Show and tell (Taylor’s version)

From the Red Line
Published in
8 min readMar 9, 2024


Taylor Swift was in town, and Singapore transit had a chance to shine.

Did they make use of it?

On the 2nd of March, we had the first day of The Eras Tour at the National Stadium. Additionally, SHINee were also performing next door at the Indoor Stadium. That’s a total of over 60k people, probably closer to 65k, descending upon the Stadium precinct in a single night. Other nights may not be as busy, but there are other things that may have worked against us.

The Eras Tour alone may easily have been one of the National Stadium’s biggest events ever, with concert organizers even opening up additional space at the last minute. How did public transport cope? Well, everyone wants it to be as smooth as Sydney.

Transport for New South Wales also has a page, likely specifically designed to show up near the top of search engines, describing public transport options to get to major events around Sydney — including Taylor Swift’s concert.

Speak now

On the other hand, SMRT’s messaging appears to be extremely modest. They don’t tell you what to expect, but they do tell you what to do. And the LTA has said nothing, apart from a pun-filled graciousness campaign post. But hey, I’m making the same puns.

Even the Coldplay concert, with a sold-out six nights like Taylor Swift’s concert, didn’t get this treatment. But I reckon that Taylor Swift’s concert probably merited more public outreach, considering the alleged exclusivity arrangements meant that other Southeast Asian Swifties had to travel to Singapore to attend. It is thus arguably also an opportunity for Singapore to demonstrate the famed efficiency we are so known for.

Strangely, it took the press having to approach SMRT to ask what they were doing on their end to accommodate concert attendees. While these plans are likely the same as what’s used with any other event at the National Stadium (plans which have been in place over the last 15 years), the arrangements have been spread through word of mouth from my personal experience. People may be less inclined to use public transport if nothing is done to dispel the notion of “3 car trains every 5 minutes is a recipe for disaster”.

Piggybacking on Swiftmania to tell the world what kind of good job you’re doing really has to be a thing overall. We can’t expect all 4 public transport operators to each do their own PR; this isn’t done for F1 and isn’t done for the National Day Parade.


There is also a case to deprioritize Stadium station in favour of Kallang and Tanjong Rhu (when TEL4 happens).

It might just look like people are actually riding from Stadium to Paya Lebar then changing to the EWL there. This takes up space on a CCL train out of Stadium, whereby someone could walk to Kallang and avoid the Paya Lebar transfer. Similarly, Woodlands residents and people coming in from JB might be better persuaded to walk to Tanjong Rhu, avoiding waiting for the Marina Bay-bound train at Stadium.

Giving Kallang and Tanjong Rhu equal billing in future such “event guides” may help with the situation in future. People have been walking to Kallang MRT since 1989, after all, and the common logic here goes that zero transfers is still better than one. Like, for example, what Taipei is doing, where passengers are encouraged to use other stations and other lines. This may be New Year’s, but we can learn something.

Equal billing (source: Metro Taipei)

But of course, the LTA’s street facilities departments must cooperate, to close the three roads’ worth of gaps in the sheltered walkway between Kallang MRT and the Stadium precinct, be it using high covered linkways or even overhead bridges. Perhaps a new bridge may even be necessary in the Tanjong Rhu direction too that can be constructed with shelter. On Day 3, since it was raining in the Stadium area when the concert ended, I’m told that many alternative routes were unavailable for this reason.

Oops (source: Google Earth)

Bus 11 also has a single point of failure at Stadium Boulevard, and while service can (and should) be increased at bus stops along Nicoll Highway and Mountbatten Road, those may also need significant upgrading to handle post-event crowds. Longer stops, sheltered bus bays, you name it. Maybe even temporary routes towards Nicoll Highway or Queen Street (for Bugis MRT) can be considered.


