LTA to put out tender to study direct alignment option for Cross Island Line

Both the direct alignment and skirting alignment options are "being studied and site investigations are essential to help LTA assess their engineering feasibility", said LTA.
Channel NewAsia 8 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority has announced that it will put out a tender on Wednesday (Jun 8) to appoint a specialist for site investigation works for the direct alignment option of the Cross Island Line (CRL).

Works will commence in the fourth quarter of this year, and this will be on top of the site investigation works for the skirting alignment option, which started last month.

"Both alignment options are being studied and site investigations are essential to help LTA assess their engineering feasibility," said LTA.

The findings of the site investigation works will provide LTA with information on the underground soil conditions, as well as provide input for phase two of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which will assess the impact of construction and operations for the two options.

The alignment of the CRL has created some controversy, with the direct alignment option cutting through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Environmentalists and nature groups have been calling for the protection of the forest area and are concerned about the possibility of the Cross Island Line being built through it.

The direct alignment will run for 2km below the Central Catchment Nature Reserve at a depth of approximately 40m with no physical structures on the surface, while the skirting alignment will run for 9km under homes and businesses, with the need for supporting ventilation facilities on the surface.

A decision will be made on the alignment after the site investigations and phase two of the EIA.

The LTA said that the tender follows discussions with nature groups, residents and other stakeholders, and also takes into account the petition by the Love Our Macritchie Forest movement.

"The National Parks Board (NParks) gave approval for the SI works within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) to proceed after these extensive public consultations and discussions on the mitigating measures with LTA and the nature groups," it added.

ADDITIONAL MEASURES TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

The authority said that it is introducing additional mitigating measures to reduce the environmental impact of the site investigation works on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

This includes scheduling geophysical surveys with one to two rest days in between, engaging a certified arborist to ensure that trees are not damaged during the works, involving nature groups as observers and having NParks officers issue stop-work orders should there be any breach or deviation of agreed mitigating measures or when pollution is detected.

The 50-kilometre Cross Island Line was announced in January 2013 and is slated for completion in 2030.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS ADDRESSED BY MITIGATING MEASURES: NPARKS

In a statement on Wednesday, NParks said that after a "stringent process of review and study" with LTA, it was satisfied that the nature community's concerns had been addressed with additional mitigating measures listed in the EIA.

Among these, NParks said site investigations will take place in existing trails or clearings, avoiding the most ecologically sensitive parts of the CCNR; the magnitude of residual impact will be mostly restricted to small areas; more elaborate safeguards have been put in place to limit the impact of site investigation work; and compliance of the conditions will be closely monitored by a team of NParks ecologists, supported by trained representatives from the nature community.

Full compliance of all the mitigation measures will ensure that any potential residual impact of site investigation work remains limited and short-term," the authority said.

However, it noted that any site investigation work, even with stringent mitigation measures, can add on to the cumulative impact of the many other ongoing activities within the nature reserves, such as jogging and hiking and NParks' own regular maintenance works, leading to the deterioration of the nature reserves over time.

"All such activities can be highly intrusive and potentially damaging to the nature reserves if they are not properly regulated," it said.

Besides stringent regulation of activities, additional efforts to improve ecological connectivity, implement species recovery programmes, and restore and rehabilitate degraded habitat within the reserves are necessary to protect Singapore's national heritage, NParks said.

The agency is exerting a "concerted effort" to strengthen the ecological resilience of the nature reserves, such as by establishing nature parks such as the newly opened Chestnut Nature Park and the upcoming Windsor and Thomson Nature Parks, which relieve the demands of recreational activities within the nature reserves, it added.

- CNA


More measures to reduce environmental impact during site investigations for Cross Island Line
Today Online 8 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be implementing additional mitigating measures to reduce the environmental impact of site investigation works within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for the proposed Cross Island MRT Line.

These additional mitigation measures, following discussions with nature groups, include:

• Scheduling the geophysical surveys to include at least one to two rest days in between the surveys;

• Engaging a certified arborist to ensure that trees are not damaged during the works;

• Involving nature groups as observers for the site investigation works to reinforce compliance with the mitigating measures; and

• Having NParks officers issue immediate stop-work orders should there be any breach of or deviation from the agreed mitigating measures, or when pollution is detected.

The measures were announced on Wednesday (June 8), alongside the LTA’s announcement that it would be putting out a tender to appoint a specialist for site investigation works for the direct alignment option for the Cross Island Line.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it has given approval for the LTA to proceed with site investigation works “in view of the series of stringent safeguards, and comprehensive and substantive mitigation measures” that will be implemented. Additional mitigating measures also address concerns from the nature community, said NParks.

LTA Chief Executive Chew Men Leong said the LTA “will work with NParks and the nature groups closely to ensure that all mitigating measures are rigorously implemented”.

