SINGAPORE - A stretch of the Rail Corridor has been reopened, with new features such as additional access points for visitors and restored rail infrastructure.
The stretch of about 4km is between Hillview and Bukit Timah. It is between two conserved truss bridges, and is known as the Rail Corridor (Central). It had been closed since 2019 for restoration works.
On Monday morning (March 22), Minister for National Development Desmond Lee took a walk along the trail with members of the Friends of Rail Corridor community group, which was formed in 2017.
The Rail Corridor is a nature trail along the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway line connecting Singapore and Malaysia. The Malaysian rail service ceased operations here in 2011.
In a pre-recorded speech sent to the media, Mr Lee said that Singaporeans' feedback was thoroughly reviewed as the authorities drew up plans for the stretch.
Taking this feedback into account, physical remnants of the corridor's railway heritage were retained. This includes four bridges which were repaired and refurbished.
Second, biodiversity and greenery along the stretch were enhanced, Mr Lee said. Native plants were added along the way, and night lights have been minimised to reduce disturbance to animals' nocturnal rhythms.
Residents' and visitors' access to the corridor was taken into account, he added. Eight access points were opened along the stretch, and works were done to prevent water-logging along the trail.
Nature, heritage and development
Mr Lee also said a three-way balance had to be struck in using the entire 24km stretch of land made available after it was returned in 2011.
Apart from retaining the space for nature and recreation, as well as conserving its historical infrastructure, parcels of land adjacent to the Rail Corridor will be used for various developments to meet needs for homes, jobs and amenities.
"This illustrates how we strive to make the best use of our land," said Mr Lee.
"It is not a binary choice between development and conservation, but it is about finding innovative ways to weave together different land uses for our different needs."
As part of the improvements, a new underpass for pedestrians was built at Hindhede Drive after feedback from the public, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) said in a joint statement on Monday.
The 3.6m-wide underpass, which lies under an old rail bridge, was built parallel to Hindhede Drive so that pedestrians accessing Bukit Timah Nature Reserve would not have to walk along the road, which has no pavements.
Mr Dennis Tan, a senior architect with the URA, said all stakeholders are consulted in any project, to "know what they want and understand more".
"We are also prepared to make changes (to plans) and adopt their suggestions so that the outcome is something that all stakeholders (and) communities really want," he said.
Works are being carried out at other points of the Rail Corridor, and NParks has said that visitors can expect a continuous trail from Kranji MRT station to Spooner Road by the end of 2021.
The stretch spans almost the entire 24km corridor. More improvements will continue to be made at some points, such as a new bridge over Hillview Road due to be ready by mid-2024.