Mass Rapid Transit

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Mass Rapid Transit
MRT Logo.png
Owner Land Transport Authority
Operator(s) SMRT
SBS Transit
Number of lines 5
Number of stations 119
System length 199.6 km

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system forms the major component of the railway system spanning the entire city. The network has since grown rapidly in accordance with Singapore's aim of developing a comprehensive rail network as the backbone of the public transport system.

The MRT network encompasses 199.6 km of route, with 119 stations in operation. The lines are built by the Land Transport Authority which allocates operating concessions to the profit-based corporations, SMRT Corporation and SBS Transit. These operators also run bus and taxi services, thus facilitating full integration of public transport services. The MRT is complemented by a small number of local LRT networks in Bukit Panjang, Sengkang and Punggol that link MRT stations with HDB public housing estates.[1]


Main article: History of the Mass Rapid Transit

The origins of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are derived from a forecast by city planners in 1967 which stated the need for a rail-based urban transport system by 1992.[2][3][4] Following a debate on whether a bus-only system would be more cost-effective, then Minister for Communications Ong Teng Cheong, came to the conclusion that an all-bus system would be inadequate, as it would have to compete for road space in a land-scarce country.[5][6]

The network was built in stages, with the North South Line given priority because it passes through the Central Area that has a high demand for public transport. The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC), later renamed as SMRT Corporation — was established on 14 October 1983; it took over the roles and responsibilities (which was the construction and operation the MRT system) of the former provisional Mass Rapid Transit Authority.[5][7] The first section of the North South Line started operations on 7 November 1987. The opening of Boon Lay on the East West Line on 6 July 1990 marked the completion of the system two years ahead of schedule.[8][9]



The following table lists the Mass Rapid Transit lines that are currently operational:

Line Commencement Latest extension Terminals Stations Length (km) Depot Operator
North South Line 7 November 1987 2014 Jurong East Marina South Pier 26 45 Bishan Depot
Ulu Pandan Depot
Changi Depot
Tuas Depot
East West Line 12 December 1987 2017 Pasir Ris
Tanah Merah
Tuas Link
Changi Airport
35 57.2 SMRT
North East Line 20 June 2003 N/A HarbourFront Punggol 16 20 Sengkang Depot SBS Transit
Circle Line 28 May 2009 2012 Dhoby Ghaut
Marina Bay
30 35.5 Kim Chuan Depot SMRT
Downtown Line 22 December 2013 2017 Bukit Panjang Expo 34 41.9 Gali Batu Depot
Kim Chuan Depot
SBS Transit


Depot Line(s) served Operator
Bishan Depot North South Line SMRT
Changi Depot East West Line SMRT
Ulu Pandan Depot North South Line
East West Line
Sengkang Depot North East Line SBS Transit
Kim Chuan Depot Circle Line SMRT
Downtown Line SBS Transit
Gali Batu Depot Downtown Line SBS Transit
Tuas Depot East West Line SMRT

Rolling Stock

Trains Line(s) served Number of Trains Operator
Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151 North South Line
East West Line
66 (6-car)
1 (4-car)
Siemens C651 19 (6-car)
Kawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751B 21 (6-car)
Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Qingdao Sifang C151A 35 (6-car)
Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Qingdao Sifang C151B 45 (6-car)
Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang C151C 12 (6-car)
Alstom Metropolis C751A North East Line 25 (6-car) SBS Transit
Alstom Metropolis C751C 18 (6-car)
Alstom Metropolis C830 Circle Line 40 (3-car) SMRT
Alstom Metropolis C830C 24 (3-car)
Bombardier MOVIA C951 Downtown Line 92 (3-car) SBS Transit


Main article: Facilities on the Mass Rapid Transit

The entirety of the MRT is either elevated or underground. Most underground stations are deep and hardened enough to withstand conventional aerial bomb attacks and to serve as bomb shelters.[10][11][12] Mobile phone and 3G service is available in every part of the network.[13] Underground stations and the trains themselves are air-conditioned, while above-ground stations have ceiling fans installed.

Every station is equipped with General Ticketing Machines (GTMs), a Passenger Service Centre and displays that show train service information and announcements. All stations are equipped with restrooms and payphones, although some restrooms are located at street level.[14] Some stations have additional amenities and services, such as retail shops and kiosks, supermarkets, convenience stores, automatic teller machines, and self-service automated kiosks for a variety of services.[15] Heavy-duty escalators at stations carry passengers up or down at a rate of 0.75 m/s, 50% faster than conventional escalators.[16][17]

Architecture and art

Stations built in the 1980s paid little attention to station design, with an emphasis on functionality over aesthetics. Art pieces, where present, are seldom highlighted as they consist primarily of a few paintings or sculptures. However, since 2003, most stations built features artworks created under a programme called "Art In Transit" which were commissioned by the Land Transport Authority. The artwork for each station is designed to suit the station's identity.[18]

Expo station was designed by Foster and Partners which features a large, pillarless, titanium-clad roof in an elliptical shape that sheathes the length of the station platform. This complements a smaller 40-metre reflective stainless-steel disc overlapping the titanium ellipse and visually floats over a glass elevator shaft and the main entrance.[19][20]

Two Circle Line stations, Bras Basah and Stadium, were commissioned through the Marina Line Architectural Design Competition jointly organized by the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Institute of Architects. The winner of both stations was WOHA. In 2009, "Best Transport Building" was awarded to the designers at WOHA Architects at the World Architecture Festival.[21]


The following table lists Mass Rapid Transit lines that are currently under construction, or that are in the planning stages:

Line Commencement Between stations Stations Length (km) Depot Operator
Under Construction
North East Line
(North East Line extension)
2023 Punggol Punggol Coast 1 2 N/A SBS Transit
Circle Line
(Stage 6)
2025 HarbourFront Marina Bay 3 4 N/A SMRT
Downtown Line
(DTL Extension)
2024 Expo Sungei Bedok 2 2.2 East Coast Integrated Depot SBS Transit
Thomson East Coast Line 2019 (Stage 1)
2020 (Stage 2)
2021 (Stage 3)
2023 (Stage 4)
2024 (Stage 5)
Woodlands North Sungei Bedok 31 43 Mandai Depot
East Coast Integrated Depot
Under Planning
Jurong Region Line 2026 (Stage 1)
2027 (Stage 2)
2028 (Stage 3)
Choa Chu Kang
Bahar Junction
Jurong Pier
Peng Kang Hill
Pandan Reservoir
24 24 N/A N/A
Cross Island Line 2030 N/A N/A N/A 50 N/A N/A

Fares and ticketing

Main articles: Fare and Ticketing

Stations are divided into two areas, paid and unpaid, which allow the rail operators to collect fares by restricting entry only through the fare gates.(77) These gates, connected to a computer network, can read and update electronic tickets capable of storing data, and can store information such as the initial and destination stations and the duration for each trip.(78) General Ticketing Machines sell tickets for single trips or allow the passenger to buy additional value for stored-value tickets. Tickets for single trips, coloured in green, are valid only on the day of purchase, and have a time allowance of 30 minutes beyond the estimated travelling time. Tickets that can be used repeatedly until their expiry date require a minimum amount of stored credit.

As the fare system has been integrated by TransitLink, commuters need to pay only one fare and pass through two fare gates (once on entry, once on exit) for an entire journey, even when transferring between lines operated by different companies.(78) Commuters can choose to extend a trip mid-journey, and pay the difference when they exit their destination station.


Because the rail operators are government-assisted, profit-based corporations, fares on the MRT system are pitched to at least break-even level.(19)(79) The operators collect these fares by selling electronic data-storing tickets, the prices of which are calculated based on the distance between the start and destination stations.(78) These prices increase in fixed stages for standard non-discounted travel. Fares are calculated in increments based on approximate distances between stations, in contrast to the use of fare zones.

Although operated by private companies, the system's fare structure is regulated by the Public Transport Council (PTC), to which the operators submit requests for changes in fares.(79)(80) Fares are kept affordable by pegging them approximately to distance-related bus fares, thus encouraging commuters to use the network and reduce its heavy reliance on the bus system. Fare increases over the past few years have caused public concern,(81) the latest one having taken effect from 1 October 2008.(82) There were similar expressions of disapproval over the slightly higher fares charged on SBS Transit's North East Line, a disparity that SBS Transit justified by citing higher costs of operation and maintenance on a completely underground line, as well as lower patronage.(83)


The ticketing system uses the EZ-Link and NETS FlashPay contactless smart cards based upon the Symphony for e-Payment (SeP) system for public transit built on the Singapore Standard for Contactless ePurse Application (CEPAS) system. This system allows for up to 4 card issuers in the market.(84) The EZ-Link card was introduced on 13 April 2002 as a replacement for the original TransitLink farecard, while its competitor the NETS FlashPay card entered the smartcard market on 9 October 2009.

An adult EZ-Link card may be bought for S$12, inclusive of a S$5 non-refundable card cost and a S$7 credit. The card may be obtained at any TransitLink Ticket Office or Passenger Service Centre. The card may also be used for payment for goods and services at merchants displaying the "EZ-Link" logo, Electronic Road Pricing tolls, and Electronic Parking System carparks.(84)(85) Additional credit may be purchased at any General Ticketing Machine (GTM), Add Value Machine (AVM), TransitLink Ticket Office, Passenger Service Centre, AXS Station, DBS/POSB Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), online via a card reader purchased separately, or selected merchants. Additional credit of a predetermined value may also be automatically purchased whenever the card value is low via an automatic recharge service provided by Interbank GIRO or through a manual application at the TransitLink Ticket Office or credit card online. A option for EZ-Link Season Pass for unlimited travel on buses and trains is available for purchase and is non-transferable. Its main competitor, the NETS FlashPay card, may be purchased for at least S$12 for the payment of transport fares in Singapore and at merchants displaying the "NETS FlashPay" logo.

