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Rail Corridor (Central) Reopens to Bring Nature, Heritage and Recreation Closer to Singaporeans

A more inclusive community space with improved features
  Published: 22 March 2021

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) announced today the reopening of Rail Corridor (Central), following the completion of enhancement works to make the space more inclusive and accessible for visitors.

Translating Singaporeans’ ideas into reality
After the former railway land was returned to Singapore a decade ago, the 24-km-long Rail Corridor was retained as a green spine for recreation, community activities and nature. Agencies engaged Singaporeans—nearby residents, grassroots advisers, the public at large and the Rail Corridor Partnership which is now the Friends of Rail Corridor—extensively on their hopes for this unique space. From the consultations, retaining the Rail Corridor’s lush greenery and railway heritage and making it a more inclusive, accessible and safe space for visitors of all ages and abilities were recurrent themes that emerged.

URA and NParks have taken on board these feedback in drawing up the plans for Rail Corridor (Central), a signature 4km stretch between Hillview and the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station. Guided by the themes of Heritage and Culture, Biodiversity and Greenery, and Recreation, URA had started enhancement works along this stretch in 2019. Most of the works have since been completed, and Rail Corridor (Central) has reopened to the public as a more inclusive community space that brings nature, heritage and recreation closer to Singaporeans.

A more inclusive, accessible and safe recreational space
There were previously few access points into the Rail Corridor. We have since added eight new or improved access points at popular locations along Rail Corridor (Central), such as flights of stairs near the Upper Bukit Timah truss bridge and the Singapore Quarry Bridge. They were sensitively built to simulate timber sleepers and set into the landscape to complement the character of the Rail Corridor. Visitors and residents can now enjoy easier access to the trail for recreational activities like jogging, cycling or to simply to appreciate the greenery and heritage structures. Please refer to Annex A [PDF, 485kb] for more details on the access points.

In addition, we have strengthened the Rail Corridor (Central) trail with materials and finishes that complement the character at different stretches. The part of the trail next to natural areas has been kept rustic and natural-looking with a grass and gravel finish while the section closer to urban areas has been treated with an earth-coloured porous material. For more information on the above enhancements, refer to Annex B [PDF, 629kb].

In URA’s engagements with the local community along Rail Corridor (Central), there was feedback that visitors to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve had to walk on the road at Hindhede Drive to enter the nature reserve, which was dangerous. URA has since built a new pedestrian underpass at Hindhede Drive so that visitors to the nature reserve now have a dedicated footpath and hence, a greater peace of mind. For more information on the Hindhede pedestrian underpass, refer to Annex C [PDF, 581kb].

A community space rich in culture and railway heritage
Rail Corridor (Central) is home to several railway heritage landmarks, such as the two conserved truss bridges, the steel girder bridge at Hindhede, the Singapore Quarry Bridge, and the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station and Railway Station Staff Quarters. URA has given them a new lease of life through sensitive restoration and careful refurbishment, so that visitors can continue to appreciate these landmarks. To improve the inclusiveness of the bridges—popular spots for photoshoots—safety features such as railings and improved flooring were also added. For more information on the improvements made to the heritage structures, refer to Annex D [PDF, 913kb].

A green and connected ecological corridor
Rail Corridor (Central) represents the green heart of the Rail Corridor, being in close proximity to several green nature getaways like the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Dairy Farm Nature Park and Bukit Batok Nature Park. There is wide consensus that the Rail Corridor can potentially become an ecological corridor that connects greenery and biodiversity along its route, and Rail Corridor (Central) a gateway into the surrounding green spaces and a green artery that connects these spaces. Agencies have thus carefully planned to retain, restore and strengthen its biodiversity and greenery.

In carrying out the enhancement works, URA had retained and enhanced a naturalised stream, which acts as a freshwater fauna habitat. We also planted over 1,500 native trees and shrubs along Rail Corridor, such as Leea rubra and Melastoma malabathricum, to restore a belt of native forest in the area, which in turn provides an important passage, habitat and source of food for Singapore’s native fauna, and enhance ecological connectivity between natural habitats.

To allow nocturnal animals to use the trails at night, night lighting is not installed. Instead, strategically-placed reflector poles that double up as distance markers were introduced to guide the public in dim lighting at dawn and dusk.

NParks had also engaged the community, including the Friends of Rail Corridor, on habitat enhancement and stream restoration efforts along the Rail Corridor (Central). Such efforts will enable Singaporeans to be immersed in greenery and explore nature throughout the island, while enhancing ecological connectivity between our natural habitats and strengthening Singapore’s ecological resilience. These efforts contribute to our City in Nature vision, where nature pervades the urban landscape to create a green, liveable and sustainable home for Singapore.

For more information on the ecological elements of Rail Corridor (Central), refer to Annex E [PDF, 871kb].

An even more connected and inclusive community space
Parts of the trail along Rail Corridor (South) – from the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station to Spooner Road – are currently undergoing improvement works following PUB’s laying of the Murnane Pipeline under the Rail Corridor, and are scheduled to reopen by the end of this month. The public will then be able to access a continuous trail from Rail Mall to Spooner Road.

Improvement works to the trail along Rail Corridor (North) – from Hillview to Woodlands Road – will commence later this year and is expected to complete by 2022. Visitors can soon look forward to a continuous Rail Corridor trail from Woodlands Road to Spooner Road, where they can explore diverse landscapes from the north to south of our island. It is also part of the 360km island-wide network of recreational routes that is currently being curated, and it will also contribute to Singapore’s goal of enabling all households to live within a 10-minute walk of a park by 2030.

Works for the 9 Mile Platform rest stop next to the Upper Bukit Timah truss bridge, as well as the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station, will also be completed in 2022. The reopening of the former railway station as a heritage gallery will contribute to the vision of transforming the historic building and its surroundings into a vibrant community node where visitors can discover more about Singapore’s railway history in a lush green environment.