Raffles Country Club to be acquired to make way for high speed rail developments

ALFRED CHUA Today Online 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE — The 143ha site in Tuas occupied by the Raffles Country Club will be acquired for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, the Government announced on Wednesday (Jan 4).

The club, one of Singapore's oldest that opened in 1988, will need to hand the site over to the SLA by July 31, 2018 — 10 years before its 30-year lease is due to expire (on Oct 31, 2028). It is the second country club here to have to cease operations because of the HSR, after Jurong Country Club, which has to make way for the terminus in Jurong East.

The Raffles Country Club site — located at Tuas, and bordered by the Tengeh Reservoir and the Ayer Rajah Expressway — was deemed most suitable to run HSR tracks at ground level before it goes underground towards the Jurong East Terminus, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Land Aithority (SLA) said in a joint media briefing. They added that they came to the decision after having "undertaken extensive reviews...to carefully select and consider all options".

The site will also be used for the required HSR crossover tracks and a side track to temporarily house a train near the border for safety or operational reasons, the authorities said.

The plot of land will also be used for the Cross Island Line's western depot, as well as other transport related needs, they added.

There is also the potential of having train testing facilities at the site, although that would be dependant on engineering and feasibility studies.

Compensation will be based on market value for the acquired land as at acquisition date, with the authorities saying they would render as much help as possible to the club. The Government offered Jurong Country Club S$89.8 million for the 67ha site but the club is asking for almost double the amount in compensation.

On why the period of July 31, 2018 was given as the club's move-out date, SLA's chief executive Tan Boon Khai said this was because in the second half of 2018, engineering tests would have to be carried out at the site prior to construction.


Raffles Country Club members 'deeply disappointed' by land acquisition announcement
Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Members of the Raffles Country Club (RCC) were surprised by an announcement on Wednesday (Jan 4) that the Government would acquire land the club sits on for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) and for a Cross Island Line depot.

“Obviously we’re deeply disappointed to hear the news. I think we will work with the authorities to make sure we deal with them fairly, if there’s any compensation," said General Committee president Paul Singh. He declined to go into specifics, saying the club needed to hold further talks with authorities.

Still, some members told Channel NewsAsia they had a sense that a land acquisition was on the cards. After news of Jurong Country Club's acquisition for the HSR project was broke, RCC member Maria Teo said she and others at the club had speculated that RCC would lose part of its two 18-hole golf courses, but not both.

Another member, Theresa Ng said she paid about S$40,000 for the membership about 20 years ago. She and Ms Teo said they had no plans to get another golf course membership after RCC closes.

A former Jurong Country Club member who wanted to be known as Arthur said he and a few others bought RCC membership in February 2016, and were "prepared" for such an acquisition. But they were not expecting the move to come so soon.

He paid about S$20,000 for weekday membership. "I will not sell my membership now. Nobody will buy. If they compensate me, I'm lucky. I won't lose that much".

He is in two minds about getting another golf club membership. "Even if you want another membership, you're scared. You know - is the Government going to acquire it too? I don't know if Sentosa or Tanah Merah or Laguna Club will be next. Will Singapore eventually end up without golf courses?"

Golf club membership broker Fion Phua said about 10 existing RCC members have contacted her for advice since they were informed of the notice. One caller had submitted an application for membership at the club on Tuesday and that it was pending approval from the club.

Ms Phua, who is sales director of Tee-Up Marketing Enterprises, said members were asking her if they should sell their membership or wait for Government compensation. “The membership is currently between S$32,000 to S$33,000. If they sell it now, minus the transfer fee of S$21,400, they might get about S$10,000 for the membership. I told them it might be better to hold out for the compensation, and in the meantime, enjoy the golf course and make more memories there until it is closed down.”

RCC has about 2,650 golfing members. Memberships are going for between S$32,500 to S$34,000 based on a check of club membership broker websites.

The club will be required to vacate its premises by Jul 31, 2018.

Additional reporting by Lianne Chia and Liyana Othman.

- CNA/ly


Raffles Country Club to make way for KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail
Lianne Chia and Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 4 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: The 143-hectare Raffles Country Club site in Tuas will be acquired by authorities to make way for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project.

The club announced the move on its website on Wednesday (Jan 4). The announcement included a letter from the Singapore Land Authority informing the club of the acquisition.

According to the announcement, the land is also needed for the Cross Island Line's western depot and other transport-related uses.

"We understand that many of you may have queries regarding the future of RCC," the club said in the announcement. "We would like to assure you that the club has been contacted by the relevant Government agencies and we will provide members with a more detailed update in due course."

