Thomson-East Coast Line Is Set To Open In Stages From 2019

The Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) – which will inevitably soon be known as the “Brown Line” – is set to open from 2019.

Much like the Downtown Line, the TEL will be opening in stages – beginning in Woodlands – with the fifth and last phase set to open in 2024.


SMRT will be running entire line for an initial nine-year period. That’s probably to be expected, given that there are only two rail operators in Singapore.

But the reason why they won the tender over SBS Transit takes some reading to believe.

Reason for SMRT winning the bid

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA)’s press release announcing SMRT’s successful bid on 15 Sept, Chief Executive Ngien Hoon Ping said that SMRT had edged out SBS by virtue of its service quality.

Here’s what he said in full:

Both SMRT Trains and SBS Transit submitted good quality proposals befitting of our aspirations for the TEL. After much careful consideration, we have assessed that SMRT Trains will be able to offer a higher level of service, as it has committed to invest heavily in predictive maintenance and manpower training…

SMRT Train’s proposal apparently contained a “commitment to invest heavily in predictive and reliability-centred maintenance to enhance reliability”.

They also included the following which helped net them a higher quality score than their competitor:

  • Strong staff development plan
  • Customer-oriented training
  • Tailored community engagement initiatives
  • Contractual guarantees in the form of service fee deductions if obligations aren’t met

Furthermore, the LTA also stated that SMRT had offered a better price of $1.7 billion over 9 years — 30% lower than SBS.

Is SMRT suitable to operate TEL?

However, with all the recent breakdowns and disruptions, it’s no surprise that some are questioning the appointment of TEL to SMRT.

Take a look at this commentary piece by TODAY Online which highlights some potential issues.

Given the public’s current sentiments towards SMRT, surely this decision won’t sit well with some.

However, it’s not like we’ve really much of a choice.

After all, it’s not like SBS has provided seamless services either.

All we can do now is wait and hope that both companies improve their services — fast.

Featured image from LTA.