A global environmental consultancy has clinched a $2 million job to find out the impact that a future MRT line might have on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Environmental Resources Management (ERM), which has offices in 40 countries, will start immediately on an environmental impact assessment of the Cross Island Line, slated to serve several areas including Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio.
Going by the proposed alignment, the 50km line that stretches from Changi to Jurong will cut through a southern tip of the nature reserve.
ERM, a global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk and social consulting services, has put together a team of specialists for the study. The team has conducted similar studies for transport projects in Britain and includes a biodiversity arm. The study will be completed in 2016.
Last Friday, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said planning work for the new line - slated to be Singapore's most ambitious MRT project - has started.
The line was announced last year and is targeted to be ready in 2030. It may be the first MRT line here to have express trains.
Ms Olivia Choong, president of environment group Green Drinks Singapore, said: "I think it's necessary to conduct an environmental impact assessment before the Government proceeds with any work near areas with rich biodiversity."
Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Hock Yong said: "Stakeholders and interested parties such as the nature and residents' groups have provided us with valuable inputs.
"We will continue to engage them as the project progresses."
The Government will consider these views, the assessment's results, as well as factors such as connectivity, travel times, costs and the compatibility of land use when deciding the alignment of the rail line "that will best serve the community", he added.
The Straits Times understands that if the line were to skirt around the nature reserve, it may have to go through the Thomson-Sin Ming area - which might then entail land acquisition.
In the first part of the study, ERM will conduct a baseline study of the existing ecosystem and the physical conditions along various alignment options.
It will also map the habitats, assess the effects of proposed soil investigation works and suggest mitigating measures.
In the second part, the consultant will focus on assessing the potential impact to the nature reserve during the construction of the line as well as when trains start to run. It will also propose mitigations during these stages.