Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary has drawn flak after he announced in Parliament last week that it could take six years to open the Hume MRT station along the Downtown Line.
He was responding to a question by a fellow ruling party politician, Choa Chu Kang GRC MP Low Yen Ling, who asked whether the station, which currently serves as a “shell station”, could be ready by the year 2025.
Low, who has repeatedly appealed for the opening of the MRT station, argued that not opening Hume station “effectively leaves residents out” from the Land Transport Master Plan 2040, that aims to cut down the average peak hour travel time by 15 minutes a day.
Indeed, it takes almost an hour for residents in the Upper Bukit Timah region near Hume Avenue to reach the Central Business District (CBD) area by bus.
Low pointed out that this lengthy travel time itself is only possible if residents manage to board the bus, since many buses plying the Upper Bukit Timah Road route are filled up by the time they reach Bukit Gombak, leaving residents near Hume Ave having to wait for a long time.
Opening the Hume MRT station that is built along the Downtown line would slash travelling time by half, with residents being able to travel to the CBD area in a mere 30 minutes.
Janil Puthucheary, however, said that the opening of the MRT station will be delayed and it was a deliberate decision not to open it together with the other second-phase Downtown Line stations in 2015.
Revealing that the pace of development in the area and ridership growth did not justify the opening of Hume MRT station then, Puthucheary said that new developments have now been made in the area so the station could be opened by 2025.
Citing the redevelopment of the Rail Corridor and the transformation of the Bukit Timah Fire Station into a “gateway node” for the nature and heritage attractions nearby, Puthucheary said: “With all these, there will be sufficient ridership to justify opening Hume Station.”
When Low asked whether the station could be ready before 2025, Puthucheary said that there is still work that has to be completed before the station can open and that the opening of the station needs to coincide with the projects developing in the area.
He added: “In deciding which areas to extend our rail network to, we will have to balance between managing costs and benefitting the most number of Singaporeans possible, taking into account the characteristics of each area.”
Residents in the Hume area, however, are largely upset. In a survey conducted by TODAY, polling 20 residents at bus stops in the area, 85 per cent of residents said that the wait was too long.
One elderly resident who lives at the Hume Park 1 condominium, 65 year-old Alice Wong, lamented that the time was “way too long” and that she “might not even live to enjoy the facility”.
Asserting that it was pointless to leave a completed station empty, Mdm Wong expressed that it was “troublesome to commute by bus”.
Mdm Wong’s views were echoed by Hillington Green condominium resident Shanaz Hassan who told the publication that six years is “still too long a wait”.