Friday, March 20, 2015

Old rail track to become 'green line'

By Janice Heng,, mypaper,, Published on Mar 19, 2015

IDEAS WANTED: The Rail Corridor in Bukit Timah
PHOTO: IDEAS WANTED: The Rail Corridor in Bukit Timah, as seen on Monday (16 march 2015). Proposals for the corridor's development should ensure that it is continuous and seamlessly connected, reflect its heritage and preserve its green nature.
My Paper, Thursday, March 19, 2015, Page A4, Top Stories

SIX areas along the Rail Corridor are to be given special attention when it is finally developed, and the 24km path will be restored to become a continuous green stretch.

Under a request for proposal launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday, four areas have been earmarked as "activity nodes" and gateways to the former railway track.

These are the former Bukit Timah railway station, the old Bukit Timah fire station and two areas near Kranji and Buona Vista MRT stations.

There will also be two areas of special interest: the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the stretch near Sungei Pang Sua canal in Choa Chu Kang.

The pre-qualification stage of the request for proposal began yesterday. Design teams have until April 23 to submit a statement of intent, bearing these planning goals in mind.

They were drawn up following more than three years of consultation over the future of the path, which runs between Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands.

No timeframe has been set for when the development of the corridor will take place.

When its development was announced in 2011, there were fears that its unique nature as an island-spanning green stretch would not be preserved.

However, the URA has based its planning and design goals on feedback received since then and, as a result, proposals should ensure that the Rail Corridor is continuous and seamlessly connected, reflect its heritage as a former track for Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu railway and preserve its green nature.

"The quality of the space is really defined by the greenery," said Tan See Nin, URA's senior director of physical planning. Teams should even have a "landscape strategy".

The URA noted that some stretches of the route are quite bare while others have trees with weak branches.

The URA also wants the Rail Corridor to be inclusive and accessible, for instance with the addition of shelters and toilets.

Design teams will also have to consider "appropriate lighting strategies...that are sensitive to the surrounding context and landscapes".

Retiree Tan Cheng Hui noted that some stretches are muddy and impassable after it rains. "These can be improved so that more people can enjoy the green corridor," said the 57-year-old.

Editor and heritage enthusiast Choo Lip Sin, 44, said that making the track more user-friendly could be done sensitively, like adding shelters that "reflect the heritage of what the Rail Corridor used to be".

In May, up to five design teams will be shortlisted to develop the concept masterplan and specific proposals. A public exhibition will be held from October to December to get feedback on the ideas of the successful team or teams.

From March to May next year they will then come up with a preliminary design for a 4km "signature stretch" of the Rail Corridor which has yet to be revealed.

URA chief executive Ng Lang said: "Our intention is to continue to sensitively stage the development of this project with the community, and not rush into developing the whole stretch at one go."

By Janice Heng,, mypaper,, Published on Mar 19, 2015