Site tests to assess impact of Cross Island Line begin at nature reserve

TAN WEIZHEN Today Online 23 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Site investigation works to study if the future Cross Island Line will pass under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) are now being carried out in the area, with mitigating measures being put in place to address nature groups’ concerns about the impact of such works on the reserve.

The works are being done at 16 sites at the CCNR. These began last week at one site in a forested area, while at another four sites, works started in February.

At a media briefing yesterday, Dr Goh Kok Hun, deputy director of geotechnical and tunnels at the Land Transport Authority (LTA), stressed that those involved in the study are adhering to stringent requirements during the investigation works.

“The LTA is working closely with NParks (National Parks Board), nature groups and our contractors to ensure that the site investigation works are done in the best possible manner. Other than significantly reducing the number of boreholes required from 72 to 16, we have also limited the boreholes’ locations to existing trails and clearings like this within the CCNR,” he told reporters after a demonstration on how the works are being done at one of the sites at the CCNR. He also explained how the mitigating measures work.

“Workers have to observe stringent requirements stipulated under the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan while carrying out their works.”

He added: “We are doing these soil investigation works so that once we understand soil and rock conditions, we can assess the impact of construction and operations for the two possible alignments — the direct alignment or the skirting alignment.”

The direct alignment option will cut through the CCNR, running for 2km, while the skirting alignment will run for 9km under homes and businesses. The authorities have yet to make a decision on the issue.

Nature groups are opposed to the direct alignment option, noting that it will hurt the nature reserve and there are no guarantees that the mitigating measures for the site investigation works will not have an impact on the environment.

The LTA said other mitigating measures have also been put in place during the investigation works at the 16 sites, which are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

For instance, all activities will be restricted to daylight hours from 9am to 5pm, so as not to affect nocturnal animals.

Boreholes will also be done only at public trails and existing clearings within the CCNR. “Ecologically sensitive” areas such as streams and swampy areas will be avoided, and there will be also be a 30m buffer zone around them.

A certified arborist has been appointed to propose and assess methods to avoid damage to trees during the borehole process, the LTA said.

Investigative works for Cross Island Line begin
Zhaki Abdullah Straits Times AsiaOne 23 Mar 17;

Works to see if the future Cross Island MRT line will be built under Singapore's largest nature reserve have started.

Due to start last December, the investigation works, to determine the soil and rock profile under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, began last month. They were delayed because of "extensive discussions" between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and National Parks Board on measures to reduce the environmental impact of the works, said LTA geotechnical and tunnels deputy director Goh Kok Hun.

Some of the mitigation measures include keeping works to between 9am and 5pm, erecting noise barriers and keeping investigation works to public trails, to avoid disturbing wildlife in the area.

The number of investigation sites has also been reduced from 72 to 16.

"Workers have to observe the stringent requirements stipulated under the environmental management and monitoring plan for the works," said Dr Goh.

Soil investigation works at Central Catchment Nature Reserve Pt 2

Trial runs of borehole operations and geophysical surveys were also conducted off-site prior to actual works to familiarise workers with the requirements of working in the reserve, said an LTA spokesman.

"These mitigating measures are the result of three years of engagement between the LTA and other stakeholders," said Nature Society president Shawn Lum.

Expected to be ready in 2030, the 50km Cross Island Line will stretch from Changi to Jurong when completed. The authorities are considering two paths for the line - a 4km route, half of which would be under the nature reserve, and a "skirting alignment" that would take a 9km route around it.

While the latter option is expected to tack on $2 billion to the cost of constructing the line, it could allow for an additional station to serve Thomson residents.

It would also satisfy nature groups which have raised concerns about the possible environmental impact of running an MRT line under the reserve.

Earlier this month, a tunnel boring machine digging in mixed ground conditions caused an old tomb at Mount Pleasant Chinese Cemetery to cave in during works on the Thomson-East Coast Line. Over-excavation had created a localised depression on the surface, said LTA.

Such cave-ins are unlikely to occur should the authorities decide to run the line under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, said Dr Goh. This is because tunnelling in the area would go much deeper and only through the granite of the Bukit Timah profile, not mixed ground conditions, he added.

Soil investigation works at Central Catchment Nature Reserve Pt 3

Soil investigation works are expected to be completed by the end of this year. Studies on the total impact of the project will be ready only by the end of next year, and a decision on the route of the MRT line will only be made after.

Dr Lum, a senior lecturer at the Nanyang Technological University's Asian School of the Environment, is still hopeful that the new rail line will go around the reserve.

"The skirting alignment would not just be beneficial for the environment, it would also allow for wider ridership for the MRT line," he said.

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