Feb 6, 2010

Round trip travel

Residents and firms say the opening of the Circle Line's next stage will help them cut travelling time and improve businesses

By tay suan chiang

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Located near the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum, the Bras Basah station (above) is one of 11 stations along the Circle Line that will open in April. -- ST PHOTOS: SAMUEL HE, AIDAH RAUF

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Three years ago, Mr Sebastian Yiang bought a five-room executive HDB maisonette in an estate more than 15 years old.

On top of the inconvenience of living there while the lift upgrading was taking place, he and his family had to put up with the ongoing noise, dust and constant road diversions as a result of nearby construction work.

Their patience will soon pay off. Mr Yiang, 40, his wife Geraldine, 39, and their three children, aged 21/2 to eight, are eagerly awaiting the opening of the Dakota MRT Station.

The station, which is on the Circle Line, is set to open in April. Mr Yiang's flat in Dakota Crescent is a short walk from it.

'It is all worth it as having the MRT next door will cut travelling time. We also save on buying a car,' says the manager in an IT firm.

Going shopping at Suntec City, Plaza Singapura and Junction 8 will also be more convenient as these malls have stations on the Circle Line, he adds.

What is more, he probably also saved a tidy bundle on his flat because he bought it well before the station's opening: He paid about $400,000 for it, a price housing agents say could increase 5 to 8 per cent when the station is operational.

'Where there is an MRT station, homes around it will be able to fetch a better price,' says Mr Chris Koh, director of Dennis Wee Properties.
Mr Eric Cheng, CEO of ECG Property, says as the MacPherson and Mountbatten housing estates are mature, having MRT stations there will 'give them an uplift'.

From April 17, 11 new stations on the Circle Line will open. They include Tai Seng, MacPherson, Mountbatten, Nicoll Highway and Esplanade. This follows the opening last May of the first five stations such as Lorong Chuan and Marymount.

Like Mr Yiang, business consultant Fionna Lim, 57, bought her five-room HDB flat off Old Airport Road in anticipation of the opening of the Mountbatten station, which is a five-minute walk away.

'I was attracted to this location as it is near town. Having the station nearby is also a big plus,' says Ms Lim, who paid $320,000 for her flat five years ago.

She does her grocery shopping at the NTUC FairPrice downstairs but finds its range of products insufficient. She prefers to shop at Carrefour at Suntec City but the journey there plus time spent waiting for a bus can be at least half an hour. Hence, 'the train will definitely be quicker'.
She has no plans to sell her flat yet. If she decides to do so, Mr Cheng suggests that she waits till the trains through her estate are operational before selling.

'Potential buyers are better able to see how convenient it is to have the MRT station nearby, and they don't have to wait for it to be operational.'
Indeed, the Circle Line will shorten commuting time and ease congestion on public transport, more so during peak periods.

The Land Transport Authority, which builds all MRT lines, says 'the orbital Circle Line will enhance connectivity with the existing MRT lines, as commuters can conveniently travel between suburban locations without making transfers at the busy interchange stations in the city area.'

For example, a person travelling from Serangoon to Paya Lebar would take 12 minutes via the Circle Line, instead of 25 minutes by bus.

Polytechnic student Esther Ng, 18, who lives in a three-room flat in Balam Road, is pleased that the MacPherson station is opening soon. Although the station is about two bus stops away, she says she will use it when it runs.

She plans to take the train to Mountbatten station to visit her friends in Old Airport Road and to Esplanade station to watch performances at the performing arts venue. She now takes the bus to these places and each trip can take 45 minutes.

'With the train, I'm likely to shorten travelling time by half,' says the Temasek Polytechnic student.

Besides individuals, companies believe that the opening of the next stage of the Circle Line will improve their business.

Ms Han Minli, business development director at Jack Investment which owns and manages Kallang Leisure Park, says: 'The Stadium station's opening will add to the convenience for the public to get to our mall.'

The firm bought the site, which is within walking distance of the Stadium station, in 1989 and revamped it in 2007, when the building was about 15 years old, to cope with the increased traffic that is expected when the MRT station opens.

