SINGAPORE - A walk down memory lane awaits visitors to a central stretch of the Rail Corridor by 2021, when a 4km portion of it is enhanced and spruced up. Enhancement works along the stretch of the corridor between the Hillview area and the Bukit Timah Railway Station will start in 2018. This was announced by the National Parks Board (NParks) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Saturday (Oct 21).
The works will be done progressively in phases, but will be completed by 2021. Visitors to the Rail Corridor (Central) can expect to see existing railway heritage structures, such as the conserved steel truss railway bridge spanning Upper Bukit Timah Road and a track of steel girdle bridge across Hindhede Road.
They will also get to enjoy the greenery and wildlife in the area. Due to the proximity of the Rail Corridor (Central) to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, it is also rich in biodiversity. Animals spotted there include the Sunda scops owl and laced woodpecker, for example.
In 2016, the authorities conducted extensive consultations with residents, trail users, nature and heritage groups, to gather feedback on how they would like to shape the trail. Their suggestions include the conservation of heritage features to capture the railway's history, and for the Rail Corridor (Central) to have features that allow people to soak in the surrounding nature, such as viewing decks. There were also suggestions to have more community spaces.
Their ideas were taken on board, and URA and NParks are now exhibiting plans of the preliminary design for Rail Corridor (Central) at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre. The exhibition at the reserve will last until Oct 29, after which it will move to neighbouring constituencies, which could include Cashew and Ulu Pandan.
The 24km-long Rail Corridor stretches from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It was formerly a railway line used for commuting and transporting goods between Singapore and the rest of the Malay Peninsula. It belonged to Malaysia but was returned to Singapore in 2011 - providing an opportunity for the authorities to turn it into a space for the community.
Rail Corridor (Central) is the first portion of the Corridor to open to the public, due to its accessibility. The stretch is bound by Hillview and King Albert Park MRT stations.
The Rail Corridor will also intersect an upcoming Coast-to-Coast Trail, one of two new initiatives announced by NParks on Saturday.
The Coast-to-Coast trail is a 36km-long route spanning Coney Island in the North-East to Jurong Lake Gardens in the West. It will take users through a variety of parks, park connectors and urban spaces. From end-2018, visitors can explore this trail via a mobile app or DIY trail guide.
The trail, like the Rail Corridor, will intersect the new Nature Park Network - the other initiative announced by NParks on Saturday.
The network comprises 48km of trails and links up central nature areas, such as Chestnut and Windsor nature parks, as well as the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. This network aims to provide another avenue for people to explore nature, while easing visitorship on the nature reserves, which are full of sensitive habitats that form the core bastions of Singapore's native biodiversity.
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, was guest of honour at the launch of Rail Corridor (Central) preliminary plans on Saturday. "Singapore is a city in a garden that is committed to integrating greenery with our urban landscapes through careful, intentional planning," he said.
"These spaces do not serve merely as respite from our urban landscape; there is immense potential for these spaces to be a repository of shared memories and experiences, and to connect communities."