How a Khatib walkway ended up in Parliament

The walkway from the Khatib Court estate to Khatib MRT station stops 10m short of the station's main entrance. The HDB and LTA said the last part of the walkway has not been constructed because the area is a "designated emergency fire escape route".
The walkway from the Khatib Court estate to Khatib MRT station stops 10m short of the station's main entrance. The HDB and LTA said the last part of the walkway has not been constructed because the area is a "designated emergency fire escape route".ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Two months ago, when Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah visited newly completed Housing Board estate Khatib Court, she noticed something odd.

A covered walkway stretched from the flats to Khatib MRT station - but stopped short 10m from the entrance.

It differed from the original plan, said Ms Lee, who has seen it. The site's architects had planned for the walkway to link up directly with the station's entrance, providing seamless shelter for residents.

The MP met the two agencies involved in the project - the HDB and Land Transport Authority (LTA) - in the middle of last month, but to no avail.

She eventually raised the topic in Parliament this month, using it as an example to illustrate how lack of cooperation between government agencies can come at the expense of residents. "I asked HDB what happened... They shared that they face a lot of challenges and cannot meet the requirements of LTA," she said in her address to the House. "I told both parties, regardless of what happens, I must have this covered linkway. Everyone forgot about the hassle- free first- and last-mile connectivity."

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, the two agencies said in a joint statement that the last part of the walkway has not been constructed because the area is a "designated emergency fire escape route".

 

Temporary hoardings that would be put up if the last part of the walkway were constructed could therefore pose a safety issue during a fire.

Both parties said that they are still assessing the situation to see what should be done next, as completing the walkway could also mean that existing underground structures have to be moved.

Ms Lee said that she was not told of the fire escape issue during her meeting with the authorities, but that she is "confident that it can be resolved", adding: "I believe if there is a will, there is a way."

She said that she still supports completing the walkway as construction is unlikely to take too long, as long as the necessary safety precautions are taken.

Housewife Irene Kwek, 54, whose mother lives in Khatib Court, said she was once caught in the rain there. She said: "We didn't know that the sheltered walkway didn't extend to the MRT entrance until we had reached the end.

"It would be nice if they could still extend the shelter, if possible."

Palm Breeze, another new development in Ms Lee's ward, is in a similar predicament, the MP said.

She had asked for another sheltered walkway to be constructed from the estate to the nearest bus stop, but the authorities could not agree on where it should be built.

"Part of the covered linkway sits on top of the drain, so (national water agency) PUB said no - shift the walkway onto the grass verge.

"But the National Parks Board (NParks) said nothing is supposed to sit on my grass verge."

PUB, NParks and HDB told The Sunday Times that the walkway will be built by the third quarter of this year. "As there are various technical challenges to be addressed collectively by agencies, we have been working together and have since found a feasible solution."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'How a Khatib walkway ended up in Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe