Rail Corridor takes shape in Singapore as winning plan is picked

Proposals for 24km stretch include paved cycling paths, shelters, event spaces and rainforest viewing platforms

An artist's impression of a "platform", part of the proposal by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, for the Rail Corridor. PHOTO: NIKKEN SEKKEI

The proposal to guide the development of the 24km Rail Corridor plans to make room for a variety of uses, creating paved cycling paths, rest shelters and active event spaces as well as quiet rainforest viewing platforms.

In coming up with its winning concept master plan for the former KTM railway land, Japanese architecture firm Nikken Sekkei and local landscape firm Tierra Design said they wanted the corridor to harmonise with the surroundings it runs through.

But the plans, which were yesterday named the winner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) design competition, are far from set in stone, and will be shaped and refined in response to feedback.

"What we want to do now is to hear the views of Singaporeans on these proposals," said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong yesterday at the launch of an exhibition on the winning proposals that runs until Nov 28 at The URA Centre in Maxwell Road. "We would like all residents to work closely with us to study the stretches of the Rail Corridor near your community."

In the first quarter of next year, a roving exhibition will take the plans to the communities along the corridor, which runs from Kranji to Tanjong Pagar, with one million people living within 1km of it.

The public is invited to give feedback at the exhibition and online at http://ura.sg/railrfp from now until the end of next March.

URA chief executive officer Ng Lang said public feedback will also shape when the plans for various stretches are implemented.

"The plan for the Rail Corridor has always been not to rush in developing it," said Mr Ng, who chaired the 12-member evaluation panel.

He noted that one point of consensus, which arose in the pre-competition public consultation, was that the Rail Corridor should be "an inclusive space" accessible to all. To that end, the winning proposal features 122 access points to the corridor, up from 30 currently. There are 21 planned "platforms" with amenities such as toilets and rest areas.

A paved cycling path will run its full length. Some stretches of the pedestrian path may be paved to be wheelchair-accessible. Others will remain "wild" underfoot, with the use of natural materials such as gravel or woodchips. And alongside the physical infrastructure, natural greenery along most stretches will be extended and increased as well.

"The greenery and biodiversity are very special," said Nikken Sekkei landscape architect Kaneko Shoji. "It's very peaceful and quiet."

"We wanted to keep that kind of feel, so we don't completely transform it into something different," he added.

The concept master plan also includes proposals for eight "activity nodes" along the Rail Corridor.

For instance, near the one-north business park in Buona Vista will be a space for people to enjoy activities like outdoor film screenings.

In contrast, the Rail Corridor at the former Bukit Timah Fire Station runs close to a part of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that Nature Society Singapore president Shawn Lum identified as a "diversity hot spot".

There, a forest walk and observation tower will offer a chance to view nature unobtrusively.

Dr Lum, who was a member of the evaluation panel, said it was important to find "the right combination of accessibility and tranquillity" in public enjoyment of nature.

Separately, winning concept proposals were chosen for two spots along the Rail Corridor: the historic former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and an area at Choa Chu Kang to be merged with future residential developments. (See other story.)

Nikken Sekkei and Tierra Design will also work on a preliminary design and feasibility study for a 4km stretch from the former Bukit Timah Railway Station to the Hillview area. This involves looking at details such as the materials and plants to be used, and estimating costs.

The URA also said two steel truss bridges, near the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station and Rail Mall, will be gazetted as "conserved structures", with the same legal status and protection as various bridges in the Central Business District and the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens.

• Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline Rail Corridor takes shape in Singapore as winning plan is picked. Subscribe