Thomson eateries dread MRT works

Road diversions in Upper Thomson will take place this month and last until 2018. The MRT station will be ready in 2020. Mr Siew (seated) with workers (from left) Hu Kar Huat, Wong Li Shuang, Linda Leong Yun Swee and Lim Ah Ee at Hua Nam Restaurant in
Road diversions in Upper Thomson will take place this month and last until 2018. The MRT station will be ready in 2020. Mr Siew (seated) with workers (from left) Hu Kar Huat, Wong Li Shuang, Linda Leong Yun Swee and Lim Ah Ee at Hua Nam Restaurant in Upper Thomson. Mr Siew, whose father owns the eatery, worries construction dust will drive customers away.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Road diversions in Upper Thomson will take place this month and last until 2018. The MRT station will be ready in 2020. Mr Siew (seated) with workers (from left) Hu Kar Huat, Wong Li Shuang, Linda Leong Yun Swee and Lim Ah Ee at Hua Nam Restaurant in
Road diversions in Upper Thomson will take place this month and last until 2018. The MRT station will be ready in 2020. Mr Siew (seated) with workers (from left) Hu Kar Huat, Wong Li Shuang, Linda Leong Yun Swee and Lim Ah Ee at Hua Nam Restaurant in Upper Thomson. Mr Siew, whose father owns the eatery, worries construction dust will drive customers away.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Owners fear poor business as construction gets into full swing

Shop owners along Upper Thomson Road are bracing themselves for six years of poorer business as construction of the Thomson Line moves into full swing this month.

Many of them told The Straits Times that they expect patrons to avoid the area because of the dust, noise and inconvenience and that they are considering cutting staff or moving if their businesses get hit too badly.

Hua Nam Restaurant, which has been serving up dim sum and porridge at its present site for more than 40 years, may relocate.

"What we're worried about is the dust and whether the authorities will fence up the area. It's not easy to attract customers back if the area is dusty," said Mr Sam Siew, 52, whose father owns the eatery.

Hua Nam may reduce its pool of 20 employees and move if the situation worsens, he added.

The owner of Yi Jia Bread and Cafe, Mr Jason Tan, 31, said he has asked his landlord not to raise rent given the roadworks. His bakery is due to have its lease renewed for another three years.

"I expect business to dip by at least 20 per cent. If it's dusty, customers won't eat in our outdoor area," he said.

Mr Salam Nadir, 75, owner of Al-Salam Malay Barber, fears he will not be able to pay his $3,000 monthly rent if customers stay away.

"It's not just me - all of the other shop owners are worried we will suffer," he said.

The Upper Thomson station, part of a 22-station line, will be built underneath a stretch of Upper Thomson Road between Thomson Plaza and the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Earlier this year, trees along the centre divider of the road were cut down or moved elsewhere, with hoardings set up in their place.

Road diversions will take place this month and last until April 2018, with the station expected to be ready in May 2020.

As it is, parking is already a problem in the area famous for its roti prata and bak chor mee.

Patrons park haphazardly along the narrow lanes next to the shophouses, and some drivers also illegally park in the private residential areas.

"Parking is a big concern here," said the manager of Sara's Bar, Mr Mel Tan, 37.

He expects the roadworks to take up some of the precious space. If customers cannot park here, they will go somewhere else, he added.

He said: "If business is affected badly, it's not in our favour to stay for another five, six years. Rents are always going up. Chances are, we'll move out."

The 30km Thomson Line will open in three phases from 2019 to 2021.

It will run from Gardens by the Bay to Woodlands.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg