WiFi and healthier choices when new Bedok hawker centre opens in October

SINGAPORE - When the new hawker centre in Bedok is completed in October, it will not only larger and better ventilated, but also offer free wireless Internet and healthier food options.

Located at Blk 208B New Upper Changi Road, near Bedok MRT station, the new hawker centre will feature the Wireless@SG service, as well as fully wired up such that stalls can choose to offer payment by the contactless Nets FlashPay card.

Over the next few months, the Health Promotion Board will work with hawkers at the 70 stalls to see how their traditional recipes can be tweaked to be healthier, for instance using different oils and whole grains. These healthier versions can then be offered alongside the original dishes.

Five large high-volume, low-speed fans will cool diners without messing up their hair, while also saving energy. Dust and odours will be removed by a centralised electrostatic exhaust air cleaner system. Diners can also do their part by using the five tray return stations, complete with wash basins so they can wash their hands afterwards.

All of this is on top of previously-announced improvements. The new hawker centre is bigger than the one it is replacing at Blk 207, with seating for 1,040 diners instead of 900. Hawkers will enjoy bigger 13sqm stalls, twice the current size. And an adjacent multi-storey carpark will have over 400 parking lots, 200 more than the previous surface carpark.

"With this new hawker centre and multi-storey carpark, Bedok Town Centre is becoming more vibrant and more 'happening' and relevant to the residents," said Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan, who is also adviser to the East Coast GRC grassroots organisations.

Bedok resident Swa Yeok Khai looks forward to the cleaner premises but hopes not too much else will change. Said the 60-year-old operations supervisor in Mandarin: "As long as the food stalls are the same, it should be good. I just hope it won't be more expensive."

With all these improvements, will food prices go up? Mr Lee said he definitely hoped they would stay the same. He noted that about 30 per cent are first generation stallholders, paying subsidised rents of just $340 a month. The rest of the stalls have changed hands many times but are still paying rents of about $2,100 to $2,400 - a huge discount compared to the $4,000 to $5,000 market rental for a stall in a prime location such as this one. "So we hope this will translate into low prices."

He was speaking to reporters at the topping-out ceremony on Saturday that marked the final stage of the hawker centre's construction. When the new hawker centre is complete, the old one will make way for a town plaza and heritage corner, set to be complete by November 2015.

The revamp is part of the Housing Board's five-year plan for East Coast, under the second phase of the Remarking Our Heartland scheme to spruce up mature estates.

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