Zit Seng's Blog

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DTL2 Opens To Confusion At Newton

The second phase of the Downtown Line (DTL2) officially opened on 27th December. There are a number of quirks with DTL2 that commuters. For example, for the first time in Singapore’s rail network, transferring between lines at two interchange stations will require commuters to exit and re-enter at different fare gates.

DTL2 Tunnel

Singaporeans love everything free, and so what better way to promote the DTL2, and the entire Downtown Line, by offering free rides? From 27th December to 1st January, rides at all 18 Downtown Line stations are free. You basically need need to start and end your journey at any of the 18 Downtown Line stations to enjoy the free ride.

Now, that has become rather confusing. You see, at Newtown station, you already have to exit and re-enter the fare gates. You’d think this is simple and straight-forward, that the re-entry would of course consider the journeys to be separate. But no. You had to exit and re-enter anyway at Newton, and so if you did so, it would be counted as one single continuous journey, and you’d still have to pay for the portion of the travel on the Downtown Line.

This sounds really dumb. It’s a simple matter of programming the fare charging system eh?

But there’s a workaround. You see, you are required to make the transfer within 15 minutes for both parts of the trip to be considered a single journey. So, to enjoy the free travel, you can simply wait for longer than 15 minutes before you re-enter the fare gates.

This is in fact the official advice, for free travel on the Downtown Line this week. Another workaround is to simply use a different fare card.


A poster was put up at Newton station. I read the message carefully. It seems to say this quirk applies only to transfers from the North-South Line to the Downtown Line. Staff on the ground were rattling off the same message. The PA system was playing the same message on repeat-mode.

Because of someone’s oversight in writing correctly the programming specifications for the fare charging system, commuters have to go through these antics.

Thank you, it is very clear now to me. It’s not free from North-South Line to Downtown Line, unless you do one of those workarounds. The message thus implies that the inverse, i.e. transfers from Downtown Line to North-South Line, would be properly treated as separate journeys and thus the portion o the Downtown Line would be free.

I was wrong. I thought that at Newton, I could just tap out of the Downtown station’s fare gate, head over directly and then tap back in at the North-South station’s fare gate, and still get free travel on the Downtown Line portion.

That was apparently not the case. I took the train. I started on the Downtown Line (on the DTL2 part of it), and transferred at Newton station to the North-South Line. I had to pay the full fare.

So basically someone wrote that template text, about how some antics are required for transfers from North-South Line to Downtown Line, that someone who probably didn’t himself or herself understand what was free or not free, and then everyone else simply repeated that message.

Or, the fare charging system was just programmed wrongly, and no one has bothered to fix it.

The staff on the ground, knowing the confusion and incorrect information, couldn’t be bothered and just played along to disseminate the wrong information.

The official information also says that transfers from Bukit Panjang LRT Line to Downtown Line is not free. It thus implies the inverse is not affected. I don’t know, but perhaps they could be wrong again.

I suppose the people at the top cannot be bothered to fix this fare charging program. After all, this is a temporary matter. The problem will just go away in about 3 days. You’d have to pay normal fares then, anyway.

But Singaporeans, loving all things free, aren’t going to be happy about the feeling of being cheated of their free rides.

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