Why rail track has to be closed to public during removal

Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

AS AGREED with Malaysia, Singapore must remove the railway tracks and ancillary structures along the former KTM railway line, and hand them over to Malaysia by Dec 31 ('SLA should let public enjoy railway walk for next few years' by Mr Liew Kai Khiun; last Saturday).

This is a very tight timeline given the extensive work required: The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) must remove 26km of railway tracks in five months. SLA started removal works on July 18.

During the removal, we try to use existing tracks as access routes for heavy vehicles to move in to disassemble and remove the railway tracks and ancillary structures.

Where this is not practical, SLA has identified, in consultation with the National Parks Board, additional access routes that have minimal impact on existing vegetation and undergrowth. After the completion of removal works, the contractors will reinstate and turf the terrain.

For safety reasons, we must restrict public access to areas affected by ongoing works. The rail corridor will be reopened to the public after removal works have been completed and the area ascertained to be safe for public access. More information on the reopening will be provided later.

As for the development plans for the former railway lands, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is carrying out a comprehensive review that will also consider the plans for the surrounding areas.

As part of its review, the URA will study the possibility of marrying development and greenery, such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor without affecting the development potential of the lands.

The URA welcomes feedback and ideas from the community in shaping the future development plans for the railway lands, and we thank Mr Liew for his suggestions. The public can provide their ideas at www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor

Lee Seng Lai
Land Operations (Private) Division
Singapore Land Authority

Tan See Nin
Director (Physical Planning)
Urban Redevelopment Authority

Preservation fever
Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

'Let the authorities do their job.'

MR LEONG SOW PHONG: 'While I can understand the concerns of many who have a sudden surge of interest in preserving the KTM railway track, let us not forget that this thorny issue of having the Malaysian Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facility at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has finally been resolved after a stalemate of many years. The railway track cuts across Singapore, hindering development plans for better use of our land, and we should let the authorities do their job of moving our country forward. I am proud of our country's progressive culture that balances nostalgia and development. There is no shortage of gardens, parks, reservoirs, offshore islands and so on for nature lovers to explore. I am also confident that the authorities will look into creative ways of conserving the railway station, after gathering so much feedback from the public on retaining a piece of our history.'

SLA should let public enjoy railway walk for next few years
Straits Times 30 Jul 11;

IN THE fortnight after the last Malaysian train departed from Tanjong Pagar station, members of the public walked enthusiastically along the now-defunct rail route.

They included ministers like Brigadier-General (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin and Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who, impressed with the potential of conserving the route as a promising 'green spine', have been urging the public to come forward with feedback.

However, as much as many would like to continue to contribute their ideas towards this concept that, according to BG Tan, may take years to evolve, several concerns have been raised about public access to this route from next month as well as the existing historical and natural features along it.

Currently, the old Tanjong Pagar station and its surrounding land are closed to the public by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), disappointing many walkers who thought they could start their journey from the southern tip of the route.

The SLA is also silent on whether any construction and redevelopment work would be undertaken that may potentially threaten the existing natural environment and compromise the heritage around the premises.

While we understand issues of public safety and that of protection against scrap metal thieves and souvenir hunters, the relevant authorities can still make arrangements to keep the entire path of the former rail route open to the public to enjoy while discussions are ongoing.

We also hope that any temporary and makeshift construction and demolition work would be minimised, especially on the thick, natural vegetation along stretches from Holland Road to the Bukit Timah station, as well as the religious shrines and gardens that people in the vicinity have built and planted over the years.

It would be a waste if the entire stretch of the route gets fenced off and boarded up from next month, and Singaporeans return to an altered and damaged landscape the day these barriers are lifted.

Hence, with just perhaps minimal improvement work to facilitate public access and some accommodation for safety considerations, we believe that the former railway line can be an instant and temporary park connector for Singaporeans for the next few years while plans for its use are being finalised.

Liew Kai Khiun
Project Co-ordinator
Green Coordinator Project
for Singapore Heritage Society and Nature Society of Singapore