Queenstown gets park on former railway land

Park is the first project on former KTM land to be announced
Rachel Chang Straits Times 30 Oct 11;

By next April, Queenstown residents will have a 1.3ha neighbourhood park built on former Malayan Railway land.

The Rumah Tinggi park is the first project giving former railway land a new lease of life to be announced.

It will be a central neighbourhood green space, and will free up smaller parks elsewhere in the neighbourhood for sorely-needed carpark spaces, said Queenstown MP Chia Shi-Lu.

The tract is long and lean, with a wide space at one end.

When ready, it will be punctuated by playgrounds, adult fitness facilities and community gardens, and perhaps even have a boardwalk rending through.

But the design is not final, said Dr Chia, who is meeting residents on Saturday to tell them the news and solicit suggestions on what they want to see in the park.

What to do with all 170ha of former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) land, which reverted to Singapore on July 1, has been the subject of national debate since a landmark resolution of the 1990 Points of Agreement was reached last year.

The Nature Society has spearheaded a lobbying effort for the former train route to become a largely contiguous green corridor.

But some of the land sits in prime districts, such as Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah, and are of substantial commercial value.

Other stakeholders want to see the land used to enhance infrastructure in the form of wider roads or an MRT track.

The final word on how most of the railway land will be used will likely come only with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Draft Master Plan in 2013.

Dr Chia believes that the authorities have been swift in giving the go-ahead to the Queenstown park because of the plot's odd shape and location.

'There's not much else they can do with the land, because it's sandwiched between industrial and residential buildings,' he pointed out.

The land sits in a valley. On one side is the Alexandra Road Ikea and car showrooms; on the other are blocks of HDB flats.

Other MPs are in the midst of negotiations with the authorities for the use of KTM land in their wards.

In Yew Tee and Bukit Gombak, MPs Alex Yam and Low Yen Ling want roads widened onto former KTM land to ease traffic congestion.

The Stagmont Ring road in Yew Tee, for example, is the only route for residents to get to the Kranji Expressway and it needs to be expanded, said Mr Yam.

But in Ulu Pandan, a ward through which about 4km of former KTM land runs, MP Christopher de Souza has thrown his weight behind the green corridor plan, which he says is important also for the country's heritage.

'Younger generations of Singaporeans may not see the trains running through, but at least they will see the historical link.'

On their part, Queenstown residents welcomed the plan.

'It's fantastic news,' said 33-year-old civil servant Allan Tan, who had written to Dr Chia in May to lobby for such a park.

Mr Kwek Li Yong, 22, one of a group of students that set up the heritage website My Queenstown, said he hoped the new park would have reminders of what the land used to be.

He suggested park signage about the KTM railway and the former Archipelago Brewery Company nearby.

The brewery, where Anchorpoint now sits, was built in 1931, a first in Singapore. It was built near the railway for easy export of its beer.

'Such signs would educate residents about the historical significance of Queenstown,' said Mr Kwek.

'Otherwise, the park will just be an ordinary park.'