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Public Transport in Singapore

The pivotal role that public transport in Singapore plays in the daily lives of the millions of commuters who depend on its reliability and availability throughout the island is obvious. We take a closer look at the two main options of public transport in Singapore: the MRT and bus systems.
Using public transport in Singapore is easier and more convenient than taking the car.
  • Singapore plans to develop the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system further, with expansion plans laid out until 2030.
  • Singaporeans most frequently use the bus network, as it is the most reliable means of public transportation.
  • EZ-Link and Nets FlashPay are the two types of smartcard tickets in Singapore.

Mass Rapid Transit: Singapore’s Metro

The city-state has invested large amounts of money in order to provide citizens and permanent residents with a fast and effective means of transport to commute to work. Introduced in the late 1980s and first operating on a single line only, the Singaporean metro system — dubbed Mass Rapid Transit or MRT for short — has seen expansion at a matchless pace. It has now become one of the main pillars of public transport in Singapore.

Within the past 29 years, the MRT has blossomed into one of the most extensive and reliable systems of public transport in the entire region. Seeing how the government’s policy on automobiles is restrictive to the point of making them a luxury item not many can afford (if they even get the chance to buy and use one, see our article on driving in Singapore), providing swift and safe methods of public transport in Singapore is vital to the national economy and infrastructure.

As is the case with other methods of public transport in Singapore, the MRT network is not owned and operated by a single company. It’s rather a joint effort of SBS Transit — a subsidiary of the leading transportation company ComfortDelGro — and SMRT Trains. This won’t affect your daily commute in any way, though: as we cover in greater detail in part three of this article, tickets and fares are calculated by the distance traveled and do not depend on the means of transportation or the operator whose services you use.

MRT Lines

As of the beginning of 2016, a total of five MRT lines operate throughout most regions of the island. The combined track length is just less than 180 km, servicing more than 140 stations. While service penetration is not yet total (an issue that is currently being addressed), the system is still very effective and highly popular. Daily customer numbers easily topping two million are testament to this.

The current lineup of MRT lines is as follows:

  • The North South Line runs from Jurong East to Marina Bay.
  • The East West Line runs from Joo Koon to Pasir Ris, with an additional branch servicing Changi Airport from Tanah Merah.
  • The North East Line runs from HarbourFront to Punggol.
  • The Circle Line runs from Dhobi Ghout to HarbourFront and services Marina Bay in an additional branch (despite its name, the line is not actually a complete circle).
  • The Downtown Line services all of the major downtown areas from Bukit Panjang to Chinatown.

All lines feature at least one transfer possibility to all other three lines. The MRT services usually operate from 5:30 in the morning to about midnight, and often longer during the many holiday seasons in Singapore. Train frequencies are between two minutes in peak times and seven minutes off-peak.

What’s to Come?

The expansion, as we have mentioned above, is far from being over. As the great majority of residents rely on public transport in Singapore to go about their day-to-day business, demand for more lines and stations is increasing. In an effort to meet these demands, the Land Transport Authority has expansion plans laid out until 2030.

The recently opened Downtown Line,  running from the northwestern regions to the east of the island via — you’ve guessed it — downtown Singapore will be the longest MRT line in the country upon completion.

The second new line is the Thompson-East Coast Line. This line will operate in a north–south direction, running from Woodlands to Gardens by the Bay. The line will then curve east, from the Gardens by the Bay to Sungei Bedok, running alongside the ocean. With interchanges to all other existing MRT lines, the Thompson-East Coast Line is designed to serve hundreds of thousands of commuters and drastically shorten the time they have to spend in public transport in Singapore before and after their work day. The Thompson-East Coast line is expected to open in 2019, but will need to undergo further expansion to reach its complete coverage plan.

Of course, there is a simpler way of expanding a metro network that does not involve creating whole new lines from scratch: extending the lines that are already available. The East-West line has recently been extended, and the North-South line will be extended by 2019.

Although the importance of the MRT for Singapore is increasing, the bus still remains the most frequently used method of public transportation. Continue to the next page of this article, if you are interested in learning more about Singapore’s bus and light rail system.



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Donald Moore

"I moved to Singapore to build up my own business. In fact, it was easier than expected. With InterNations I quickly got in touch with the lively expat community here."

Barbara Sciera

"Settling as an expat woman in a different culture is always hard. But with InterNations I got to know many other expat spouses that helped me."

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