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Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, at the Connecting Communities Through Rail Corridor Event

  Published: 31 August 2019

Good morning. I am very happy to join you at this Rail Corridor event, organised by NParks and URA.

I think all of you would have heard of our plans to remake our city for the next century. We have been talking about this for some time, and have put out plans for the Draft Master Plan. Our Prime Minister also shared some of these long-term plans at the recent National Day Rally. A lot of things are happening, with our new gateways in Punggol, Jurong, and at the Southern Waterfront.

That is why we say we are not done building Singapore. But when we talk about building, it’s not just in terms of hardware and infrastructure. It also includes our parks and green spaces. So I should really emphasise that we are not done greening Singapore as well.

One very special green space is this Rail Corridor. It’s a green spine running from north to the south of Singapore – a 24km long stretch. If you go up and down, you can do more than a marathon.

It is a key part of our expanding network of recreational green corridors, including the Coast-to-Coast Trail, and the upcoming Round Island Route. It connects a large community of over one million people living in its vicinity, who will eventually use it to run, walk, cycle, and enjoy the outdoors.

That is why we have been conscientiously working to enhance the Rail Corridor together with all of our community partners.

Two years ago, we showcased preliminary plans for the Central segment of the Rail Corridor, and works started last year. We formed the Friends of Rail Corridor – I believe many of you are here today. Thank you very much for your support. Many of you have stepped forward to help us organise community design workshops and engagement sessions to activate the spaces in and around the Rail Corridor.

I particularly want to thank all four Grassroots Advisors in Holland Bukit Timah and their Grassroots Leaders who have been mobilising residents and volunteers, to share with us your feedback and ideas, and participate in our events and tours. Thank you very much to all our grassroots as well.

We have made a lot of progress. This morning, I want to give you three updates on our Rail Corridor plans.

First, we will be starting works to restore the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station and its surroundings. This is an important historical building, and I hope the restoration will allow more Singaporeans to learn about its historical significance.

We have worked closely with architects, and students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to conduct an in-depth study and documentation exercise of the station, and these have become invaluable in guiding our restoration plans.

The restoration will sensitively reinstate the building’s unique features, including the equipment room and track-switching levers. We will ensure the station retains its sense of heritage, while offering new spaces for people to enjoy. For example, the station itself may be a visitors’ centre, while the former staff quarters could offer new F&B options. These will provide new community nodes for people to gather and enjoy themselves, while re-discovering our rich history.

Second, we are going to progressively reopen the southern half of the Rail Corridor. The Rail Corridor is 24 km long, and the southern half is about 11 km from Bukit Timah to Tanjong Pagar. This has been closed since 2016 due to the laying of the pipeline under the Rail Corridor.

The PUB works are going to be completed soon, and the remaining sections of the Corridor will be progressively reopened by next year. The reopened stretches will feature new track and planting, and will give us more opportunities and spaces for community activities to take place.

The Friends of Rail Corridor will continue to take the lead to engage the communities living and working around these reopened stretches, to encourage more people to make use of it. Meanwhile, the northern section will take a little longer. By 2021, the entire Rail Corridor – spanning from north to south – will be accessible to all Singaporeans.

Third, I am very happy to share that NParks will soon be starting works on a new Bukit Timah-Rochor Green Corridor. This will be a new linear park along the Bukit Timah Canal which lies between Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road. It will be the first time that we are doing a sky park, which will be elevated above the canal.

I think it is an interesting example of how we optimise space in Singapore. The land around the canal is part of our drainage reserve; there is not a lot of land there to build a nice green park. By building upwards, we can have an elevated sky park. The users will be separated from the traffic below, and can enjoy a lush green experience.

We will be starting the first phase of the project with the PUB drainage works to reduce disamenities. The first phase of the project will be a 1.4 km elevated stretch from the Bukit Timah Railway Station node of the Rail Corridor to Elm Avenue.

Eventually, we would like to extend this all the way to Kallang Riverside. This will allow us to connect our three national gardens – Jurong Lake Gardens, Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay – all connected by our Bukit Timah-Rochor Green Corridor.

Taken together, all of these new green developments will enable Singaporeans to experience and explore our little island in new and exciting ways. You can enjoy the rich heritage and biodiversity of the Rail Corridor, and from this major spine, branch off to explore other recreational connections.

It goes to show that with careful and good long-term planning, we can have more green recreational spaces amidst a very compact city. We can continue to enjoy nature and rich biodiversity in our little island-state.

Many people around the world talk about doing long-term planning, but very few cities do it as well as we do. We are able to do it in Singapore, and show it in our experience and track record that we can deliver on these long-term plans.

I invite all Singaporeans to join us in this journey to remake our city for the next century – to be a shining red dot, and also a vibrant green oasis for many more generations to come.

Thank you very much, and enjoy the rest of the day.

 

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