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Today, 28 August 2021, was the opening day of Stage 2 of the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line. Of course, we were out and about exploring all six new stations, from Springleaf to Caldecott.

Credit: Land Transport Authority.

TE4 🚇 Springleaf


Address: 825 Upper Thomson Road.


Named after: Springleaf Garden, a private residential estate to the east of the station.


Other names which had been put up for public voting in 2013: Nee Soon Village, Thong Soon.


Trivia: The MRT station lies next to the site of the former Nee Soon Village (hence one of the names suggested for public voting), which had existed since the mid-1800s. Springleaf Garden came about much later, around 1977.


Below is a map of the area in 1978, with Nee Soon Village shaded light blue.

Trivia II: The length of track between Woodlands South and Springleaf stations is estimated to be the second longest in Singapore’s MRT system, at around 4.5km, just ahead of Expo-Changi Airport (East West Line), which is around 4.42km, and Yew Tee-Kranji (North South Line), at around 3.97km.


The reason for the length of track? Between Woodlands South and Springleaf lie the sparsely-populated, largely out-of-bounds sites of Sembawang Air Base, Sembawang Golf Course, and Nee Soon Camp (below).

Credit: Streetdirectory.com.

The longest distance between two MRT stations remains at around 4.75km for Khatib-Yio Chu Kang (North South Line).


Construction challenges: Construction of the station had to take place just 7 metres away from shophouses along Upper Thomson Road.

The construction site in 2017. Credit: Nethaniel Foo, CC BY-SA 4.0.

To prevent damage to the buildings, an earth retaining stabilising structure was built to prevent ground movement.

Credit: Land Transport Authority.

My exploration: After years of enduring noise and dust, the owners and occupiers of these shophouses should appreciate the station being right next to them!

Art in Transit artwork: Tree Of Memories, by Koh Hong Teng. It features a banyan tree in Springleaf Nature Park.


TE5 🚇 Lentor


Address: 1 Lentor Drive.


Named after: The cluster of roads starting with Lentor, serving the private residential estate north of the station. These roads include Lentor Road, Lentor Terrace, Lentor Loop, and so on.


Other names which had been put up for public voting: Lentor Green, Teachers’ Estate.


Trivia: The place name “Lentor” came from Lorong Lentor, a track off Yio Chu Kang Road, sited east of the present-day cluster of Lentor roads.

Lorong Lentor has been expunged, and the area, now forested, is off limits because it’s a military training ground.


“Lentor” is a corruption of the Malay word “lentur”, which means “flexible”.


Construction challenges: Construction required working around major telecommunication cables, and diverting a 1.2m-wide water pipe.


My exploration:

The new design of exit signs is a vast improvement over the old one.

Art in Transit artwork: Interlude, by Tan Guo-Liang.


TE6 🚇 Mayflower


Address: 91 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4.


Named after: Mayflower Gardens, a private residential estate to the east of the station.


Other names which had been put up for public voting: Kebun Baru, Ang Mo Kio West.


Trivia: Mayflower Gardens - or Garden - was completed sometime around 1969, a few years before the HDB New Town of Ang Mo Kio came up around it.


Below is a map of the area in 1969, with Mayflower Garden shaded light blue.

Trivia II: Of the six new stations, Mayflower has the most exits - seven.


Construction challenges: The terrain surrounding the station is sloping, with a difference in elevation of 12 metres (4 storeys) from north to south. This made it difficult for boring rigs and cranes to be positioned safely.


My exploration:

This sign will be updated as further stages of the Thomson-East Coast Line open.

Mayflower’s seven exits.

From the fare gates, commuters have to take two escalators to reach the station platform.

Art in Transit artwork: An untitled piece by Song-Ming Ang. It comprises 22 sculptures of seven bird species placed around the station.


TE7 🚇 Bright Hill


Address: 100 Sin Ming Avenue.


Named after: Bright Hill Road, to the east of the station.


Other names which had been put up for public voting: Sin Ming, Bishan Park.


Trivia: Bright Hill Road was named after the historic Buddhist temple it currently serves, the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, which was founded in 1920.


Below is a map of the area in 1945, with the monastery shaded light blue (“Ch” stands for “Chinese temple”). Ang Mo Kio New Town would come up around the monastery in the 1970s.

Base picture credit: Survey Department, Singapore.

Bright Hill station is a short distance from the monastery.

Base picture credit: Google Maps.

“Kong Meng San” means “Bright Hill”, and in Buddhism, refers to the “Pure Land” of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Guan Yin), the celestial realm in which he or she resides.


Trivia II: Bright Hill will become an interchange in 2030, when it is connected to Phase 1 of the Cross Island Line, running from the station to Aviation Park in Changi.


Construction challenges: A retaining wall for boring had to be installed just 2 metres from Block 402 Sin Ming Avenue.

Credit: Land Transport Authority.

The terrain around the station consisted of hard granite rock, and it took more than a day to bore through 10cm of rock.

Credit: Land Transport Authority.

My exploration:

Art in Transit artwork: A Kaleidoscopic Nature, by anGie Seah.


TE8 🚇 Upper Thomson


Address: 1 Jalan Keli.


Named after: Upper Thomson Road, which runs by the station.