The club will be required to vacate its premises by Jul 31, 2018, according to the letter.

BIGGEST ACQUISITION DONE IN RECENT YEARS

On Wednesday (Jan 4), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SLA said the Raffles Country Club site is the “optimal site” in terms of location, size and orientation.

Leaders of Singapore and Malaysia had signed a bilateral agreement for the high-speed rail last month, where it was agreed that the HSR will cross the Straits of Johor via a bridge with a height clearance of 25 metres above the water level.

LTA and SLA explained that as the bridge is high, it has to be continued before it can be brought down to land and into the tunnel. “So there are not a lot of options in terms of where we can site it without having to make a lot of land acquisitions”, they said.

They said the Raffles Country Club site is the most suitable location to run the HSR tracks immediately after the bridge crossing. It will then enter an underground tunnel to the HSR terminus in Jurong East.

Space is also needed for HSR crossover tracks and a siding facility that will temporarily house a train near the border for safety or operational reasons, if necessary.

The site is also needed to provide train parking and maintenance facilities for the Cross Island Line's Western Depot, LTA and SLA added, as well as other transport-related needs which may include train testing facilities. Further details of the projects will be given after detailed feasibility and engineering studies, they said.

By size, the 143-hectare site is the biggest land acquisition in recent years. The club is the second country club – after Jurong Country Club – to be acquired by authorities for the HSR project. It closed for good on Dec 31 last year, ahead of its lease expiry in 2035. The 67-hectare site it was on will be occupied by the HSR terminus, as well as mixed-use developments and community facilities.

“This is a big acquisition and we would like to reiterate that the government does not take acquisition lightly,” said SLA’s Chief Executive Tan Boon Khai. “We will consider all options including the technical and suitability details before making the acquisition.”

He added that under the Land Acquisition Act, the club will be compensated full market value, and SLA will work closely with the club’s management and assist the club throughout the acquisition process. Jurong Country Club was awarded S$89.8 million by the Collector of Land Revenue – an amount about half of what the club asked for in its claim for compensation.

ALL CLUB MEMBERS INFORMED OF ACQUISITION

When contacted by Channel NewsAsia, the club said it was given the acquisition notice just after 10am on Wednesday. It has “several direct channels” of reaching out to members, and that all have been informed of the acquisition.

The club, which was founded in 1988, has two 18-hole golf courses, and its lease was due to expire in 2028. A check on club membership broker websites showed RCC memberships going for between S$32,500 to S$34,000. It has about 2,650 golfing members.

The high-speed rail, which is slated for completion in 2026, is expected to cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to about 90 minutes. The line will run for 350km, with 335km in Malaysia and 15km in Singapore.

There will be eight stations in total, with the two terminal stations at Jurong East in Singapore and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

ACQUISITION THE MOST LOGICAL DECISION: ANALYSTS

Analysts told Channel NewsAsia that acquiring the site – which runs parallel to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) - was the most logical decision for the high-speed rail project.

Transport analyst Dr Walter Theseira of SIM University said that, unlike mass transit lines which can curve, the high-speed rail line cannot afford to do so in order to maintain its speed.

“If you look at the geography of the area, one very likely alignment is ... straight alongside the existing AYE for much of the length of the AYE in the Tuas area,” said Dr Theseira. “That would be a very straight alignment, and if you build it, in fact, along the grounds of the Raffles Country Club, then you don't have to take over, for example, industrial land to do that.”

He added that the authorities may also have chosen the site as the most cost-effective way to guide trains underground from above ground.

“It’s going to be a lot cheaper to do that, if for example you were to take over a stretch of land which currently doesn’t have development on it, and basically dig the tunnel there and cover the tunnel afterwards,” he said.

“If you were to build the tunnel, however, underneath existing structures, it’s generally a lot more costly and complicated and I think we want to minimise that kind of cost as far as possible. That would be unavoidable once the HSR gets into the Jurong area, but I think there’s a chance to lower the cost by taking over the Raffles Country Club.”

Neither would it be feasible to run the line below an operational golf course, said Chong Kee Sen, immediate past president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore.

He explained that a high-speed train entering Singapore would require a long strip of land for it to maintain its speed as it moves underground.

“The transition has to be smooth, the gradient has to be more gentle, so it basically affects the surface of the RCC for a certain stretch before the train really goes into the tunnel," said Mr Chong.

He added that the land that might be too shallow in parts to support golf games above it, and that the strip could stretch across much of the site’s courses.

Additional reporting by Loke Kok Fai.

- CNA/lc

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