Cross Island Line: Look at long-term benefits

An LTA engineer working in the Cross Island Line showing the approximate location and width of a boring site at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in 2018.
An LTA engineer working in the Cross Island Line showing the approximate location and width of a boring site at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in 2018.PHOTO: ST FILE

The environmental impact assessment report describing the impact on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve of the two alignment options for the upcoming MRT line has finally been released (Cross Island Line: Running under nature reserve or skirting it both feasible, says LTA, Sept 3).

It is evident that the skirting alignment, which will run around the reserve and cost an additional $2 billion, will result in a longer travelling time.

However, it will offer longer-term benefits to the environment and allay practical concerns relating to safety, evacuation and accessibility.

The direct alignment running under the reserve has a more adverse environmental impact which the builders will have to mitigate.

There will be long-term, serious environmental concerns, such as the loss of flora and fauna and potential contamination of surface water.

What is an additional $2 billion for the skirting alignment when the Government has estimated that it will cost $100 billion to deal with climate change?

One of the reasons for climate change is the disregard for flora and fauna. The skirting alignment dovetails with the Government's climate change plans.

We should look beyond the short-term constraints and focus on the long-term benefits. This will go a long way in living up to our reputation as a country with foresight and which engages in forward planning.

Given Singapore's technical expertise and track record in overcoming construction challenges, the engineering challenges discussed in the report are easily overcome.

While six minutes of travel time will be saved with the direct alignment, this will be at the expense of Singapore's shared nature, heritage and water source.

The skirting alignment will have "major" impact for residents due to "visual" elements - such as activities at above-ground work sites and the presence of workers.

But it would be short-sighted of residents to complain about the inconvenience during construction, when the negative impact on the reserve will last beyond the construction period.

The skirting alignment is also better in emergency situations as it makes evacuations quicker and safer should a train stall.

Essentially, we should look beyond the short-term constraints and focus on the long-term benefits.

This will go a long way towards living up to our reputation as a country with foresight and which engages in forward planning.

Alden Tan Ek Kai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Cross Island Line: Look at long-term benefits'. Print Edition | Subscribe