KTM greenery to be preserved: Khaw

Fiona Low Straits Times 18 Jul 11;

THE iconic tracks of the KTM railway will be dismantled from today, but Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan assured the public that the lush greenery surrounding them will be preserved.

Walking the tracks with his family and pet chihuahua Tammy yesterday evening, the minister added that after the tracks are dismantled, parts of the path will be reopened to the public again.

Speaking to reporters after the walk, Mr Khaw said there were many possibilities for housing development in the areas currently occupied by the tracks.

'But we will do it in a way where we can still preserve this green spine. I'm quite sure it can be done and it will be very nice. We can have urban development but still maintain the greenery,' he said.

The railways tracks will be dismantled and returned to Malaysia by the end of the year as part of the agreement between the two countries.

Mr Khaw said that his ministry had initially hoped to keep the tracks open to the public for two months before starting to dismantle them. But that timeframe was shortened because the contractors were worried that the dismantling could not be completed by the year-end deadline.

Most of the 26km green link from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands will be closed from today, except a 3km stretch between Rifle Range Road and The Rail Mall which will stay open until the end of this month.

Mr Khaw said the contractors will have to rush to finish removing the tracks, and may have to work overtime.

'But the commitment with Malaysia is year-end so we have to deliver, just as they delivered on their agreement to move the railway,' he added.

About 200 people walked alongside Mr Khaw on the 1.5km stretch between Holland Drive and Tanglin Halt. The walk was organised by the Ministry of National Development's recreational club.

Earlier in the day, three presidential hopefuls - Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Kin Lian and Mr Tan Jee Say - were also spotted walking the tracks.

It was also crowded with people like Ms Kalavathy Govindarajoo, 42, who was there with her husband to take pictures.

'It is a piece of history and a place of good memories for me,' she said. 'I hope they will convert the Bukit Timah station into a museum. It would be a good place to show future generations what our railway was like.'

Three presidential hopefuls join railway buzz
Qiuyi Tan and Evelyn Choo Channel NewsAsia 17 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: It's the last day the full 26-kilometre stretch of the KTM Railway from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands is open to the public.

And adding to the buzz on the tracks were three presidential hopefuls - Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kin Lian and Tan Jee Say.

When asked, Dr Tan Cheng Bock said he was checking out what he called a "hot topic".

"As presidential candidates, you don't discuss the issues. We only have to abide by the Constitution, and that is safeguarding the reserves and appointment of special top echelon leaders in the civil service. But that does not preclude me from taking an interest," said potential presidential candidate Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

"I will definitely take an interest in all the developments, not only to the KTM. There are so many new issues coming up and as president (hopeful), I cannot stay away from it," he added.

He said it's the government's job to get people's views about plans for the area, but he will give his "two cents' worth".

And he wants to make sure that the area is developed in a way that Singaporeans can feel it's part of their home.

As for Mr Tan Kin Lian, he said he has other more pressing concerns.

"The campaign issue is more on what kind of president the people of Singapore want. So I'll be focusing more on the duties of the president, and what the president can do for the people," he said.

Scores of Singaporeans were out with their cameras, and both men added to the photo opportunities.

Also present was the latest presidential hopeful, Mr Tan Jee Say.

Mr Tan is a former member of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) who contested in the recent General Election (GE).

He said: "I've been walking around too, it's something I picked up from the GE days, so it's nothing unnatural. But it's good timing and I hope to step it up."

All three presidential hopefuls said they are there to join the crowd on the historic last day the train tracks are open to the public.

And on the area's redevelopment, their comments were similar - that is, not too much concrete, keep the greenery and the nostalgia.

And the crowds continued to throng the railway tracks later in the day. They were joined by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his family. He had earlier invited the public to bring their pets along.

Tammy, a six-year-old chihuahua, is the pride and joy of Mr and Mrs Khaw. The couple decided to bring her along on their first walk on the railway tracks.

Many others joined in the reminiscing - with their "best friends" faithfully tagging along.

"I think it was nice of him (Mr Khaw), in that it does promote kindness to animals to include them. I didn't see any cats; they might have been a bit stressed. But I think our dogs enjoyed it," said Deirdre Moss, outgoing Executive Director of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Mr Khaw also took the opportunity to survey the surrounding buildings. He had mentioned in a recent post online, that there were opportunities to keep a green spine for nature and leisure.

A three-kilometre stretch of the tracks from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall will remain open till July 31.

- CNA /ls