Final pieces of KTM track removed

Grace Chua Straits Times 1 Jan 12;

The last of the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks have been dismantled and sent home to Malaysia, capping off a year in which the Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar railroad stretch was decommissioned in a landmark land swop.

The 26km tract from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar was returned to Singapore last July as agreed with Malaysia, in exchange for land parcels in Marina South and Ophir-Rochor.

In the weeks after the train service to Woodlands ceased, thousands of recreational explorers and shutterbugs thronged the tracks, hoping to capture a slice of history.

Trains had run from Tanjong Pagar since 1932, and continue to run north from Woodlands.

Removal works started in July. Small structures, railway tracks, sleepers, ballast, cables, gates, posts and debris were removed.

The lush green stretch was also turfed over, save for brief stretches preserved at the former railway stations.

The Tanjong Pagar railway station is to be a national monument, while the smaller, rustic Bukit Timah station is a conserved building.

At both sites, the railway platforms and tracks next to the platforms have been retained. So too are two historic steel bridges and their tracks, one in Dunearn Road and the other in Upper Bukit Timah Road near the Rail Mall.

'Short stretches of the former railway line are in their final stages of turfing works,' said a spokesman for the Singapore Land Authority, which oversaw the project.

The removal works were completed on schedule last month.

Some of the challenges included controlling access points into the site, the narrow working area - only a few metres wide at points - and minimising damage to the trees and plants there.

Meanwhile, the so-called Rail Corridor site may get a new lease of life yet.

Civc interest groups have called for it to be kept a continuous tract, and helped organise a travelling exhibition showing off its potential as a leisure and heritage destination. The exhibition is on at the Marina Barrage till Feb 12.

Grace Chua