Take action before we lose our Rail Corridor

Nick McHugh Today Online 9 Jul 13;

For years, the old Rail Corridor was a strong line of steel running from Tanjong Pagar to the Causeway. The tracks were removed in 2011, leaving a ribbon of green open to runners, walkers, photographers and cyclists.

As it threads its way between condominiums and expressways, it is easy to see how tenuous its continued existence is. In a city where the car is king and development is fast-paced and constant, that this corridor exists at all is a gift to be cherished.

It will need protection to survive amid the concrete and steel. Yet, people are already disrespecting the trail, blocking it, abusing it and even parking vehicles on it. Recently, teams have been felling trees and leaving them across the track. If the trees do need clearing, surely they could be felled parallel to the track so people can pass?

This may seem like a minor point, but if the track gets blocked, people would stop using it and it would fall into disrepair. Then, it is a matter of time until the “unused land” gets turned into parking lots, buildings and shopping centres.

Over the past two years, those trimming trees for businesses, condos and housing estates have dumped branches on the sidings. These raised areas used to provide an alternative route when the track was muddy. Now, thanks to the dumping, they are overgrown and impassable.

Increasingly, lorries, vans and other vehicles are parking in the middle of the track and using it as access to building sites, which are creeping closer. The heavy vehicles block the way and cause ruts that fill with water.

In several areas, most notably between Holland and the bridge over Bukit Timah, the track is so muddy it is nearly impassable. There is over 30 cm of stagnant water under some of the bridges — during a dry period. During rainy weather, it gets a lot worse.

Further north, the removal of the old rail bridges means there is a need to cross busy roads. In one area, there is no way over a canal; the track comes to a dead end, meaning a long trip back and a detour.

The agency in charge of maintaining and protecting the Rail Corridor should stop people from felling trees across it, dumping rubbish on the sidings and parking all over it.

The whole length, and not only sections, must be kept clear so people can continue using and enjoying the track. If parts become unusable and the edges get nibbled away, we risk losing it entirely, in which case there would be no getting it back.

Rail Corridor gets regular maintenance
Julie Sim Today Online 12 Jul 13;

We thank Mr Nick McHugh for his feedback in “Take action before we lose our Rail Corridor” (July 9).

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) conducts regular maintenance, such as grass-cutting, vector checking and cleaning services, for the entire Rail Corridor, so that the public can enjoy the use of the track.

Indeed, the Corridor is popular with the public; mass events involving a few thousand people have been held there. Heavy usage coupled with wet weather will result in certain stretches becoming muddy.

We are currently working with the relevant authorities as well as stakeholders to improve the drainage system along the Corridor.

To deter illegal parking along the Corridor, the SLA had installed concrete blocks and bollards to prevent the entry of vehicles. Unfortunately, these were removed without permission by some members of the public.

While we work to replace the barriers, we seek the public’s cooperation to not park illegally.

The SLA strives to preserve as much of the greenery as possible, and we work closely with the National Parks Board to manage the trees along the Corridor. However, for public safety reasons, storm-vulnerable trees such as Albizia trees, which are prone to collapse due to their brittle wood structure and shallow root system, must be pruned or removed.

When such works are carried out, some areas may be temporarily blocked. Nonetheless, we have reminded our contractors to keep the Corridor passable and to remove the cut trees once the work is completed.

We have been in touch with Mr McHugh to address his concerns. While regular maintenance and measures to curb abuses are carried out, the Corridor stretches 26km and no monitoring can be foolproof, unless a closed-circuit television system is installed across the entire length.

However, this would be intrusive and would take away the privacy and charm of the area. We urge the public to treasure the place and, together, play our part to keep the Rail Corridor clean and accessible, so that all can enjoy the greenery and heritage of the trail.