A Standard Ticket contactless smart card for single trips may also be purchased between S$2 and S$4 (inclusive of a S$1 refundable card deposit) for the payment of MRT and LRT fares. The card may be purchased only at the GTM. The deposit may also be retrieved by returning the card to the GTM within 30 days from the date of issue or donated to charity by depositing it in a collection box at any station. This card cannot be recharged with additional credit.

For tourists, a Singapore Tourist Pass contactless smartcard may be purchased from S$18 (inclusive of a S$10 refundable card deposit and a 1-day pass).(86) The card may be bought at selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and Singapore Visitors Centres. The deposit may be retrieved by returning the card to selected TransitLink Ticket Offices and Singapore Visitors Centres within 5 days from the date of issue.


Main article: Safety on the Mass Rapid Transit

Operators and authorities state that numerous measures have been taken to ensure the safety of passengers, and SBS Transit publicised the safety precautions on the driverless North East Line before and after its opening.(71)(87) Safety campaign posters are highly visible in trains and stations, and the operators frequently broadcast safety announcements to passengers and to commuters waiting for trains. Fire safety standards are consistent with the strict guidelines of the US National Fire Protection Association.(21)(88) Platform Screen Doors are installed at all underground stations,(21) with Half-Height Platform Screen Doors (HHPSDs) are built at all above-ground stations. These prevent suicides, enable climate control in stations, and prevent unauthorised access to restricted areas. Under the Rapid Transit Systems Act, acts such as smoking, eating or drinking on stations and trains, the misuse of emergency equipment and trespassing on the railway tracks are illegal, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.(89)(30)

Safety concerns were raised among the public after several accidents on the system during the 1980s and 1990s, but most problems have been rectified. On 5 August 1993, two trains collided at Clementi station because of an oil spillage on the track, which resulted in 132 injuries.(91) There were calls for platform screen doors to be installed at above-ground stations after several incidents in which passengers were killed by oncoming trains when they fell on to the railway tracks at above-ground stations. The authorities initially rejected the proposal by casting doubts over functionality and concerns about the high installation costs,(92) but made an about-turn when the government announced plans to install HHPSDs in a speech on 25 January 2008,(46) citing lower costs due to its becoming a more common feature worldwide.(93) The HHPSDs were first installed on the platforms of Jurong East station (original platforms), Pasir Ris station and Yishun station in 2009 as trials, and all other elevated stations will have platform screen doors installed eventually.(94) On 7 March 2012, Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew told Parliament that all remaining elevated stations on NSEWL would be fitted with HHPSDs by March 2012. A preliminary implementation plan for railway noise mitigation is to be developed by the third quarter of 2012.(95)</sup> All above-ground stations are installed with HHPSDs and operational since.(96)


Main article: Security on the Mass Rapid Transit

Security concerns related to crime and terrorism were not high on the agenda of the system's planners at its inception.(97) However, after the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the foiled plot to bomb the Yishun station,(98) the operators deployed private, unarmed guards to patrol station platforms and check the belongings of commuters.(99)

Recorded announcements are frequently made to remind passengers to report suspicious activity and not to leave their belongings unattended. Digital closed-circuit cameras (CCTVs) have been upgraded with recording-capability at all stations and trains operated by SMRT Corporation.(100)(101) Trash bins and mail boxes have been removed from station platforms and concourse levels to station entrances, to eliminate the risk that bombs will be placed in them.(102) Photography without permission was also banned in all MRT stations since the Madrid bombings, but it was not in the official statement in any public transport security reviews.(103)

On 14 April 2005 the Singapore Police Force announced plans to step up rail security by establishing a specialised Police MRT Unit.(104) These armed officers began overt patrols on the MRT and LRT systems on 15 August 2005, conducting random patrols in pairs in and around rail stations and within trains.(105) They are trained and authorised to use their firearms at their discretion, including deadly force if deemed necessary.(106) On 8 January 2006, a major civil exercise involving over 2,000 personnel from 22 government agencies, codenamed Exercise Northstar V, simulating bombing and chemical attacks at Dhoby Ghaut, Toa Payoh, Raffles Place and Marina Bay MRT stations were conducted. Thirteen stations were closed and about 3,400 commuters were affected during the three-hour exercise.(107)

