Little India businesses eagerly await opening of Downtown Line 2 stations

The upcoming Rochor station.
The upcoming Rochor station. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Some of them were hard hit by nearly seven years of construction works and diversions

Businesses in the Little India area are eagerly anticipating the opening of the Little India and Rochor MRT stations on Dec 27 after almost seven years of intense construction in the area.

"Some shops lost business and had to close because people wouldn't even know the shop existed," said Mr Rajakumar Chandra, chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, noting that businesses in The Verge shopping mall and Tekka Market were badly affected.

With the completion of the stations, Mr Chandra hopes people who found it hard to navigate and access the areas because of the hoardings and diversions will return. "Although we have been inconvenienced for a number of years, we are looking at many more years of better business," he said.

The two stations are part of the 12 stations of Downtown Line 2 that will connect residents in the west, including the Sixth Avenue and Upper Bukit Timah neighbourhoods, to the city.

At $803 million, the contract to build the two stations was one of the highest ever given out, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The cost was mainly due to the complexity of the work, including the challenge of realigning a 1km section of Rochor Canal, which ran through the middle of the construction area. The Sungei and Rochor Canal Roads also had to be diverted more than 30 times.

A 180m-long box tunnel to house the future North-South Expressway was also part of the project, as it runs on top of Rochor station. This is the only station to intersect with the expressway.

Rochor station, which is between Sim Lim Square and Golden Wall Centre and has two entrances, is also set in marine clay layers, which at times has the consistency of peanut butter.

Because of this, additional crosswalls had to be built to stabilise works at the station base.

To accommodate the station works, a steel deck had to be built above the old Rochor Canal, on top of which both five-lane carriageways of Rochor Canal Road and Sungei Road were shifted at various times during the course of construction.

From 2011 to this year, a new 20m-wide box culvert canal was built - now covered by Sungei Road - for Rochor Canal to flow through.

At Little India station - which will be an interchange with the North East Line (NEL) with two new entrances - the challenge was navigating large boulders underground.

Workers manually mined a 58m section of train tunnel below the NEL tunnels as the ground was hard and contained those big boulders.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Little India businesses eagerly await opening of 2 MRT stations'. Print Edition | Subscribe