Failed race track project site not cleared a year on

Steel, concrete piles remain on land meant for Changi Motorsports Hub

Piles left standing on the site off Changi Coastal Road where Changi Motorsports Hub was to have been located. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
Piles left standing on the site off Changi Coastal Road where Changi Motorsports Hub was to have been located. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

IT HAS been almost a year since the final curtain fell on plans to build a permanent race track here, but the 41ha plot of land off Changi Coastal Road where the high-octane project sputtered and died still bears signs of its dramatic failure.

Dozens of steel and concrete piles still stand on the ground where the Changi Motorsports Hub was supposed to have been sited.

SG Changi, the Japanese-Singapore consortium that won the tender to develop the hub but later went broke, was tasked with removing them. But it looks like the piles are staying put.

In a joint response to queries from The Straits Times, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said it was not feasible to remove the structures completely.

"SLA and SG Changi's professional engineers have assessed that a complete extraction of the installed piles is not feasible as it will weaken the soil layers and affect the stability of the adjacent sea walls," they said.

Instead, there are plans now to cut the piles "2m below ground level". Work has already started, they added.

While the sports council estimated last June that the removal of the piles and reinstatement of the land to its original form would take about a year, that prospect looks bleak now.

A check by The Straits Times last week found that dozens of piles were still standing, with no signs of cutting activity.

Sources estimate that it will take another year before the land can be restored.

Besides the piles, tonnes of soil that was dumped there from another construction site will have to removed, one source said.

Even when everything is cleared, industry watchers said the plot may not be as attractive to developers as before, because buried sections of the piles will restrict development plans.

But the SSC and SLA said detailed information of where the structures are will be recorded and provided to potential developers, so that they can "plan to incorporate or avoid the piles in future development".

Associate Professor Tan Teng Hooi, head of the building and project management programme at SIM University, said: "Buried steel can be an encumbrance as it can obstruct the installation of new piles."

He said if the piles are not removed, "there will be a loss of flexibility in the foundation and the floor layout". This will make the land less attractive, he added.

Mr Augustine Tan, executive director of property sales at Far East Organization, said the presence of buried piles will be a factor for future bidders of the land to consider, though it is hard to say how big a factor it will be.

Meanwhile, The Straits Times understands that SG Changi's application to get a refund of the estimated $36 million it paid for the plot hinges on whether the land is restored to its original state.

After years of on-off discussions, the Government decided in 2007 to build a permanent race track here. In early 2010, SG Changi was picked by the SSC to build it.

In December 2010, construction began, but stopped a month later when SG Changi failed to pay piling firm CSC Holdings.

Plans to restart the project failed, but SG Changi was not asked to pay liquidated damages for not completing the project.

The authorities launched an investigation into possible irregularities in the project's tender process in late 2010.

Last week, the police said investigations were still ongoing.