LTA meets nature groups over Cross Island Line, study to be done on its impact

Royston Sim Straits Times 11 Jun 13;

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) met nature groups on Tuesday evening - the first time it has done so - after concerns were raised over the environmental impact of the proposed Cross Island MRT Line.

Preliminary plans have a portion of the line passing underground through the nature reserve in the central catchment area.

The groups have offered to conduct a study of the line's impact on the flora and fauna of the nature reserve, which is expected to take several months.

LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said the authority will decide on its next step and how it should conduct an environmental impact assessment after taking in findings from the study.

He noted that the actual corridor of the line has not been decided upon, as planning is still at a very early stage.

The 50km Cross Island Line, which will run from Changi to Jurong, is slated for completion in 2030.

LTA begins talks with activists on environmental impact of Cross-Island Line
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 11 Jun 13;

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has begun talks with nature groups to understand the environmental impact of the Cross-Island MRT line.

LTA met nine green activists on Tuesday and assured them that no works will start before a good understanding has been achieved.

Chew Hock Yong, chief executive at LTA, said: "We have met them and they say they will do a study to look at some possible options in terms of how the Cross-Island Line can go through the area and then they will share with us the outcome of the study and that to us will be the first step that we take to understand better the environmental impact of the MRT line that we are building."

LTA said the study will be a joint effort by the various interested nature groups and it expects it to be completed within several months. LTA will then take into account results of the study when doing its own Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the largest of four nature reserves in Singapore, is home to a rich variety of plant and animal species.

Nature groups are concerned that tunnelling works for parts of the 1.4-kilometre long Cross-Island Line, which passes through the nature reserve to connect Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio, could cause habitat fragmentation and soil erosion.

LTA unveiled the line in January this year, which is slated for completion in 2030.

The Nature Society Singapore has called for a realignment of the line to protect the nature reserve.

The society is asking LTA to divert the line to the south of the nature reserve.

With the diversion, the line could stretch to two kilometres.

LTA said it will study all options and consider whether such a diversion is technically feasible.

Tony O’ Dempsey, council member of the Nature Society of Singapore, said: "Our position is very simple. Nature reserves are for the conservation of native flora and fauna and they are not for the purpose of infrastructure. We want the line to go around the nature reserves to the south. At an average speed of 30 km an hour, that would represent an extra four minutes of travel time. We don't think that's too much to ask to save our natural heritage."

- CNA/xq

Nature groups to study impact of Cross Island Line
Sumita d/o Sreedharan Today Online 12 Jun 13;

SINGAPORE — Six nature groups will be embarking on studies to determine the impact of the Cross Island Line (CRL) on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, said Land Transport Authority (LTA) Chief Executive Chew Hock Yong yesterday.

The groups will study all possible options, which include cutting through the nature reserve and skirting around it, and highlight all implications to the LTA. No timeline has been set for the studies, which could take several months.

“We will not start any work until a time when there is proper understanding on what is the correct way to do it so as to minimise the impact on nature,” Mr Chew said.

Nature groups have been up in arms since the 50km train line was announced in January as construction work may harm rare fauna and flora in the central catchment area, which includes four reservoirs.

To be completed by around 2030, the line will start from Changi and run through areas such as Pasir Ris, Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Timah, and terminate at the Jurong Industrial Estate.

Last night, representatives from the groups met the LTA, which was seeking input on the Environmental Impact Assessment study it will be conducting.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Chew stressed that the alignment of the CRL has not been finalised and all considerations will be factored into the final decision. Other factors that will be examined include the impact on travel time, land use for the area and the effect on homes.

The LTA’s Environmental Impact Assessment study is expected to start in the second half of this year or early next year, and input from the nature groups will be taken into consideration, he said. Sumita Sreedharan

LTA delays environment study
Royston Sim Straits Times 12 Jun 13;

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will hold back its study of the environmental impact of the Cross Island MRT Line until after nature groups have completed their investigations.

It made the decision after its officials met nine representatives of several nature groups yesterday. The meeting was the first face-to-face session between the LTA and the groups since they expressed concern about the proposed MRT line passing through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

The groups, which include the Nature Society Singapore and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, offered to conduct a study on how different alignments of the line would impact flora and fauna in the nature reserve.

In accepting it, LTA chief executive Chew Hock Yong said the authority will consider the findings before deciding how to conduct its own environmental impact assessment.

Preliminary plans have an estimated 1.4km of the line passing underground through the reserve. Several groups had expressed concern that even soil investigations for the line would damage the nature reserve's ecosystem, and called for the line to go around the reserve instead of through it.

Mr Chew said the nature groups' study will help the LTA avoid undue impact on the environment. "We will not start any work until such time where there is a proper understanding of what is the correct way to do it, so as to minimise the impact on the nature reserve," he said.

He noted that plans presented in January were a "broad brush stroke", and the LTA will consider several factors before it decides on an alignment.

This includes environmental impact, overall travel time, how the line fits into the land use plan and whether it will affect any existing house.

Engineering studies are also needed to decide if it is technically feasible to have the line skirt around the reserve.

Mr Tony O'Dempsey, the Nature Society's spokesman on the issue, said the meeting was positive and the study should take about six months.

Mr Chew said the LTA had intended to call a tender for environment studies late this year or early next year. Plans for the line remain on track even though the LTA is waiting for the study to be completed, he added. The line will run from Changi to Jurong, and is slated for completion in 2030.