C936 Bencoolen Station

The station’s vent shaft integrates with the streetscape

The Downtown Line is the longest underground mass rapid transit line in Singapore running on automated, driver-less trains.

Its construction, done in three segments, was one of the most challenging projects for Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA), with the line’s tunnels traversing through varied ground conditions, undercrossing the Singapore River, and excavating under and close to many existing buildings and roads in the city.

Downtown Line 3—consisting of 16 stations, including Bencoolen Station—runs from Expo in the east to Fort Canning Station in the downtown area.

Bencoolen is located within the heart of Singapore’s Cultural Civic District, near the junction of Bras Basah Road. It is Singapore’s deepest MRT station with tunnels built 43 metres below ground (equivalent to a 14-storey building) and comprises six levels—the concourse, upper mezzanine, lower mezzanine, platform and two service levels.

Situated within a confluence of many buildings and existing rail tunnels, the station had to be constructed at such depths to avoid existing infrastructures at ground level and two existing underground rail lines. The result: a deep and narrow underground station integrated within an existing building.

With the buildings on both sides of the station along Bencoolen Street located just 25 metres apart, the station was designed to be 22 metres wide and 140 metres long. As the rail tunnels are just 1 metre above the existing North–East Line’s tunnel, and undercrossing the North–South Line and Circle Line operating lines at 8 and 3 metres, respectively, the construction process also had to be carried out with precision.

Hundreds of monitoring instruments were installed in these live tunnels and monitored round-the-clock to ensure the construction did not affect the live rails and train operations. There was also the challenge of excavating in very hard ground conditions, and mechanical and chemical means had to be used to split the boulders found underground.

Due to the tight space constraints, Bencoolen Street had to be closed during construction for the safety of motorists and pedestrians. As the station is also located near high-rise buildings in the area, the working hours were constrained. To minimise inconvenience, LTA and contractors worked closely with the hotels and tertiary institutions in the area to manage noise and environmental issues.

In a busy, prime urban area, which is rich in cultural heritage, careful attention was paid to the location of at-grade structures, such as entrances and ventilation shafts, to enable the safe preservation of adjacent buildings’ façades, while creating a vibrant, comfortable walking environment at street level.

Station Entrance A, which is integrated with the NAFA Tower Block above the station and the B1 underpass link with Singapore Management University (SMU), showcases artwork by students of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Entrance B of the station has a glass and frame retro-design to complement the adjacent Hotel Rendezvous’ colonial image. An underground unpaid linkway connects to the Circle Line’s Bras Basah station through SMU’s basement.

The interior of the station is visualised to echo the layered earth striations of the nearby Fort Canning, emphasising the depth of space. The passenger lifts are clad in maroon-tinted glass walls to enhance commuters’ experience of descending into the ground.

Project Name: C936 Bencoolen Station
Location: Bencoolen Street, Singapore
Completion Date: 21 October 2017
Gross Floor Area: 20,455 square metres
Building Height: 6 levels; 43 metres (below ground)
Government Implementing Agency: Land Transport Authority (LTA)
Architecture Firm: Aedas Pte Ltd
Principal Architects: William Chee; Ario Santoso
Civil & Structural Engineer: Arup Singapore Pte Ltd
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: AECOM Pte Ltd
Main Contractor: Sato Kogyo Pte Ltd
Images: LTA