The green artery that is the 24km Rail Corridor pulsed with the flow of people, mail and goods in a different era before it fell silent. The same has happened to railway tracks in many other places. In Britain, for example, changing times forced the closure of about half its railway stations. But activists laboured hard to convert some 7,200km of abandoned rail lines into green cycling and walking tracks. Some rail lovers even reopened deserted stations as Heritage Railways and still rave about "daring Victorian engineering" that once extended the reach of locomotives.
Singaporeans are no less sentimental about their past, in some ways, and flocked to the railway station at Tanjong Pagar when access was granted after it was closed in 2011 after 79 years. There is also a strong desire to preserve the greenery along the corridor. These two impulses should drive its development which is being led by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. It wouldn't do if demands by different groups for utilitarian features lead, over time, to a mongrel concept that diminishes the rustic feel of this precious unbroken space and also sidelines heritage.
Hopefully, many who respond to URA's call for ideas will bear this in mind as they view an exhibition opened recently on proposed designs. There is much to fire the imagination: rock-climbing walls, outdoor yoga spots, a linear forest near homes, observation towers, multi-recreation centres, event spaces, a multi-function community building, some 122 access points compared to the present 23, paved paths, mobile apps for users, toilets, resting points, water points, shower facilities, bike rental kiosks, restaurants… The list could grow. How rustic will it all be then?