The Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT, has been a mainstay of Singapore’s public transportation network for the past few decades. Only 15 years ago, when I was still in school, the metro network really only consisted of two main lines: the East-West line and the North-South line. (I called the former the green line and the latter, the red line.) These were the original lines when the network was opened to the public in 1987.
There was also a North-East line that opened in 2003, although I seldom used it back then and I still don’t use it when I visit Singapore.
These days, however, the MRT network has been heavily extended and expanded. The existing lines have been lengthened, with new stations added to them, while two new lines have been built (with three more planned for the future). These are the Circle and Downtown lines.
I am really happy about these new lines because they make it so much easier for me to travel around than with the East West or North South lines. The Circle and Downtown lines should’ve been built ten years ago in my opinion!
As someone living in and travelling around Europe, taking the metro is something that I don’t think much about. Just as trains are a common way of getting from city to city, so metros are a common and convenient way from travelling from point to point within a (large) city. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, Helsinki, Brussels, Budapest, Tbilisi – I’ve travelled by metro in all these places.
A metro network isn’t just a component of a municipal transportation system – it contributes to and reflects its city’s ‘flavour’ or atmosphere. For example, the trains of Berlin’s U-Bahn network have a boxy shape and a bright yellow colour, which contrast with the city’s ‘grittiness’. Munich’s trains are blue, but despite many of them being very old they are still extremely well maintained and clean. Its stations are also colourful – by design, because the city wanted to lighten up its commuters’ moods. In my mind, these hint at how much money the city has to spend on maintaining its metro stations and trains. Tbilisi’s metro stations were built during Soviet times and it shows, while Düsseldorf’s fleet of trains… should be replaced.
For me, when I recall a city I’ve been to, I sometimes also recall its metro network, because it reminds me of what the city was like. This is no different in Singapore, where its metro network has built up a reputation for cleanliness and efficiency the world over. (That reputation has taken a hit in recent years due to a lack of infrastructure maintenance, although I believe that’s been addressed. I hope.)
While in Singapore a fortnight ago, because the Circle and Downtown lines are both fully underground, I was reminded of the underground European metro stations I’d seen these past few years. I therefore had the idea to explore a few of these stations to see what they were like. After some googling, I set off and made the photos that appear here.
My first MRT station was MacPherson, which serves as an interchange station for the Circle and Downtown lines. As you can see, it’s very orange.
In fact it’s so orange that it reminded me of the Marienplatz metro station in Munich, Germany. Here’s a photo of Marienplatz, taken when I visited Munich in 2017. (I’ve written about the city here and here.)
In addition to being fully underground, the trains of the Circle and Downtown lines are also driverless. This gives one the uncommon opportunity of standing at one end of the train and seeing what’s in front or behind. It’s just a long stretch of tunnel but, regardless, is interesting for a moment.
Next we have the Stadium station, which lies on the Circle line and sits just outside the National Stadium, the subject of my previous post.
And finally we have Bras Basah station, also on the Circle line. There are these big cylindrical structures running from one wall to the other, as you can see below. I don’t think they serve any purpose apart from lending an industrial look to the station.
The next time you’re in Singapore and travelling on the Circle or Downtown line, take some time to exit the train and have a look at the station. You might see something worth capturing with your camera or writing about.