Railway tracks a huge draw

Hundreds of people turn up to stroll along the tracks; talks on how to develop land begin
Daryl Chin and Sia Ling Xin Straits Times 3 Jul 11;

It was a scene Singapore has never witnessed: Scores of people strolling along the railway tracks that run from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar.

Yesterday, a day after the authorities announced that it would allow the public access to most of the 26km track for two weeks, hundreds of people turned up at different sections of the route throughout the day.

The Nature Society (Singapore) led an organised walk, with about 60 of its members trekking 6km from Bukit Timah to Ten Mile Junction.

Mr Leong Kwok Peng, vice-president of the society, said: 'I think the turnout is fantastic. You can easily see hundreds of people milling around the area when you look down both ends of the tracks.'

Armed with water bottles, walking shoes and cameras, many could be seen carefully making their way across the tracks. Some were intent on choosing a pebble as a keepsake.

Mr Kenneth Loh, 39, a manager in the construction industry who lives at Rifle Range Road where he can see and hear the trains go by every day, took his wife, two daughters and a friend's family along.

'When I moved there about a year ago, I was hoping the train service would stop soon so we wouldn't be affected by the noise. Now, we are used to it and enjoy watching them go past - and they're gone,' he said.

Engineer Kooi Yok Meng, 62, who lives in Teck Whye, headed down to the tracks with his wife as he thought it would be 'interesting and romantic'.

'We've lived here for over 10 years and never had the chance to see the tracks up close. I thought it would be fun to come here and snap some pictures of my wife. It's actually kind of like going on a date after being married for so long,' said Mr Kooi, who has been married for more than 20 years.

The public can enjoy most of the track until July 17. A 3km stretch between Rifle Range Road and the Rail Mall is accessible throughout this month.

At the launch of a National Parks Board exhibition at the Botanic Gardens yesterday, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said developing a 'green' corridor will take years and extensive public engagement.

The former general has already begun dialogues with academics, nature and heritage groups, to name a few.

Calling it a partnership, he said: 'I think it's very important to listen to their perspectives... even as we develop the area, so we can factor in some of their considerations.'

He added that he was also keen to get input from others such as architects, art school students and even the schools along the railway line.

Singapore Heritage Society president Kevin Tan said he was heartened by the latest development. 'From the outpouring of emotion at its closure, it's clear that Singaporeans are increasingly invested in Singapore and concerned about what makes this place special. And it's a good move that these people are being engaged,' he said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Friday that it will study the possibility of maintaining a continuous green link along the rail line 'without affecting the development potential of the lands'.

It also said the stretch could be added to the planned 150km islandwide park connector network.

Nature Society president Shawn Lum said this announcement, plus the URA's dedicated website, clearly showed that the principles of a green corridor were being embraced.

The website, which invites public feedback, also provides information on The High Line in New York City, and Promenade Plantee in Paris.

Both of these areas were railway stations that fell into disuse but later became rejuvenated as public spaces.

'It shows that the authorities have done their homework and are not just paying lip service. Of course, to be realistic, we can't get everything we want, but it's exciting to be involved at the embryonic stage,' said Dr Lum.

Railway's green corridor fine as it is
Straits Times Forum 5 Jul 11;

I AM sad to learn that the railway tracks will be open only until July 17, with the exception of the stretch from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall. That stretch will stay open until the end of the month.

It was nice to see hundreds of people strolling along the tracks over the weekend. It is not often that we can be in such a tranquil environment.

I understand that it will take years and extensive effort to develop a green corridor. However, the corridor is fine as it is. Why does it need developing? It offers us a unique piece of Singapore's past, fresh air, greenery, wildlife and a place to get away from everyday life.

Why can't we be left free to roam the tracks from Queenstown to at least the Rail Mall?

Damian Ng