Extra $2bn for Cross Island Line to skirt nature reserve likely to be fraction of total cost: Experts

Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times 24 Feb 16; also in AsiaOne

The additional $2 billion that will be incurred by building the proposed Cross Island Line around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve instead of across it is likely to be a fraction of the total cost of the MRT project.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), which had given the $2 billion figure in response to proposals for the line to skirt around the nature reserve, said yesterday it is unable to estimate the total cost of the 50km Cross Island Line as studies on the entire line have not been completed.

But industry experts estimate that the cost of the project could be as much as $40.7 billion.

This is based in part on calculations for past and ongoing MRT projects, which show that each kilometre of MRT tunnel costs about $350 million to $400 million to design and build.

Costs could go up by 25 per cent if eight-car trains are used, compared with the three- or six-car trains used currently.

The introduction of an express service, among other things, could also increase costs by up to 40 per cent owing to the need to build an additional track.

So the extra $2 billion for building the Cross Island Line around the nature reserve could work out to less than 5 per cent of the total cost of the project.

Nature groups had earlier raised concerns that construction work on the Cross Island Line, expected to stretch from Changi to Jurong, would have a negative impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Singapore's largest nature reserve. This is especially so if the line cuts across the nature reserve instead of skirting around it.

Having the Cross Island Line cut through the nature reserve involves building a 2km tunnel approximately 40m deep beneath the nature reserve's MacRitchie area. There would be no physical structures on the surface level.

Some members of the public The Straits Times spoke to felt that the additional cost was justified if it helped ease Singapore's transport crunch.

Those who have proposed routing the Cross Island Line round the reserve said the line would serve residents in the area and avoid disrupting the flora and fauna in the reserve.

Dr Vilma D'Rozario, an associate professor at the National Institute of Education, said: "Routing around the reserve to pick up more commuters along the way would certainly help ease road traffic congestion and sardine-packed train conditions."

Financial consultant Johnson Long, 70, believes that the additional cost can be recouped with increased ridership over the years.

Residents who live in the estates that could be affected by the skirting alignment have voiced concerns that their homes would be acquired by the state for the building of the line.

Mr Anthony Oei, 82, who has lived in Yew Lian Park for more than 50 years, questioned the need to divert the line.

"Will we have to give way to wildlife?" he asked.

Others said the possible environmental impact of the line going through the reserve should not be ignored.

Commenting on some suggestions thrown up by the public, a spokesman for the LTA said it is not possible for the stretch of Cross Island Line in question to run under Upper Thomson Road, which is near the nature reserve, owing to limited space caused by construction work on the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line.

A line linking people to jobs
Christopher Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 24 Feb 16;

The Cross Island Line, announced in January 2013, is a 50km MRT line stretching from Pasir Ris in the north-east to Jurong in the west.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority Master Plan 2014, the line will link a fast-growing residential district in the north-east to Singapore's largest industrial hub in the west.

As it goes westwards, it will pass through Loyang, Punggol, Hougang and Ang Mo Kio before reaching Sin Ming. From there, it will go towards Bukit Timah, Clementi and West Coast before terminating at the Jurong Industrial Estate.

Besides linking residents to jobs, the line will serve the upcoming "creative cluster and learning corridor" in Punggol, which will include the Singapore Institute of Technology's new campus.

The line is also part of an overall strategy to build some redundancy into the rail network to mitigate the impact of disruptions.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport deputy chairman Ang Hin Kee, who is also an Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, said: "People in Ang Mo Kio, for example, are served only by the North-South Line. If there are repairs or maintenance work on that line, they have no other rail option."

The Cross Island Line is also likely to stop at the proposed terminus of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail line in Jurong East.

When completed in 2030, it will facilitate access to Singapore's seaport, which will move to Tuas by then. The line will provide relief to the already heavily used 57km East-West Line.

The Punggol-Pasir Ris stretch of the Cross Island Line will also form the first leg of the North Shore Line - a yet-to-be announced MRT line that links Pasir Ris to Woodlands.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), residents in Punggol will be able to travel to Pasir Ris in 10 to 15 minutes, compared with a 40-minute bus ride today.

The project will be unlike current MRT lines. For instance, trains are likely to have more carriages - eight cars each, or more. Current lines have three- to six-car trains. LTA declined to confirm this, saying only that the Cross Island Line is a "heavy-load" system.

The Straits Times understands the line will be the first to have "scalable" platforms, which can be expanded. This will allow the operator to start off with say, six-car trains, and add more cars per train as ridership picks up.

LTA is also considering express services for the line. This would cut end-to-end travel time, about an hour or so on the current lines.

Use savings from MRT line to fund conservation work
Straits Times Forum 28 Feb 16;

If the Government decides to run the Cross Island MRT Line under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve instead of skirting the forest, thus saving the $2 billion in extra cost ("$2b extra cost if MRT line skirts reserve"; Feb 22), I hope the money saved will go into a fund.

If that is the final decision, I hope the Government will use the savings to fund conservation and restoration activities.

The Government could set this sum of money up as a trust.

Any money taken from the trust for approved conservation and protection projects must be backed by dollar-for-dollar matching support from the private sector.

This would create a win-win situation for all and can, hopefully, assuage the concerns of environmentalists and conservationists who are against the MRT line entering the nature reserve.

Tan Kok Tim

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

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