More staff, buses during first of 2 full day SMRT closures
But SMRT's beefed-up team for first full-day closure on NSEWL helps keep crowds moving swiftly
Crowded bus stops and confused commuters were a common sight along parts of the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL) yesterday during the first of two scheduled full-day closures.
But the addition of 400 on-ground personnel, 700 bus captains and 350 buses kept crowds moving swiftly.
EWL stations between Tiong Bahru and Tuas Link and two NSL stations, Bukit Batok and Bukit Gombak, were shut down fully yesterday. This was done to "significantly accelerate" resignalling works, said LTA following a train collision last month that arose from signalling issues.
Aside from the next full-day closure on Sunday, Dec 17, the same stations will cease services earlier on Fridays and Saturdays and begin later on Saturdays and Sundays til Dec 31.
Affected commuters yesterday were able to take bridging buses on one of four routes - Jurong East and Choa Chu Kang, Outram Park and Jurong East, Joo Koon and Jurong East and Joo Koon and Tuas Link - with buses travelling in both directions.
An express shuttle bus service between Boon Lay and Outram Park, stopping at Jurong East and Buona Vista was also available early in the weekend's mornings to ferry shift workers - the buses departed Boon Lay at 5am and 5.15am and left Outram Park at 6.10am and 6.25am.
Fares for the buses follow the usual rail fare structure.
Though queues for the buses were long, especially at Jurong East, which was hit by heavy rain yesterday night, shuttle buses arrived frequently.
Commuters The New Paper spoke to did not face too much difficulty navigating the routes, even if some arrived at stations unaware of the closure.
Mr Jia Fan, a 22-year-old naval officer who took a shuttle bus from Boon Lay to Jurong East late yesterday morning said the experience was smooth, despite him not being aware of the closure.
He said: "There are a lot of signs telling you where to go, and I think it is quite thoughtful as there is so much manpower involved."
During the closure, two teams worked to replace three track circuits in 5½ hours. (See report below.)
During regular maintenance hours, replacing even one track circuit might take up to three nights.
Not all commuters had the smoothest of mornings, though. Mr Li Kui, 30, who works in construction, was heading to Chinatown Point and was confused by the closure, though he approached staff for help.
Mr Li said: "All the brochures and the signs were in English, I don't understand (them)."
Ms Lee Siew Lan, 45, took almost two hours to get from Outram Park to Clementi after seeing her daughter off at Changi Airport in the morning.
She was also unaware that a shuttle bus service was available from Jurong East to Bukit Batok.
Said the clerk: "Usually ittakes me 45 minutes to get home but it has been two hours and I am still waiting for a taxi."
Transport firms offer promo codes during MRT closure
Ride-sharing companies were prepared for the full-day closure along the North-South and East-West Lines yesterday.
At least two, Uber and Ryde, offered promotions, while Grab had a list of Land Transport Authority-approved pick-up and drop-off points for yesterday and the coming Sunday, the second full day of closure.
Uber offered existing users in affected areas $3 off two UberPool trips and new users in affected areas $8 off one UberX or UberPool trip. The codes were valid yesterday between 6am and midnight and will be valid on the coming Sunday too.
From last Friday to 6pm on Thursday, Ryde is offering $5.88 in cashback for every two carpool trips, with a minimum fare of $7, using in-app credits.
Major taxi player ComfortDelGro partnered with the Healthcare Services Employees' Union to provide healthcare workers who were going to work with a $12 promotional codethat can be used on the two days of the full closure.
Ryde's founder and chief executive officer Terence Zou said: "We have seen an average of 35 per cent increase in carpool usage with Ryde from Friday to Sunday."
Ms Tammy Tan, group corporate communications officer for ComfortDelGro, said demand increased by almost 50 per cent yesterday.
Uber declined to share figures, but a spokesman said usage "definitely increased".
Still, users had to face price surges as demand climbed amid the closure and heavy rain that came yesterday evening.
At noon, a trip from Boon Lay to Orchard Road cost around $35 on both Grab and Uber.
At 8.30pm, a trip from Jurong East to Boon Lay cost $23 and a trip from Orchard to Jurong East cost $29 on Grab.
A programme management executive who wanted to be known only as Sueann, 27, was running late for an appointment with a wedding planner.
She and her boyfriend were on their way from Boon Lay to Fort Canning as Grab and Uber prices climbed above $30 yesterday morning.
She explained: "We had to take the shuttle bus from Boon Lay to Jurong East, but we are so late we have no choice now but to take an Uber."- JAN LEE