Retailers in Jurong East jittery about competition, commuters fear crush

Owners of retail shops at housing blocks and shopping malls such as JCube (right) are jittery over potential competition from new commercial entities. -- PHOTO: ST FILE  
Owners of retail shops at housing blocks and shopping malls such as JCube (right) are jittery over potential competition from new commercial entities. -- PHOTO: ST FILE  

The new terminus for the high-speed rail to Kuala Lumpur will be built in Jurong East on the plot of land currently occupied by Jurong Country Club. As the area develops into what is envisioned as Singapore's second Central Business District, The Straits Times speaks to 40 residents and businesses on what they look forward to or fear about changes to their neighbourhood.

IT'S not all cheer for the new high-speed rail terminus in Jurong East.

Some businesses, for example, are concerned about the potential competition from new commercial entities that will pop up in the area.

"If they build more shops there, it would definitely take away our business," said Ms Lisa Ching, 46, owner of clothing store Lisa Lisa in JCube mall.

Owners of retail shops at Housing Board blocks are particularly jittery about this. Already, they are feeling the heat from the opening of new shopping malls Jem, JCube and Westgate in recent years.

Ms Su Ya Mi, 40, owner of health supplement store Value Wellness Organic at Block 130, Jurong Gateway Road, said: "People would rather shop in malls where it is comfortable and air-conditioned."

On Monday, the Government announced that the high-speed rail terminus will sit on a 67ha plot which will also include offices, hotels, retail and family entertainment facilities, and possibly residential units.

"More people will come here, but that doesn't always translate into more business for us," said Mr Alfred Chee, 55, who owns Wiseland Contact Lens and Optical Centre in Jurong Gateway Road.

"People might be in a rush to catch the train to Kuala Lumpur."

For residents, the main concerns about the high-speed rail are congestion and the strain on current public transport options, in particular the Jurong East MRT station which serves as an interchange between two trunk lines.

In 2011, a third platform was opened at the station to ease crowding there. But while that helped for a while, commuters are back to complaining about the crush during rush hour.

"It's already very crowded and very inconvenient. To add more people will only make things worse," said housewife Cindy Chua, 42, who has lived in Jurong East for about 30 years.

Retiree Wong Chin Tong, 57, who lives in a three-room flat with his family, said: "I'm worried things will get more expensive. Nowadays, it's difficult to even get a meal for $3."

Another group of residents who are upset are those who are members of Jurong Country Club, which will give up its land for the new high-speed rail. The club's members, whose median age is 55, include many who are retirees.

"Many of us come here because it's convenient, and have old friends... It's a community of friends and long-time golfers," said a club member of 35 years, who wanted to be known only as Mr He.

"Where will we go?" said the 71-year-old retiree.

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