'We are optimistic that the station opening will be beneficial for business at the mall on the whole, be it concert or non-concert night,' she adds.

The same may be said of food and beverage outlets at Singapore Indoor Stadium, a 10-minute walk from Kallang Leisure Park.

Mr Manjeet Singh, 31, captain of the Le Bistrot eatery there, says most of its clients are regulars who drive. He says it can be quiet on non-concert nights but reckons there will be a '5 to 10 per cent improvement' when the Stadium station opens.

Located at Mountbatten station is the Old Airport Road Food Centre, a popular haunt for many foodies because of well-reviewed stalls such as To-Ricos Guo Shi (kway chap) and Toa Payoh Rojak.

Mr Johnny Quek, 43, who owns Western food stall Holy Grill at the centre, says: 'Business should improve when the stations open as it will be easier for more people to come here. The food centre will definitely get even more crowded.'

Perhaps the hawkers might receive more patronage during lunch, courtesy of the office folks working in buildings along Beach Road, which will be served by the Nicoll Highway and Promenade stations.

The opening of these stations could also mean less congestion during peak hours in Nicoll Highway - a popular route for many residents in the east getting to the Central Business District for work.

Tanjong Rhu residents Pearly Cheong, 34, a corporate communications manager, and her businessman husband Joshua Koh, 43, now drive to their offices in Outram and Chinatown. They take either the East Coast Parkway or Nicoll Highway, which she says sometimes has 'traffic jams along the way'.

'When the Stadium station opens, we can take the train to Dhoby Ghaut and then hop onto another to Outram and Chinatown,' she says.

'We will leave the van at home, so there will be savings on diesel and parking charges. There will be no more being stuck in traffic jams and we'll also be more environmentally friendly.'

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Work, shop and play

Here is what to expect when the new stations on the Circle Line open in April:


Located along Upper Paya Lebar Road, this station will serve those working in the nearby industrial estate. Companies located around the station include Charles & Keith, Sakae Sushi and Noel Gifts.
Located in Paya Lebar Road, the station is next to the ITE College Central (MacPherson Campus). Besides serving those working in the Ubi Industrial Estate, this station will serve residents in the Circuit Road area.
This station connects the Circle Line to the existing East-West Line, allowing passengers travelling from the East to bypass the crowded City Hall and Raffles Place interchanges to get to the city and northern parts of Singapore.
Situated along Old Airport Road, Dakota station will serve residents living in the Dakota Crescent area as well as those along Tanjong Katong Road.
It is also between Northlight School and Broadrick Secondary School, and is within walking distance of the well-known Old Airport Road Food Centre.

Also along Old Airport Road, the station is also near the Old Airport Road Food Centre and will serve residents in the area.
From this station, sports enthusiasts can just cross the road to get to the Kallang Netball Centre and Kallang Tennis and Squash Centre.

STADIUM (above)
Located near Stadium Crescent, the station is a stone's thrown from Kallang Leisure Park, the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the upcoming Sports Hub.
When this station opens, concertgoers no longer have to jostle for cabs, squeeze into buses 11, 16 and 608 or take a 25-minute walk to Kallang MRT station.
Situated in Republic Avenue, its present location is about 100m from its old site, which collapsed in 2004, and delayed the construction of the Circle Line.
It will allow commuters to get to the Arab Street lifestyle hub, without having to alight at the Bugis MRT station.

Located at the corner of Raffles Boulevard and Temasek Avenue, the station will serve office workers in Millenia Tower. The station is also within walking distance of the F1 Pit Building.
This underground station is near the War Memorial Park. When it opens, it will connect to Raffles City Shopping Centre. Those going to the Esplanade concert venue can use this station to head north and avoid crowds in the busy City Hall station.
The station along Bras Basah Road will come in handy for museumgoers. The National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum are in the vicinity.
It will also be a boon for students from the nearby Singapore Management University, School of the Arts and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
This station already has the North-East and North-South lines running through it. It will only get busier when the Circle Line opens, which must be good news for businesses in Plaza Singapura shopping mall and Atrium @ Orchard.