Other names which had been put up for public voting: Thomson Village, Thomson Park.


Trivia: “Thomson” refers to John Turnbull Thomson (1821-1884), an engineer and surveyor who had played a key role in the development of modern Singapore’s infrastructure in the 1840s.

Trivia II: Upper Thomson station joins Downtown station of the Downtown Line as the only two stations bearing the names of MRT lines.


Construction challenges: Construction required diversion of a canal.


Also, to minimise disruption to traffic along busy Upper Thomson Road, only one side of the two-way carriageway was closed during excavation.


My exploration:

Art in Transit artwork: Lost In Our (Concrete) Jungle, by Troy Chin. There are 88 drawings of monkeys spread all over the station - some more well-hidden than others!


TE9-CC17 🚇 Caldecott Interchange


Address: 1 Toa Payoh Link.


Named after: Caldecott Hill, to the west of the station.


Trivia: Caldecott Hill was named after British colonial administrator Sir Andrew Caldecott (1884-1951).

Trivia II: Of the six new stations, Caldecott is the deepest, at 35 metres below ground level.


Trivia III: Caldecott station of the Circle Line opened 10 years earlier, in 2011.


Construction challenges: Instead of the usual cut-and-cover method for construction, the tunnel was mined instead. Mining had to be done through a mixture of rock, weaker-than-usual soil, and groundwater.

Credit: Land Transport Authority.

Carrying out mining instead of cut-and-cover minimised disruption to roads such as Toa Payoh Link and Toa Payoh West above.


My exploration:

Escalators galore... to reach 35 metres below ground level.

Art in Transit artwork: :)(:, by Claire Lim. Hundreds of smiley faces were perforated into wall panels lining the station platform.


***


The Thomson-East Coast Line is served by CT251 trains manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and CRRC Qingdao Sifang.

Each car has fewer seats as compared to other lines.

Many thanks to my wife Tiak for accompanying me!


***


Looking forward to another 13 stations opening next year!

Credit: Seloloving, CC BY-SA 4.0.

“If we’re interested in building a strong society with tight-knit communities, we should be paying special attention to the way we preserve and rebuild communities if we have to move them.”


A CNA Insider article on the impact of relocation on Dakota Crescent’s senior citizens.

Credit: Channel NewsAsia.

A sober reminder that when urban resettlement takes place, it is lives - not digits on a spreadsheet - that are irrevocably affected.


And the little things do matter - like the negative effect of not having the original community centre move with the elderly to the new site, or not catering a large enough void deck for gatherings and funerals, or failing to take into account how a simple 10-minute walk to key amenities can be a monumental challenge for an 80-year-old with weak legs.


As Singapore ages in both infrastructure and population, more old estates will undergo redevelopment and resettlement, and more senior citizens will have to uproot and move. Hopefully, the authorities will learn from the mistakes made at 52 Cassia Crescent.

As Singapore’s bid to fully vaccinate its population - especially seniors aged 60 and above - against COVID-19 go into overdrive, the authorities are taking a page from the kampung days.


For weeks, the Ministry of Health has been dispatching mobile vaccination teams to dozens of locations around the island, from Woodlands to Bukit Merah, Jurong West to Tampines. They set up shop in void decks and community clubs, bringing jabs to the masses.

Credit: The Straits Times.

There are also 11 home vaccination teams, visiting seniors who are unable to leave their homes.


Two #IGotMyShot trucks, armed with loudspeakers, ply the same areas as the mobile vaccination teams, broadcasting pre-recorded messages in the four official languages and other Chinese languages, calling on the unvaccinated to get their shots. An emcee in each truck provides information such as specific locations and operating hours of mobile vaccination teams.

Credit: Ong Ye Kung, Facebook.

This harks back to the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, when it was common for the authorities to send mobile teams into the rural areas to provide essential services to villagers.


Retrofitted trucks and vans braved the island’s rural roads to reach the most remote of villages. They provided cheap or free medical treatment and check-ups such as x-rays for tuberculosis, postal services, library services, replacement and issuing of identity cards, and so on. These absolved villagers of the need to travel long distances to the City.


A Health Department mobile dispensary, donated by the Rotary Club, in 1951.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

The mobile dispensary serving students of Bukit Panjang Government School, which was deep in the rural regions at the time.

Credit: Bukit Panjang Government School Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

A Government travelling dispensary in 1963.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Mobile x-ray units to combat tuberculosis, 1964.

A mass x-ray campaign at Joo Chiat Community Centre, 1966.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

In 1967, Member of Parliament for Moulmein Avadai Dhanam Lakshimi (the wife of Singapore’s third President, Devan Nair) launched a mobile x-ray campaign in her constituency.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

Mobile skin clinics to fight leprosy, 1965.

Mobile identity card services, 1957.

Mobile library services, 1967.

A mobile postal services van, 1963.

Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

These vehicles were far cheaper than building a new hospital or post office, and their “touring” schedules could be adjusted according to needs on the ground.


From the 1970s, as villagers were resettled en-masse to self-contained New Towns, and as Singapore’s rural areas shrank, these mobile services were gradually phased out. But we are living in unprecedented times now. Old ways sometimes work in the present. 2021’s mobile vaccination teams have successfully reached thousands of people.