Cross Island Line: Path around reserve may cost $2 billion more

Adrian Lim, MyPaper AsiaOne 22 Feb 16;

THE alternative alignment that routes the Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve could add about $2 billion to the rail project's cost, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has revealed.


This 9km "skirting alignment" will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities, compared to the 4km direct route, of which 2km will cut through Singapore's largest nature reserve, it said.

"Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur $2 billion more in expenditure," added LTA's chief executive Chew Men Leong.

In a forum letter published in The Straits Times today signed off by him, it was reiterated that the Government is studying both alignment options and has not decided.

Since a report detailing the environmental impact of site investigation works for the project was released some two weeks ago, green groups have been lobbying for the Cross Island Line - a 50km MRT line that will span from Jurong to Changi - to be built around the reserve, instead of through it.

However, this could entail land acquisition as the MRT tunnels would pass through land occupied by homes, businesses and buildings. Residents in Upper Thomson who could be affected have called for the line to go through the reserve.

In the letter, Mr Chew said the Government will consider all factors, including the engineering feasibility of both alignments, distance and travel time for commuters, cost to taxpayers, and the impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and on businesses and families.

Green groups acknowledged that the extra $2 billion and impact on residents are significant but they also called for deeper thought on the issue.

Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, asked: "What is the long-term cost to Singapore of potentially damaging (the) nature reserve?

"Are we setting the precedent that as long as we pledge to be careful, we can do infrastructure works in protected areas?"

Dr Lum said that rather than view the sum of $2 billion as a cost, it could be seen as an "investment into nature and heritage".

Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said: "This island used to be covered by rainforests, today we are down to 3 per cent.

"It has taken eons to evolve and the biodiversity is irreplaceable. Homes, however, can be cleared and rebuilt."

The LTA said the proposed tunnel beneath the Central Catchment Nature Reserve will be about 40m deep and no surface structures will be built.

A second phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment, to be completed this year, will delve into the environmental impact of the construction of both alignments.

Park Byung Joon, adjunct associate professor at SIM University, said skirting around the nature reserve involves "social costs". They include lengthening end-to-end travel time to be around four minutes more.


No decision made yet on Cross Island Line alignment, Govt to study all options
AMANDA LEE Today Online 22 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — With potential impact across a broad spectrum of stakeholders — the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, businesses, home owners, commuters and taxpayers — the Government has “a responsibility” to study both Cross Island Line alignment options thoroughly, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA), stressing no decision on the alignment has been made.

In a letter addressing public concern after the report on phase one of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was released earlier this month, LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong, also offered a glimpse at the future MRT line’s possible cost: The longer option, which will skirt around the nature reserve, could cost S$2 billion more in extra works and result in land and home acquisition.

Debate over the best alignment option for the Cross Island Line and the potential impact on the nature reserve reignited after the EIA report, done by an external consultant, was gazetted on Feb 5.

With strong public interest, the LTA last Friday made the rare move of posting the report online; previously, the public would have to make an appointment to inspect any of the five copies available at the LTA. The report detailed the effects that site investigation work for the line would have on the nature reserve. The two options being studied are a 4km “direct” line that will see 2km of the tunnel run under the nature reserve, and a 9km “skirting” option that goes around the reserve along Lornie Road.

In making the decision on the alignment, the Government will have to consider factors including the engineering feasibility of both alignments, distance and travel time for commuters, cost to taxpayers, the impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and impact on businesses and families who may be affected by land acquisition under the skirting option, said Mr Chew.

“Indeed, since the gazette of the EIA, homeowners had asked to meet LTA and voiced their concerns over possible acquisition of their homes. They urged the Government to be objective, and take into account also their concerns,” he said.

If a tunnel were built under the nature reserve, Mr Chew said it would be 40m deep, depending on findings from ground investigations, and there will not be any construction of infrastructure on the surface. The skirting option will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities.

“Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur S$2 billion more in expenditure,” Mr Chew said.

“The Government has a responsibility to study both thoroughly before making a decision,” he said. “Ground investigations and engineering feasibility studies of both alignments have to be completed first.”

He also pointed out that care will be taken during site investigation works to minimise environmental impact. For example, survey and coring work will start outside the nature reserve and no vegetation will be cleared.

“To protect the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, National Parks Board staff will accompany contractors and consultants during all off-trail works,” said Mr Chew.

The LTA also previously said it had reduced the number of boreholes needed for the site investigation work from 72 to 16.

The second phase of the EIA will be completed by the end of this year, and will assess the impact of construction and operation of the future MRT line.

Cross Island Line: Govt studying route impact, has not made decision yet
CHEW MEN LEONG, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY Today Online 22 Feb 16;

We thank all writers who have shared their views on the two possible alignments of the Cross Island Line (CRL).

The Government is studying both the underground alignments and no decision has been taken yet. For the 4km direct alignment, 2km of the tunnel will be below the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), while the other 2km is located outside it. The section of the tunnel beneath the CCNR will be about 40m deep, depending on findings from ground investigations. There will not be any construction of infrastructure on the surface.

The skirting alignment, about 9km long, will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities. Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur S$2 billion more in expenditure.

The two alignments may have different impacts on various stakeholders — the nature reserve, businesses, homeowners, commuters and taxpayers. The Government has a responsibility to study both thoroughly before making a decision. Ground investigations and engineering feasibility studies of both alignments have to be completed first.

For the upcoming ground investigations, following our extensive consultations with the nature groups for the first phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), we are reducing the number of 10cm-boreholes from 72 to 16, and confining them to public trails and existing clearings. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will complement these with non-intrusive geophysical survey methods and horizontal directional coring that will start from outside the CCNR. As such, no vegetation will be cleared. National Parks Board staff will accompany the contractors and consultants during all off-trail work to ensure that the greatest care is taken to protect the CCNR.

In making the decision on the alignment, the Government will have to consider the full range of factors, including the engineering feasibility of both alignments, distance and travel time for commuters, cost to taxpayers, and the impact on the CCNR and on businesses and families who may be affected by land acquisition under the skirting option. Indeed, since the gazette of the EIA, homeowners had asked to meet the LTA and voiced their concerns over the possible acquisition of their homes. They urged the Government to be objective, and also take into account their concerns.

In response to requests from the public, the findings of Phase 1 of the EIA have been made available on the LTA website from Feb 19. We thank the public for sharing their views and will take into account the diverse concerns of different stakeholders.

Related links
Love our MacRitchie Forest: walks, talks and petition. Also on facebook.

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