The direct alignment option is one of two options that the Government is considering for the Cross Island Line. The matter has drawn intense debate, with a group of volunteers belonging to the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement being the latest to call for works related to the Cross Island Line to avoid the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Their petition, submitted on Monday, contained signatures, gathered from June 2013 to May this year, of more than 10,000 Singaporeans and residents who support the call for works related to the rail line to avoid the nature reserve, for fear of damage to the forest and wildlife there.

The direct alignment is 4km long, with 2km of the tunnel running beneath the nature reserve and the other 2km outside it, while the skirting alignment is about 9km long. Site investigation works for latter option started last month.

“The tender follows many discussions with nature groups, residents and other stakeholders, as well as takes into account the petition by the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement,” said the LTA. Site investigation works are expected to start in the fourth quarter of this year.

Findings from the investigations will provide the LTA will detailed information on the underground soil conditions, and provide input to Phase 2 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which assess the impact of construction and operations for the two possible Cross Island Line alignments.

“The Government’s decision (on the alignment) will be guided by considerations including potential impact on the CCNR, any land and home acquisition that might be needed, transport connectivity, travel times and costs,” said the LTA.


10 new measures to keep forest safe during train tunnel tests
Audrey Tan and Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Jun 16;

Tests to see how a train tunnel can be built under Singapore's protected nature reserve will start soon, but with 10 extra measures to reduce any negative impact on plants and animals.

For instance, the National Parks Board (NParks) - custodian of Singapore's nature reserves - will be empowered to issue stop-work orders if pollution is detected. Nature groups will also get to observe the work as it is carried out in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

These measures, revealed yesterday on the back of talks between the Government and nature groups, are on top of at least nine others announced earlier - such as using enclosures to reduce engine noise and tanks to collect discharge.

Other measures include scheduling at least one rest day in between surveys, and engaging a tree expert to ensure trees are not damaged.

These were spelt out in a tender that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) called yesterday to appoint a specialist to determine the soil profile under the reserve. The tests were initially expected to start in the third quarter, but will now take place in the fourth quarter after extensive talks between the LTA and nature groups.

The groups are pushing for the 50km Cross Island Line to go around instead of through the reserve, where rare animals, such as the critically endangered Sunda pangolin, can be found.

Save time or the forest? That is the question

Nature groups told The Straits Times that they were heartened by the LTA's willingness to accept feedback. But they are still hoping it would reconsider an alternative alignment for the MRT line.

Read their full paper here

"The Nature Society was hoping that soil investigation work in the forests could have been avoided as it involves people going into sensitive parts of the forests," said Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum. "But now that they are slated to go ahead, at least the impact will be reduced."

The line, to be completed by 2030, links Changi to Jurong, passing through several housing estates. The findings of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to examine the impact of soil investigation through the forest as well as around it was announced in February.

Another phase of the EIA, which will be completed by year-end, will assess the impact of building and operating the MRT line for both routes. Other factors, including travel time and cost, will also be weighed when deciding which route gets the green light.

SIM University economist Walter Theseira said the direct alignment will cut travel time. "While each commuter might save only a few minutes each trip, when added together, the time savings will be enormous," he explained."The indirect alignment, however, could serve additional areas."

Dr Theseira added that more needs to be done to "compare the economic benefits" of the two.

"While I am quite sure such an analysis is being done internally by LTA, it would go a long way towards assuring the public that the right decision will be made if such an analysis is made public," he said.

Associate Professor Donald Low, an associate dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said: "How a choice is framed can have a large effect on how people choose. If the shorter route... was presented as the status quo option, and the longer route was seen as the alternative that would cost $2 billion more and increase travel time by five to six minutes, people are more likely to prefer the shorter route.

"But if the longer route was presented as the original option, and the more direct one as the alternative that would save $2 billion but pose some environmental risks, people are more likely to favour the longer route."

EXTRA MEASURES

•Using access routes mapped out by the National Parks Board (NParks). This restricts any damage to these areas.

•Scheduling at least one rest day between surveys which require workers to go off-trail. Mammal researcher Marcus Chua says this could allow less-sensitive animals to continue using the area.

•Nature groups will get to observe the work.

•Engaging a tree expert to suggest ways to avoid damage to trees by the heavy machinery used to dig boreholes to test the soil.

•Installing a silencer on the drill engine exhaust.

•Conducting trial runs of borehole operations and off-trail surveys outside the reserve, so as to ensure equipment is fully functional and "within the stringent requirements of working within the reserve".

•Allowing a longer period of time before resuming work after heavy rain so as to reduce soil erosion.

•Accessing boreholes on Terentang Trail through the Bukit Kalang Service Reservoir compound, to cut vehicular movement .

•Avoiding works in the rare freshwater streams, which are highly sensitive habitats.

•NParks officers can order immediate stoppage of work if there are breaches of mitigating measures, or when there is pollution.

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