Security concerns were brought up by the public when two incidents of vandalism at train depots occurred within two years.(108) In both incidents, graffiti on the affected trains were discovered after they entered revenue service.(109) The first incident on 17 May 2010 involved a breach in the perimeter fence of Changi Depot and resulted in the imprisonment and caning of a Swiss citizen, and an Interpol arrest warrant for his accomplice. The train involved was a C151 (047/048).(110)(111) SMRT Corporation received a S$50,000 fine by the Land Transport Authority for the first security breach.(111) Measures were put in place by the Public Transport Security Committee to enhance depot security in light of the first incident, but works were yet to be completed by SMRT Corporation when the second incident on 17 August 2011 involving a C751B (311/312), occurred at Bishan Depot.(108)(109)

Rules and Restrictions

Like the rest of Singapore, the MRT has numerous and strict penalties. Eating or drinking on on any mass transit in Singapore results in a $500 fine, while flammable goods result in one totaling $5000. Smoking in any of these locations will cause a $1000 fine.


  1. Land Transport Authority, Singapore 1996, page 8.
  2. "Southeast Asian Affairs.", Page 293. Seah C. M. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1981).
  3. Sharp 2005, page 66
  4. "Sustainable Urban Transportation Planning and Development — Issues and Challenges for Singapore". Fwa Tien Fang (Department of Civil Engineering, NUS, 4 September 2004)
  5. 5.0 5.1 "1982 – The Year Work Began". Land Transport Authority. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  6. "In Memoriam — Ong Teng Cheong: A Profile". Lee Siew Hoon, Chandra Mohan (23 February 2002, Channel NewsAsia). Retrieved 26 November 2007.
  7. "Annual report 1984". Singapore: Mass Rapid Transit Corporation. Page 5.
  8. Mass Rapid Transit Corporation, Singapore 1988, page 10.
  9. Sharp 2005, p. 109.
  10. Mass Rapid Transit Corporation, Singapore 1988, page 14
  11. "Civil Defence Shelter Programme". Singapore Civil Defence Force (30 December 2006). Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  12. "Architecture of Singapore MRT Underground Stations Concept Layout and Planning." Kwan Cheng Fai (MRTC & IES, April 1987). Pages 29–33.
  13. "New Frontier for Mobile-Phone Operators Lies Underground". Eoin Licken (The New York Times, 1 July 1999)
  14. "Architectural Aspects of Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit Elevated Stations". Pang Kia Seng; Michael T W Grant; Tom Curley; Scott Danielson (MRTC & IES, April 1987). Pages 13–27.
  15. "MRT shops: What works and why". Geraldine Yeo (The Straits Times, 8 February 1996). Page 43
  16. "Trackline (Volume 4 No. 5) - A safe railway for all. Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (October 1987). Pages 4–5.
  17. "Heavy Duty Escalators and Their Special Features for MRT". Ing D Herrmann (MRTC & IES, April 1987). Pages 341–350.
  18. "Art in Transit brochure". Land Transport Authority. Retrieved 7 December 2005.
  19. "Changi Airport MRT station designed for travellers" Karamjit Kaur (The Straits Times, 11 February 1998 p. 1).
  20. "EXPO Station, Singapore, 1997–2000". Foster and Partners. Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  21. "Bras Basah Mass Rapid Transit Station". World Buildings Directory (2009)

Corporate and governmental sources

  • Sharp, Ilsa (2005). The Journey — Singapore's Land Transport Story. SNP:Editions. ISBN 981-248-101-X.
  • Mass Rapid Transit Corporation, Singapore (1988). The MRT Story. ISBN 981-00-0251-3.
Railway Lines in Singapore ViewTalkEdit
Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) North South LineEast West LineNorth East LineCircle LineDowntown LineThomson East Coast LineJurong Region LineCross Island Line
Light Rail Transit (LRT) Bukit Panjang LRTSengkang LRTPunggol LRT
Other lines Changi Airport SkytrainSentosa Express (SDC)
Defunct lines Sentosa Monorail (SDC)
Mass Rapid Transit [ VTE ]
Overview HistoryStationsFare and TicketingFacilitiesSafetySecurity
Lines Current North South LineEast West LineNorth East LineCircle LineDowntown Line
Under Construction Thomson East Coast Line
Future Jurong Region LineCross Island Line
Rolling Stocks Current Kawasaki Heavy Industries C151Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Qingdao Sifang C151AKawasaki Heavy Industries & CSR Qingdao Sifang C151BKawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang C151CSiemens C651Alstom Metropolis C751AKawasaki Heavy Industries & Nippon Sharyo C751BAlstom Metropolis C751CAlstom Metropolis C830Alstom Metropolis C830CBombardier MOVIA C951
Future Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang CT251 • Alstom Metropolis C851E
Depots Current BishanChangiGali BatuKim ChuanSengkangUlu PandanTuas
Under Construction MandaiEast Coast