LTA confirms second delay in Bukit Brown road project; new completion deadline by early 2019

Vehicular bridge at Lornie Highway. The controversial Bukit Brown road will not be completed by next month (December) as projected - the second delay since the project was announced in 2011.
Vehicular bridge at Lornie Highway. The controversial Bukit Brown road will not be completed by next month (December) as projected - the second delay since the project was announced in 2011.PHOTO: LTA
The 2km road has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.
The 2km road has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
The 2km road has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.
The 2km road has been delayed because the main contractor is facing financial difficulties.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

SINGAPORE - A road project fraught with issues from the start has been hit by yet another setback. The controversial Bukit Brown road will not be completed by next month as projected. It is the second delay since the project was announced in 2011.

First slated to be completed by mid-2016, and then end-2017, the 2km road which cuts a swathe through a cemetery deemed by many to have heritage value has been delayed because the main contractor got into financial difficulty.

In response to press queries, the Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday (Nov 14) that it expects the road to open partially as early as third quarter of next year (2018), and fully by first quarter 2019 - making it nearly three years behind time.

The southbound section towards Adam Flyover will open first, followed by the the northbound section towards MacRitchie Viaduct.

Singapore-listed civil engineering group Swee Hong Ltd was awarded a $134.7 million contract to build the dual four-lane road in August 2013, and soon faced cashflow problems.

In February 2015, it filed an application in the High Court to propose a debt restructuring plan for its creditors.

Last year, it raised up to $8 million by issuing new shares and warrants to Readymade Steel Singapore, a company owned by Indian infrastructural group Kridhan Infra Ltd. Readymade's subsidiary, KH Foges, is a sub-contractor of Swee Hong.

In July this year, Swee Hong announced that it had repaid its debts.

But its financial woes had already caused a slowdown in the Bukit Brown road project.

 

When The Straits Times checked on Monday (Nov 13), works looked nowhere near completion, even if part of a raised portion was taking shape.

Diversion works on Lornie Road - believed to be for an underpass section of the new road - remained in place after several months.

A resident interviewed said those living in Sime Road had been told that it would now take up to late-2018 to complete. "I'm not even sure it can be done by then," a retiree in his seventies said. "It causing us a lot of inconvenience already."

Besides the noise and dust, he said cracks had formed in a number of houses. "My house now leaks when it rains," he said.

Besides Swee Hong's problems, the project was also held up by exhumation of graves which took almost a year longer than anticipated, the LTA said.

The new road links the MacRitchie Viaduct to Adam Road via the 95-year-old Bukit Brown Cemetery. The Land Transport Authority said the road was necessary to cater to future traffic, which is expected to increase by 20-30 per cent by 2020.

Heritage groups however, said the cemetery should be preserved in its entirety, while green lobbyists said the road would damage the biodiversity of the forested area.

The delay to the Bukit Brown road project comes just months after another long-delayed project was completed. The new Braddell Flyover opened in June after four years and repeated delays. The glitch was also caused by financial woes faced by a main contractor.