Rail Corridor on track to close this quarter

Loke Kok Fai Channel NewsAsia 14 Jan 17;

SINGAPORE: Authorities will seal off the area around the old Bukit Timah Station in the first quarter of this year, to lay a 22-km stretch of water pipes to feed the Central Business District.

The closure had originally been slated for the third, and then the fourth quarter of 2016.

The section - which stretches from the PIE/Jalan Anak Bukit Flyover to Holland Road - is the last along the Rail Corridor to be closed. Singapore's national water agency PUB said work has already begun near Greenleaf Walk, and the rest of the stretch will be closed progressively.

Authorities will provide a 2m-wide access path from the PIE/Rifle Range Road to Holland Road near Bukit Sedap during the closure, so that the stretch will remain accessible for pedestrians.

Areas will progressively be reopened from the end of 2017. The stretch on which the station sits is scheduled to reopen in the fourth quarter of 2018. The area will later be developed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to cater to workplaces and homes in the vicinity, though some stretches such as that near the Bukit Timah Railway Station "can remain more natural", said a URA spokesperson.

Visitors told Channel NewsAsia they hoped that any development work done would preserve the area's countryside nature, as well as its iconic bridges and rail tracks.

"It's very nice because it's still very rustic," said retiree Matilda Woo. "We get to walk and experience the old railway, and we see a lot of people cycling."

"It's very rare in Singapore to have clean, flat land that you can have an easy walk on," said Ms Gladys Thio, also a retiree.

Mr Eric Tay, who decided to have his wedding photographs taken along one of the corridor's iconic steel bridges before the stretch closed, said he appreciated the history of the former railway line, which once linked Penang to Singapore.

"It's a very pretty railway line that's been closed off. (My fiancee and I) came here to preserve some memories," said Mr Tay in Mandarin.

Other visitors, such as club DJ Adam Averdal, said they hoped the stretch could encourage more people to take up sports in the great outdoors. "A lot of Singaporeans, we work a lot and even students study a lot and they don't get out enough. And even when they do go out, they go to shopping malls, other buildings, cinemas," he said.

Some felt that the place could also be better signposted.

"Sometimes it's difficult to find where you can access it (the stretch), if you haven't gone with a friend before or looked carefully on maps," said Ms Sofia Haakansson, a Swede who bikes the stretch twice a week. "The signage on how to get onto the green corridor could be greatly improved."

Environmental group Nature Society (Singapore) said it hopes that however the place is developed, awareness would also be raised of Singapore's rich biodiversity.

"The magic and beauty of the rail corridor is the forest and the greenery that you see alongside," said the group's vice-president Leong Kwok Peng.

"We very much hope that in whatever design and master planning that's going to take place, (it) keeps as much of all this wild growth and the forest intact. Because that is what gives magic to the corridor."

- CNA/nc

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