Orchard car-free on Christmas light-up day

Decorations put up outside Orchard Gateway. The Orchard Road Business Association said fire safety has been ramped up this year. Last year, there were two fire incidents involving Christmas decorations in the shopping belt.
Decorations put up outside Orchard Gateway. The Orchard Road Business Association said fire safety has been ramped up this year. Last year, there were two fire incidents involving Christmas decorations in the shopping belt.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Shopping belt will come alive on Nov 12 as gift stalls and food trucks ring in festive spirit

Christmas in Orchard Road this year will not only bring with it its usual glitz and glamour, but also a vehicle-free road for a day in November and better fire safety.

A stretch of road between Scotts Road and Bideford Road will be closed between 3pm and 11pm on Nov 12, the day the light-up is officially launched.

The shopping belt will come alive in hues of blue, turquoise and sapphire, as performances, gift stalls and food trucks ring in the Christmas spirit early.

The road closure in Orchard during the Christmas season is a first, but the same stretch has previously closed for Pedestrian Night, a monthly event organised by the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.

"We don't have the resources to hold it every month. We are trying it in this format, pegging it to anchor events," Orba executive director Steven Goh said yesterday.

Pedestrian Night last ran in February this year and has been under review since.

Orba, which is also behind the annual Christmas light-up in Orchard Road, said fire safety has been ramped up.

It follows two incidents involving decorations last December. Street decorations outside Peranakan Place along the shopping strip caught fire, while a Christmas tree outside Knightsbridge mall also went up in flames.

Orba chairman Mark Shaw said the fires last year were unfortunate.

"We have hired external consultants, and tried to ensure at the production stage that the electronics used are more robust," he said.

Mr Goh said that, for the first time, the lights being used have been subjected to heat and water as part of testing.

"The public come in touch with these decorations, so safety is the ultimate concern. We will do whatever is possible to make the light-up as safe as possible," Mr Goh said.

Fire concerns aside, Orchard Road promises to dazzle.

A 2.9km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be adorned with more than 60km of LED lights. Taking centre stage will be a reindeer and orbs containing stars.

Alongside the street decorations will be seven sets of light installations. Five, like those outside Wheelock Place, Orchard Building and Wisma Atria, will react to visitors' movements.

Last year, the Christmas light-up attracted 5.8 million visitors, and Mr Shaw said he hopes the turnout will be similar or higher this year.

"The purpose of the Orchard Road light-up isn't just to drive spending. It's also to bring the Christmas spirit to Orchard Road."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Orchard car-free on Christmas light-up day'. Print Edition | Subscribe