It must have been during the annual conscription gathering at Jurong West more than a year ago that I saw new MRT tracks after Boon Lay. For many years Boon Lay marked the western end of the East West Line. Opened in 1990, it was the last station to do so, but its status as the western terminus had since been etched in my memory.
Imagine my surprise when I came to know about the completion of the Boon Lay MRT Extension, starting with Open House at Pioneer and Joo Koon Stations on 21st February. Amongst other things, this means Boon Lay will relinquish its western terminus status. A new end of the west line is born.
At the invitation of azmee, I joined the guys in Singapore Railway Forum for the Open House at Pioneer.
On station platform at Boon Lay, arrangements were made to facilitate the transition. From 15 Feb, passengers were not allowed to board the train at platform B. As the western terminal station (MRT lingo: withdrawal station), trains would stop at either platform and continue the journey back (eastwards), assuming they were not withdrawn from service. This would change with new stations after Boon Lay.
At Pioneer, I was surprised to see trains arriving at regular intervals. As it turned out, the trains first arrived at Boon Lay, passengers were evicted, and the empty trains continued their journey to Pioneer.
The Open House must be a darn solid affair. There were banners shouting “come and visit us” as well as a congratulatory banner from the kopitiam below the station that said, “Congratulations on the opening of the new Pioneer MRT Station”.
One of the highlights was the free train ride between Pioneer and Joo Koon. The fare gate was not in use. The empty trains from Boon Lay would pick up visitors at Pioneer and continued on to Joo Koon. That was my first time as a non-paying passenger.The MRT track was still in its pristine condition
At Joo Koon - the new end of the west line – I alighted and found myself in a similar station like Pioneer but surrounded by factories. Pioneer is surrounded by flats. The contrast is striking.
Indeed, the block outside the station is so near that a screen was constructed at the platform to stop prying eyes. There is a similar one at Marsiling MRT Station. It is ironic that the station was designed to provide “commuters with a panoramic view of the surrounding areas”.
Pioneer MRT Station registered a few firsts in my mind. The escape route outside the station connects the platform to the ground floor. I don’t remember any station with such design. SMRT has also deployed an overwhelming number of security cameras outside the station entrance, a fact I still find amusing.
As you read this, the Boon Lay MRT Extension would have opened officially (official launch on 28 Feb). These few days, you may have noticed Boon Lay ‘disappearing’ from signs and notices. What was once Boon Lay is now Joo Koon – the new end of the west line.
There will be a change in the ‘train habit’ of commuters. To secure a seat, the more ‘kiasu’ folks from Boon Lay will take the train to Pioneer or even Joo Koon, so that they will be sitting comfortably when the train returns to Boon Lay. Woe to the folks from Lakeside who used to play the same trick.
The following SMRT map, taken during Open House, is antique now. Boon Lay has made way for Joo Koon, which is destined to escape the attention showered on her more ‘happening’ cousins like Pasir Ris, Marina View, Punggol and HarbourFront.
(Edit: Part 2 of the series - about games, babes and goodie bag - is up)