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Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG






Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Sound: Dolby Digital
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Blue Max




Underground Singapore

Think New York, think Paris, London, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Moscow. Each a thriving metropolis and home to millions. Each commuting centres for industrial and financial operators. Each systematically and unstoppably grinding towards gridlock. One of many common denominators in these cultural cosmopolitan cities are the worlds below their feet, their underground rail networks, their subways. Dank, depressing warrens of migrating humans, or the future for a better way of life above ground? After decades of moving around in intersecting tubes, the jury is still out. But for one city the future is looking exceedingly bright. If you take all the best bits from undergrounds around the world, discard everything that does not work and then throw millions of dollars into further design and construction, then you have the project that has every Singaporean drooling over their dim sum - The Singapore Circle Line, one of the biggest and certainly best underground railways in the world. In this film we witness the realization of this utopian vision under construction. The spectacle is addictively fascinating. That's because the mission is fraught with difficulties. Can the team follow through on Lee Kuan Yew's vision? We also drop in on another great feat of underground construction: Amsterdam's North-South line. This historic city is finally getting a Metro Line extension. As it turns out, the planners and construction teams would have had an easier time sending a rocket to the moon.

World's Busiest Railway

The west coast main line railway between London and Scotland is one of the busiest in the world. Millions of people regularly commute on new state-of-the-art trains running on century-old tracks. Watch as this episode follows the replacement of the vintage rail line, section by section, up and down the length of the country. At US$14million and with 60 million hours already worked it's the largest current engineering project in Europe. As the line is still in operation, this mammoth engineering feat has to happen over the weekends. Every Friday night, 10,000 workers and millions of dollars worth of machinery roll onto the tracks in a race to get the job done to in time to hand the line back for the Monday morning commuters.


Ever walked past a Mass Rapid transit (MRT) station and seen those men peering through those camera-like gadgets supported by tripods? Ever wondered what they are doing?

For the benefit of the more ignorant (this reviewer included), those men are ensuring our safety by taking measurements and making sure that nothing on ground has shifted – due to the tunneling that is taking place underground.

This is the kind of interesting trivia and little pieces of information that will make you sound intelligent at the next party you go to if you watch this Discovery Network documentary.

Titled “Singapore Circle Line”, this episode is bundled with “The World’s Busiest Railway” on this 100-minute disc.

Local viewers would probably have lots of fun seeing familiar footages in this 45-minute episode. The UK-produced documentary sees how Singapore has developed from a “third world country” to today’s massively organized urban city. It highlights on the taken-for-granted rail system we have in Singapore, and follows architects and construction workers underground where danger lurks with every inch of soil removed.

There will be moments where you chuckle at the documentary’s narration, especially the guffaw-worthy segment where we are described as “very superstitious” people. The producers just had to complete the picture by interviewing a “feng shui” master where the poor man has to go around with his exotic looking compass and talk in true-blue Singlish about “chi” and making sure the right places are dug up for the underground train tunnels.

Then there are those “official voices” moments where you see officials from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) being interviewed. These important-looking people talk about safety, chemical defense capabilities of the underground stations, as well as, in an unpredictable moment, the tragedy that the nation saw in April 2004 – the Nicoll Highway collapse.

Some human touches are added to the documentary as well, where everyday folk affected by the tearing down of buildings to make way for the tunnels are interviewed. Listening to them speak in familiar dialect is indeed a nice touch to the overseas production.

As you have realized by now, a large part of this review is dedicated to the episode about Singapore. The other episode describing the replacement of the old railway line between London and Scotland is, well, in a word, informative.

Shot after shot of the workers racing against time to restore the tracks every Friday night to meet the deadline on Monday morning is interesting to watch. The scale of this expensive project in Europe is definitely an eye-opener. Of course, being viewers on this side of the globe, this episode is informative but not engaging to watch.

We are sure this is the same feeling viewers from outside Singapore will get when they watch the episode about our underground railway system.


There are no extra features on this disc – as if the documentaries aren’t informative enough already.


The audio and visual transfers are what you’d expect from a TV documentary, nothing to be particularly excited about..



Review by John Li




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This review is made possible with the kind support from Blue Max

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