Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Downtown Line Stage 1 Open House 2013


Another year, another MRT line will be opened for business. Last year, I went for the open house for the new Circle Line Extension which consists of 2 MRT stations, Bayfront and Marina Bay which bring you to places like the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay. This year on the 7th of December, I went to the open house for the new Downtown Line Stage 1 which consists of 6 stations around the city area. Now, going to places like Far East Square and the Marina Bay Link Mall will be much easier. Let's take a look at what all the open house buzz was all about.

What is the Downtown Line?


The Downtown Line Stage 1 consists of 6 stations. Bugis, Promenade, Bayfront, Downtown, Telok Ayer and Chinatown MRT Stations. It will interchange with the current Circle Line, East West Line and the North East Lines so getting to these stations will be much easier. Of course, the whole Downtown Line will not just consist of 6 stations as there are still two more stages to go.

Stage 2 will have the line go from Chinatown MRT Station all the way to Bukit Panjang giving greater convenience to those living in the North Western areas. For Stage 3, the Line will connect Bugis Station all the way to Expo Station for the convenience of East dwellers. These two stages will open in 2016 and 2017 respectively so be patient. Downtown Line Stage 1 will open on Sunday, 22 December and you will be entitled to free rides until New Year's Day.

Heading to Bugis Station


First off, I headed to Bugis MRT Station to check out the first part of the open house. I came in during the late afternoon so it was too late for me to get the goodie bags. Not to worry though as I still managed to get the Downtown Line newsletter and there were still plenty of fun games and performances during that time. Bugis Station's Downtown Line section was the place where you can find all kinds of new station features, new modern design and artworks.

Performances at Bugis Station


At Bugis MRT Station, there were a few performances happening which includes people dressing up as popular singers and celebrities and they mouthed to popular pop songs. One of which was this guy who dressed up as PSY and he danced and mouthed the words to the hit song, Gangnam Style. Visitors were even allowed to go up on stage and danced with the impersonator. All of them got free goodie bags for their participation and willingness to have fun up the stage.

Other than the PSY impersonator, there were others as well like a Nicki Minaj impersonator who mouthed to the song Turn Me On along with a Katy Perry impersonator who mouthed to Firework. The Firework performance was accompanied by a group of talented teens, most likely from a small local dance group, dancing to the song. All these performances give visitors not only entertainment but also the energy to explore all the other stations as well.

How the train looked like on the inside


Bugis MRT Station is now the third MRT station to have travellators that transport passengers from one MRT line to another. The first two stations being Dhoby Ghaut and Serangoon. After checking out Bugis Station, it was time to head to another station which was Downtown MRT Station. I skipped Promenade and Bayfront Stations mainly because of two reasons. Promenade Station did not have any programmes and performances as it did not have enough space while for Bayfront Station, the train deliberately skipped the station as the platform was shared with the existing Circle Line.

The new Downtown Line trains, the Bombardier Movia C951, were completely new and different from the ones found on the older lines. The lighting was very vibrant, there were plenty of spacious seats, a lot of standing space and a wide space for wheelchair passengers. It was definitely a refreshing change. Plus, the reserved seats were even beautifully decorated to encourage passengers to give up their seats to those who need it more.

One interesting fact about the trains themselves is that they are the first ones to have the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) logo and livery instead of the operator's. It's owned by the agency instead but the operator, SBS Transit, will be operating it just like their other MRT line, the North East Line.

Great happening events at Downtown MRT Station


Right here at Downtown MRT Station, there were plenty of games that can be found here. There was this game where people actually spin this gigantic wheel and they get a prize for landing on a winning spot. I'm not exactly sure which are the winning spots but what I do know is that some walked away with the prizes while some don't. I didn't actually tried it but now I kind of regret not trying it.


Another game that was available at Downtown MRT Station was this game called Street Music. I'm not exactly sure what this game is all about but I do have a feeling that it's about retro music quiz since retro music is the theme for the open house. There was also another interesting game located right at the end of the MRT station which was basically a karaoke machine. Yes, it's the first time I have EVER heard of a karaoke machine in an MRT station! How cool is that? Not as popular as the other games but there were still some daring people who actually came on board and sang some retro karaoke music. Props to them for being brave and the willingness to have fun!

If you are wondering where is Downtown MRT Station, it's basically located right beside the Marina Bay Link Mall, an underground shopping mall located in the Marina Bay area. It's also right underneath the iconic mixed-use development, the Marina Bay Financial Centre along with one of the prestigious condominiums in Singapore, The Sail@Marina Bay. Not only that, the station also serves other office buildings and recreational places as well like One Raffles Place and The Promontory@Marina Bay.

Lots of phototaking opportunities


At every Downtown Line Stage 1 station except for Promenade and Bayfront Stations, there were plenty of props like these for visitors to take a photo with. At Downtown Station, there was this giant headphone thing while at Telok Ayer there were some props that looked like a giant cassette tape. It's a cool addition and a great opportunity for those who like to take photos in MRT stations since you can't really take photos during regular revenue service.

Sleek and new signages and machines


Since it's 2013 and not 1987 (the year the MRT first opened in Singapore), it's time for a big major upgrade to the MRT stations. Downtown Line is the first MRT line in Singapore to feature totally new signages and revenue equipment that's totally new and refreshing. In fact, if you compare the Downtown Line with older MRT lines like North South Line, the only thing that's similar among these two lines is that they are still MRT stations.


As you can see from the picture above, they have totally new faregates. Say goodbye to the classic red triangular doors and say hello to the new glass doors. The EZ-Link area has been given a facelift too. It's too bad I did not get to see how the screen looks like as they shut it off. The faregates themselves were a very popular opportunity for passengers to take a picture since you are not allowed to do so during regular revenue service. Most of the time, visitors were seen taking a picture of themselves standing in between the gates smiling or they pretended to tap their EZ Link cards. You can't get an opportunity like that anymore when the line opens.


Apart from the faregates, the other machines were given a makeover as well and the signages were totally new. No longer do you see silver signboards with the station code inside a box with the station name at the side. Now, it's a dark green background with the name of the station right beside an oval-shaped "container" which stores the station code.

The biggest change in the signage is this. No longer do you see "To Chinatown (12) ->" like most MRT stations. Now, they will list down what the next stations will be followed by the terminating stop similar to the ones that you will find at City Hall and Raffles Place MRT stations. I'm not so sure how they will fit in all the MRT stations in the signage when Stage 2 opens but still, it's good that they added that for the convenience of passengers.

Brightly-coloured seats and TV screens with sound


Of course, like what I have just mentioned earlier, the trains themselves will be spacious and will contain brightly-coloured seats along with designer reserved seats. One thing missing from the Downtown Line trains however will be the corner seats. Those are the seats that are located right in between the doors and the so-called "bendy" areas. They will be removed and will contain perch seats instead. Basically, you'll be standing but you'll be leaning on a comfortable cushion as well. More standing space, the better!

Apart from that, there will also be TV screens installed as well. I know I know. Some trains already have the screens but these are slightly different. They will contain speakers so you can actually hear the TV. At that time during the open house, they only played animated shorts showing people to be courteous in the MRT. Not to worry though, they will be muted when announcements are playing.

More fun games and performances at Telok Ayer and Chinatown Stations


Of course, they were plenty more performances and stage games at the other Downtown Line stations as well. At Telok Ayer Station, there was a game of musical chairs hosted by the one and only Chua Enlai. You may know him if you watch TV shows like The Noose, the satirical comedy show that parodies local news and It's A Date, an online reality dating game show. He used his wit and humour from the shows that he acted and hosted on and used it right here during the Musical Chairs game.

A bunch of young participants were seen having a blast playing the game and the winners even received great goodie bags. Enlai himself was really funny just like on TV and everybody laughed whenever he cracked some jokes. Of course, that's not the only event that happened at Telok Ayer Station. There were also a group of ladies who performed and they danced to great-sounding retro music. Oh and if you have not heard of Telok Ayer Station, basically it's right in the middle of the CBD and Chinatown. It's also the place where you can find Far East Square, the Fuk Tak Chi Museum and tons of other unique shophouses.


Last but not least, there was Chinatown Station. Since it's Chinatown MRT Station, the station that's most frequented by most Singaporeans during the Chinese New Year season, there were plenty of Chinese-themed performances and decorations. The theme was Golden Memories and there were plenty of celebrities and veteran singers performing Chinese songs. Although I'm not Chinese, I still stayed to watch the excellent performances of these veteran singers. Even at that age, they were still willing to continue to pursue their passion for performing.

Lots of props were also available at Chinatown Station for phototaking opportunities and there were plenty of games for visitors to play as well like the other Downtown Line stations. Just to let you know, Chinatown Station interchanges with the existing North East Line. Plus, with the Downtown Line section, you have easy access to the newly renovated Chinatown Point, one of the most popular shopping centres in the Chinatown area of Singapore.

Convenience for everyone with the Downtown Line


I just wish that I can share more photos of the stations' interior and the artworks. Since I was recording a lot of video and concentrated more on the events of the Open House, I did not focus so much on the stations themselves. Anyway, the Downtown Line has already been opened as of 22 December so do feel free to check out the stations now (minus the Open House festivities) if you can. 

Here is a picture of the MRT tunnel during the journey from Chinatown to Telok Ayer. MRT tunnels are nowadays hard to see as they switch off the lights especially in the Circle and North East Lines. Since it's automated, there isn't really a need to switch on the lights anyway. If you live near any of the Downtown Line stations, even if the nearest one from your house is still under construction and not opening too soon, not to worry. It's still great to have an MRT station located near you as the Downtown Line brings you to a wide range of new places and lets you travel across Singapore easily all within an hour or less.

Conclusion

Overall, the Open House was definitely awesome thanks to the wide variety of events, performances, fun games and free MRT rides. However, I do wished that I could come earlier. I have actually recorded tons of video footage about the Downtown Line Open House so I may be doing a video about it pretty soon. Just to let you know once again that the Downtown Line Stage 1 consists of 6 newly opened MRT stations. That's Bugis, Promenade, Bayfront, Downtown, Telok Ayer and Chinatown with the two other stages opening in 2016 and 2017.

4 of the stations interchange with the existing East West Line, Circle Line and North East Line so transferring from one MRT line to another is not a problem at all. Hopefully sometime in the future, I will still be able to attend the future open houses. In the meantime, do enjoy the newly opened line which will give out free rides to anyone from 22 December all the way to 1st January. Free ride only applies when you board AND alight at any of the six Downtown Line stations. If you have missed this opportunity to visit the Open House, not to worry as I will be uploading a video on it very soon.

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