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Thomson-East Coast Line 1, Singapore

Communities in Singapore’s north benefit from sixth MRT line opening

Located in the north of Singapore, Thomson-East Coast Line 1 (TEL1) is the first phase of Singapore’s sixth Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line to open, and totals about 4.2km in length. Arup led the design team and provided engineering and architectural consultancy services for the fully underground line. We undertook the detailed design of three stations (Woodlands North, Woodlands interchange station, and Woodlands South), a crossover track, 2.5km mainline twin tunnels and 4km of reception tunnels. 

As an interchange station linking to the existing North-South Line (NSL), Woodlands station is improving connectivity for commuters travelling between the NSL and the full Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), and the accessibility to amenities and residences in the central Woodlands Regional Hub. The interchange station is also one of the largest Civil Defence shelters in Singapore. Located beside Republic Polytechnic, Woodlands North station, is set to bring more convenience to students and connect to the planned cross-border Rapid Transit System between Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia.    

The full 43km long TEL will open progressively in phases – with our continuing involvement on Stage 3 and Stage 4. When the MRT line fully opens by 2024, it will strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s rail network, providing commuters with alternative travel options.

Project Summary

6th MRT line in Singapore

3underground stations, including one interchange station

250,000+ population of Woodlands

Digging deep for solutions

The Arup-led team tackled the challenges of mixed-face conditions and adjacent tunnel effects in the soft Kallang Formation and shallow tunnelling in thick fill soils along TEL1. We introduced automatic face control systems for the Earth Pressure Balance Shields Tunnel Boring Machine to handle mixed ground conditions and sudden water ingress in rocks. With the use of Steel Fibre Reinforced Concrete the team could also handle greater impact during segment handling and transporting, which increased cost-efficiency as well as improved durability and fire safety.

The project was a success due to the excellent teamwork between Arup and the LTA client team. I am proud of the outcomes and the conveniences the new line will bring to the communities in the north. ” Goh Kok Hwa Director, Thomson-East Coast Line Civil Team 1 , LTA

Commuter-centric designs

Designs centred on commuters’ convenience featured widely across the project team’s solutions for TEL1. At Woodlands interchange station, we optimised the alignment to increase the proximity between the existing and new stations. We also designed a transfer link bridge using the tight space between the elevated viaducts to connect the existing NS9 Woodlands station to the new underground TEL1 station. While challenging to construct with the MRT in operation, the proposed alignment would not only enable a more direct and seamless commuter circulation, it also reduces congestion at the concourse level during peak periods. 

There are also four entrances/exits and linkways at the Woodlands interchange station, providing better sheltered connectivity in the precinct. The project team found safe solutions to underpinning and strengthening works needed to be done at existing structures to create an underpass leading to the bus interchange. This connection is critical to achieve the aspirations of a strong intermodal transport network for the precinct. 

Designing for sustainability

Optimising the alignment at Woodlands interchange station also served to minimise land sterilisation and maximise underground space utilisation for future developments. Keeping sustainability at the front of mind, we studied numerous design scenarios and developed a plan to reuse the Earth Retaining Stabilising Structure wall for future basement excavation. Not only would this help reduce excavation and construction cost in future, more importantly, it will also play a significant role in reducing the carbon footprint.

The project team overcame many short-term challenges for long-term gains, working closely with LTA on several design solutions that brought value not just to the overall precinct accessibility, but also to end-users, developers and spaces in the future. ”

Tan Yoong Heng Project Manager

One of Singapore’s largest Civil Defence shelters

Civil Defence (CD) shelters are a part of Singapore’s plans to build up preparedness and for every resident to be able to access a purpose-built shelter in times of war and emergency. With Woodlands as a developing regional hub, the project team worked closely with several authorities to incorporate CD requirements into our designs of the Woodlands station as an MRT shelter. Structural members can withstand blast load and the station can accommodate up to 7,000 people for a short stay and up to 3,000 people for a longer stay. MRT CD shelters are among a few types of CD shelters, which also include schools, public housing, community centres, and other public developments.