Parts of KTM railway to be retained

Sections of track at the railway stations and on two steel bridges to be kept
Grace Chua Straits Times 23 Jul 11;

SOME sections of the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks will be retained, the Nature Society and other heritage interest groups said yesterday.

They emerged from a meeting with government agencies to report that sections of the track at the now-defunct Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah railway stations, and those on two steel bridges at Dunearn Road and the Rail Mall, will be kept under existing plans to conserve the stations.

The civic society groups did not, however, have information on the length of these conserved sections. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) confirmed the information following the meeting the groups had with Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin and representatives from the Ministry of National Development and its associated agencies.

The future of the railway land, a 26km stretch from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands, has been a matter of intense interest lately.

For weeks, members of the public have made postings on the civic groups' Facebook page, asking for the tracks to be retained.

And in the ST Forum Online page on July 11, reader and avid cyclist Patrick Low pleaded: 'Before the bulldozers and excavators remove everything, let us think about the possibility of preserving sections of the railway.'

The 26km stretch of KTM railway land reverted to Singapore on July 1.

The authorities already have plans to make the Tanjong Pagar station a national monument and the Bukit Timah one, a conserved building.

But the URA and Singapore Land Authority had announced that the tracks and some structures would be removed and handed back to Malaysia, in line with the agreement between the two sides.

This is what touched people's sentiments. Aside from lobbying the authorities, hundreds of nostalgia-hunters have descended on the tracks in recent weeks to see the place and take photographs.

This week, the tracks were closed off for the removal work, though a 3km stretch from Rifle Range Road to Rail Mall will remain open to the public until the end of this month.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, vice-president of the Nature Society, part of the group which has pushed for a 'green corridor' to be developed in the railway land, said ground feelings on preserving sections of the track are probably mixed: 'There are some who want the tracks to be there, but there are others who feel it's a hindrance to walking and cycling.' He pointed out, however, that the tracks served a symbolic function.

'If you call Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah railway stations, you must have something to show that they were railway stations, so it's a good-to-have for history and heritage.'

The civic groups and the government agencies yesterday also discussed plans to engage the public, for example by holding an exhibition on the railway and having dialogues with residents and schools along the railway line.