. These would service commuters in Choa Chu Kang North, Woodlands West, Woodlands Central and Woodlands East.5 Two more stations were later added to the plan to service commuters in Sembawang and Kadut Industrial Estate.6 Construction work was supposed to take place in two phases, with four stations opening first and the remaining two (Sembawang and Kadut) later. However, the government and Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC; now known as SMRT Corporation) subsequently made the decision to open Sembawang Station with those in the first phase. It was also decided that Kadut Station would be built at a later stage (depending on the development of housing plans in the area), as there was no immediate need for an MRT station there. Instead, a new station, Kranji, was added to the plan. The entire line was to be built above ground and would measure a total of 16 km. The eventual stations built were Yew Tee, Kranji, Marsiling, Woodlands, Admiralty, and Sembawang. These serve the estates of Choa Chu Kang North, Kadut Industrial Estate, Woodlands West, Woodlands Central, Woodlands East, and Sembawang.7

Implementation and construction
The construction of Woodlands MRT Line involved the awarding of contracts to various local and international companies.8

Some key contracts

In 1991, the government awarded a contract worth S$1.5 million to Soil and Foundation Pte Ltd to conduct soil tests on the stretch of land between Chua Chu Kang and Yishun, through Woodlands, for the MRT line.9

The government then commissioned MRTC to begin work on the construction of the line in the latter part of 1991.10 Construction work began at both ends of the line, on the Choa Chu Kang and Yishun stations, simultaneously.11

Between March to May 1992, contracts were awarded to different companies to build various parts of the line. For instance, the contract for providing signalling and automatic train control systems was awarded to Westinghouse Signal Limited for S$33 million. A contract for the communications systems, worth $17 million, was awarded to a joint venture comprising JS Telecom, Thomson Surveillance Video and Halberthal, all French companies, and led by Singapore Electronic & Engineering Limited (SEEL). In total, MRTC pre-qualified 30 firms and joint ventures for six civil engineering contracts and one track-work contract.12

Subsequently, two major contracts were awarded. The civil engineering construction contract, worth S$65.3 million, was awarded to a joint venture between Balfour Beatty of the United Kingdom and Gammon of Hong Kong, called the Balfour Beatty-Gammon venture. Meanwhile, the electrical and mechanical services contract, worth S$31.24 million, was awarded to General Electric Company of Singapore.13

One of the more difficult tasks involved in the construction was a rock excavation work along Woodlands Avenue 3. This began in July 1992, and was completed in early 1993. It cost S$1.5 million, and involved the use of explosives to make way for the train viaduct. Another difficult project was the levelling of land covered in thick vegetation in Kadut, Woodlands and Sembawang.14

The laying of a 22-metre long concrete beam weighing 165 tonnes in October 1994 marked the completion of the structural link between the existing MRT network and the Woodlands extension line. The entire Woodlands extension line consists of around 1,163 beams. The tracks were then laid, followed by the installation of the electrical and mechanical systems and equipment.15 Additionally, a real-time information system was first introduced on the Woodlands MRT line. It provides passengers with train arrival times and informs them if trains are late or disrupted. The information is displayed on electronic boards installed at the entrance of each station.16

A total of 19 new trains were purchased for almost S$259 million for the new MRT line. Designed by German company Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, the trains are equipped with automated public address systems where the volume of announcements can increase or decrease automatically according to the background noise level. The trains also have a better propulsion system that is energy-saving and ensures smoother rides.17

Official opening

In 1995, test runs were carried out on the completed Woodlands MRT line to ensure smooth operations.18 Open houses were held a week before the official opening for users to familiarise themselves with the new stations.19 On 10 February 1996, the new Woodlands MRT line was officially opened by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. The first train took off at 1 pm during the opening ceremony. An estimated 12,000 people travelled on the Woodlands MRT line during the first hour of its opening.20


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Leong Chan Teik, “Work on Woodlands MRT Line to Begin Later This Year,” Straits Times, 26 February 1991, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Mah Bow Tan, “The Inauguration Ceremony of the Land Transport Authority,” speech, Stamford Ballroom, Westin Stamford and Westin Plaza, 15 September 1995, transcript, Ministry of Information and the Arts (From National Archives of Singapore document no. mbt19950915as); Goh Chok Tong, “The Opening of Woodlands MRT Line,” speech, 10 February 1996, transcript, Ministry of Information and the Arts. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 19960210_0001)
3. Cephah Tan, “Another Station Added to Woodlands MRT Line,” Straits Times, 19 November 1992, 1. (From NewspaperSG) 
4. Tan, “Another Station Added to Woodlands MRT Line.” 
5. Tan, “Another Station Added to Woodlands MRT Line.” 
6. Leong, “Work on Woodlands MRT Line to Begin.” 
7. Tan, “Another Station Added to Woodlands MRT Line.” 
8. Leong Chan Teik, “Woodlands MRT Line Ready By ’96 as Planned,” Straits Times, 8 May 1993, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Jean Wee, “Woodlands MRT Extension: Soil Tests under Way,” Business Times, 23 February 1991, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Dexter Lee, “MRTC to Build $34M Underground Bus Interchange in Woodlands,” Business Times, 14 February 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Leong, “Work on Woodlands MRT Line to Begin.” 
12. Ramesh Divyanathan, “MRTC Awards $65M Worth of Contracts for $1B Woodlands Extension Line,” Business Times, 11 June 1992, 2; Leong Chan Teik, “Work on Woodlands MRT Extension to Start in July,” Straits Times, 11 June 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “MRTC Awards Last Woodlands Contracts,” Straits Times, 6 February 1993, 43. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Leong, “Woodlands MRT Line Ready.”
15. “Woodlands MRT Closer,” Straits Times, 4 October 1994, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Woodlands Commuters Get Real-Time Timetables,” Straits Times, 29 April 1995, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “$290 Million Contracts for Woodlands MRT Line,” Straits Times, 16 August 1992, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Leong Chan Teik, “Test Runs on Woodlands Line,” Straits Times, 15 August 1995, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “Feb 4 Open House for Six New MRT Stations,” Straits Times, 19 January 1996, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Leong Chan Teik, Geraldine Yeo and Wong Hiew Peng, “Crowds Came from as Far as Hougang and Jurong,” Straits Times, 11 February 1996, 19. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources
Clearer Messages, Smoother Rides on Woodlands Trains,” Straits Times, 14 December 1992, 26. (From NewspaperSG)

Colin Tan, “HDB Unveils Blueprint for Woodlands Regional Centre,” Business Times, 24 December 1992, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

Indrani Nadarajah and Julie Kee, “Residents Prepare for Easier Life with Woodlands MRT Line,” Straits Times, 21 January 1996, 24. (From NewspaperSG)

Seel-Led Consortium Wins S17.6M MRT Communication System Deal,” Business Times, 30 May 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

Stephanie Yeo, “Woodlands: Out of the Wood,” Straits Times, 21 March 1997, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at September 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.



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