Finally, some track-side peace and quiet

Residents near railway tracks won't miss the rumble of passing KTM trains, but want the greenery to remain
Amanda Tan Straits Times 4 Jul 11;

MR W.S. Yong, 52, has lived beside the railway tracks in Ghim Moh for 15 years.

Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) trains now start their Malaysia-bound trips from Woodlands instead of Tanjong Pagar, so he will no longer see or hear them chug past his estate.

An executive at an import-export firm, he said he would not miss them: 'It was noisy, and we sometimes had snakes and mosquitoes because of the trees and bushes around the tracks. We had to use repellent all the time.'

Ironically, he is moving away too - just when the noise and critters are finally gone.

His block is among six in the neighbourhood up for the Housing Board's Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers). They will be pulled down and new blocks built in their place.

His wife, 50, an accountant who declined to give her name, was more sentimental. She said: 'I think I'll miss it. The trains were something we saw and heard daily, but now they're gone.'

She thought back fondly 15 years, to the time when their children, now in their teens, were still babies. To keep the rattle of the evening train from waking them up, the family helper would rush to cover their ears as it passed by.

The Yongs' feelings are probably shared by those who live in private properties, condominiums and HDB estates flanking certain sections of the tracks, in areas such as Ghim Moh, Commonwealth, Holland and Bukit Timah.

The 26km of tracks between Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands will no longer be used, following the closure of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station last Thursday.

Other track-side residents who spoke to The Straits Times said they too were relieved by the new quiet that had settled in, although they had already grown so used to the sound of passing trains that it no longer woke them up.

Commonwealth Drive resident Christopher Wong, 32, whose flat overlooks the railway line, said: 'I would hear the train rumble by at around 3am every day. After a while, you got used to the sound.'

The engineer said that, as a boy 20 years ago, he would often run to the window whenever a train went past.

Certainly, residents agree, it has become safer to use the tracks as a short cut, now that the trains no longer ply them.

Since 2009, at least five people - thought to have been cutting across the tracks as a more direct way to get to their destinations - have been hit by KTM trains.

Some residents are hoping that the value of their homes will go up, now that the decibel levels have gone down.

However, property agent Adrian Tan, 31, said: 'It might be a good thing that residents will no longer be bothered by the noise, but that is not the only factor determining property prices.

'They really depend on the market, and what other developments there are around the area.'

It has not been confirmed yet what will become of the strip of land on which the tracks sit, although the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said last week that it was considering a 'green corridor' for recreational use - one that might be incorporated into the island-wide park connector network.

A Holland area resident, who gave his name only as Mr Chan, said he was concerned about what use the land would be put to.

The 60-year-old businessman, whose house sits beside the tracks, said: 'I like the greenery. I hope they keep it as a green corridor for animal life. I bought this place for the greenery. I don't want to look up and see 40-storey flats.'

Members of the public can continue to enjoy that countryside ambience until July 17. Also, a 3km stretch from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall will stay open until the end of the month.

Nature Society vice-president Leong Kwok Peng, 54, said he was planning more walks there over the next two weekends.

Guided rambles might be just the thing for those nostalgic about rail travel.

IT manager Glenn Crippa, 45, who took an independent walk along the tracks yesterday, said he would miss seeing and hearing the trains near Jalan Jelita, where he lives.

Said the Australian: 'I love trains, and I was glad to take a walk here again. I wanted to see this part of history before it disappeared forever.'