No, they do not extend train service. But do they have to? Unlike Olympic Park, which is on a single track loop, and Bukit Jalil, on the Sri Petaling branch, Stadium MRT is located on the main line which means it can get the most amounts of surge train service, as both directions through the station can carry passengers to other stations. It’s crazy enough to work, especially since SMRT changes the service pattern to enable a peak-hour service to the northern interchanges at Serangoon and Bishan.

While Singapore’s National Stadium is the largest dome structure in the world, it is perhaps the smallest of the National Stadiums in ASEAN. The largest, at Bukit Jalil, can fit up to 90k spectators — Coldplay sold 82k tickets for one night there. So you could argue that RapidKL has to extend train service at Bukit Jalil, as they do for football matches and the like. The Sri Petaling Line is also a medium-capacity system, after all, and may not have the capacity to transport everyone out before the last train.

But this of course requires us to be smart about things. They were missed for Coldplay, they were missed for Taylor Swift too, but let’s hope the LTA and SMRT can get smart about it. Third time’s the charm, right? Firstly, we must all ask where are the C851E trains, and why can’t they yet be placed into service. Are they still undergoing dynamic testing at the Singapore Rail Test Centre? If not, what’s the holdup? While they may not be that useful now with the HarbourFront works, they can be later.

Even just a few new trains can help enable a two-minute or better service between Dhoby Ghaut/Marina Bay and Caldecott. A two-minute service in both directions should be able to clear 52k passengers passing through the station in just over an hour (750 * 30 * 2 passengers per direction). Of course, the more the merrier — if SMRT is able to pull off an equivalent to 36 trains per hour or more, then power to them.

Once these trains are in service, we can talk about increasing throughput through Stadium station.

The tortured poets’ department

And apparently, from both personal experience passing through during Coldplay and other reports I’ve received, trains don’t completely fill up. This thus points to the final bottleneck being the station itself. Sadly, it appears that the good work of the hardworking men and women ensuring smooth flows at the event are let down by less than ideal infrastructure.

There are short term and long term fixes for this. In the short term, it’s a wasted opportunity that the LTA did not prioritize Stadium station for faregate upgrading in order to handle the demands of a much busier events calendar. But that means improvements can be suggested.

Exit B circa 2020 (source zhenkang, Wikimedia Commons)

New ways of collecting fares mean that the ticket machine at the left side, and perhaps the ticket office on the right side, are no longer needed and can be removed — though it’s interesting to note that the old ticket machine was merely replaced, but otherwise left as is, despite the presence of an empty ticketing area nearby.

Similarly, the fence on the left side, along with the luggage sizer, has no business being there — it should also be placed at the aforementioned empty ticketing area. Once these are moved away, faregate upgrading can allow for more gates to be installed. The staff gates are fine, since typical events protocol is to lock the gate open and place temporary card readers so it can function as an additional faregate.

After more faregates, more vertical circulation is necessary. There is no reason why the area next to the escalators should be left as an empty sloped tile floor; it may be worthwhile for the LTA and SMRT to find a way to construct additional flights of stairs there, which can be useful during surge periods like what we’ve been seeing.

I’ve got a blank space, baby (source: circleline4, Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, the two large plazas in front of both station exits are designed to act as crowd holding areas, likely to avoid clogging up the platform level. As part of the redevelopment of the Indoor Stadium, they should build canopy shelters over the waiting plazas or something, to provide some cover from the elements. With that, it may no longer be necessary for everyone to funnel through the small covered walkways on the sides of the station in bad weather, allowing the same efficient crowd management plans to be used in all weather conditions. Completely segregated flows all the way through the station from entry to train depending on which direction they want to go, can also be implemented..

At least our issues aren’t as structural, compared to how everyone leaving the Taipei Dome by metro gets funneled through one small passage at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall station. But good doesn’t mean that there is no prospect for improvement; and if Singapore wants to build upon its reputation as an effective event organizer, it must improve the downstream transport experience.

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From the Red Line

Sometimes I am who I am, but sometimes I am not who I am not.