Sunday, 21 February 2016

Cross Island Line: LTA's Environmental Impact Assessment report

LTA's environment report now online
Responding to feedback, agency makes its MRT impact assessment more accessible
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2016

The report was open to the public, but to get information on a new environment impact assessment (EIA) for an upcoming MRT line, people had to make their way to the Land Transport Authority's Hampshire Road premises to read the 1,000-page hard copy, with no photography allowed.

Yesterday, after complaints that it was too difficult to access the study, which looked at the potential impact of soil works for the Cross Island Line if it cut through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) put it online.

"In response to feedback, LTA has made the EIA report available online for interested parties who are unable to come to LTA to view the documents," the authority said in a Facebook post yesterday.

The move was welcomed by environmental groups, scientists and members of the public, who had felt the LTA was not forthcoming with the results of the study. "It is well-received news," said Mr Tony O'Dempsey, a council member of the Nature Society (Singapore), adding that the society had suggested the results be put online during its discussions with the LTA.

Biologist David Tan, from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest volunteer group, said: "I hope that this new-found sensitivity to public concerns will extend to the rest of the public consultation exercise over the alignment of the Cross Island Line as well."

Nature groups are uniting under the March for MacRitchie banner to call for an alternative route skirting around the reserve, instead of going through it.

You might have been following the discussions on the Cross Island Line (CRL) in the past week. LTA’s Deputy Chief...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Friday, February 19, 2016

The report comprises findings from consultancy Environmental Resources Management for the first phase of the EIA. The second phase will be done by year end.

A key finding showed that the preliminary tests to see how a train tunnel can be built through the nature reserve would have a "moderate" impact on plants and animals there, but only if measures to reduce impact are strictly implemented. For the alternative route around the reserve, the impact of soil investigation works along Lornie Road was deemed to be "negligible", and "minor" for areas near Venus Drive and a golf course.

Cross Island Line sparks residents' fears
Proposed path of MRT tunnels around nature reserve could require home acquisition
By Adrian Lim, The Sunday Times, 21 Feb 2016

Even as green groups lobby for the Cross Island Line (CRL) to be built around Singapore's largest nature reserve instead of cutting through it, residents are worried about the impact this will have on their homes and lives.

The proposed 9km option, which skirts the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, will run beneath a swathe of private homes near Upper Thomson Road, such as Windsor Park and Yew Lian Park. It then turns west under Lornie Road before heading northwards, parallel to the Pan-Island Expressway.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said that it is studying both alignments for the CRL, a 50km line connecting Changi to Jurong and expected to open in 2030.

It has yet to make a decision.

If the option to go around the nature reserve is accepted, "underground MRT tunnels will go through homes, businesses and buildings, and acquisition may be needed", the authority said.

The media publicity surrounding the CRL project, following the release of an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) two weeks ago, has left residents jittery.

The EIA report was put online on the LTA website on Friday so that the public can access it more easily. It provides an assessment of the environmental impact of site investigation works that will be performed for the two alignments.

The EIA said there would be moderate impact on plants and animals in the nature reserve if mitigation measures were used.

For the other alignment skirting the reserve, the impact would mainly be noise disturbance to people, it found.


Yew Lian Park Residents' Association, which covers 216 landed homes, is firmly opposed to having the MRT line built through the estate.

Its president, 69-year-old Sangameswaran, who goes by one name, has been living in the area since 1964. "The MRT line's construction will affect us, and not just in terms of noise," he said.

"There is a strong possibility of some of us losing our homes. We'd rather the line go through the reserve," said the manager in a scaffolding company.

Mr Ong Tee Chew, 72, who has lived in a terrace house in Soo Chow Walk for more than 40 years, said he and his neighbours are a tight- knit bunch, like a "big kampung".

"No matter how much money they offer, I still wouldn't want to move," added Mr Ong, who works in construction.

Member of Parliament Chong Kee Hiong, who oversees the Bishan East-Thomson constituency, said the estates which the CRL could tunnel through are between 50 and 60 years old, with residents who have lived there for as long as 40 years.

Besides the emotional attachment some may have to their homes, residents are also worried about the added disruptions that the construction work may bring to the area, with one project coming after another.

Mr Chong said construction of the Thomson-East Coast Line tunnels and the nearby Upper Thomson station is ongoing and will finish only in 2020. Construction of the North-South Expressway, expected to start this year, will also affect the Marymount area. "It's one thing after another for the residents," he said.

The upside of having the CRL run through the Thomson area, Mr Chong said, may be a new MRT station that will boost connectivity.

But some residents feel this would not make much difference.

Mr Tyler Foo, 25, who just finished his undergraduate studies, said Marymount station, on the Circle Line, is a 10-minute walk from his home. The future Upper Thomson MRT station will be five minutes away. "Any added benefit from a new station will be insignificant."

Some residents, however, do not mind moving. Retiree Sim Song Koi, 77, who has lived for more than 40 years in a terrace house in Soo Chow View, said: "At my age, I don't really mind where I live, as my children have already moved out.

"As I will be compensated, I can just move to a new house - I don't need such a big one any more."


What most residents agree on is the need for more clarity on the degree of land acquisition and disturbance.

The second phase of EIA to gauge the potential environmental impacts from the construction and operation of the line on both alignments will be finished this year.

Mr Christopher De Souza, chairman of the Windsor Park Residents' Association, said: "The authorities have not been specific about how much more time the alignment around the reserve will add to travel time, how much more it will cost to build, and how many houses and their location in our area may be acquired."

The association covers 225 terrace houses, semi-detached units and bungalows. The 62-year-old retiree added: "We're in the dark. With no details, everyone is imagining the worst-case scenario where theirs is the house that is taken away."

The LTA said it has been engaging the advisers and grassroots leaders in the area.

A meeting took place on Monday, with more to be held. Engineers believe that some land will have to be acquired, should planners choose to skirt the reserve.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, said above-ground ventilation shafts must be built along with the tunnels to remove stale air and allow fresh air to flow underground. On the shorter 1.8km tunnel that cuts through the nature reserve, these may not be needed, but the longer alignment will require them.

Vertical tunnels, from which the tunnel boring machines can be deployed, will also require land to be cleared. If the authorities decide on a new underground station, that will also need land.

MP Chong said: "At the end of the day, not everyone will be convinced, because we have conflicting objectives and needs in the country. But all views should be taken into consideration. The process is as important as the decision. "

Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene and Rachel Chia

“Even as green groups lobby for the Cross Island Line (CRL) to be built around Singapore's largest nature reserve...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Sunday, February 21, 2016

Third option considered
By Adrian Lim, The Sunday Times, 21 Feb 2016

A third alignment option for the Cross Island Line, this time going beneath MacRitchie Reservoir, was considered by the authorities.

This was revealed in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report released about two weeks ago.

While the route would avoid cutting through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), it had to be ruled out "primarily due to technical risks associated with its location along a geological fault line", the report said.

The EIA report also noted how adjustments were made to the other two proposed alignments. The one which cuts through the reserve was tweaked to follow under existing trails and "disturbed areas" within the CCNR, thereby avoiding the need to clear vegetation to create work sites.

For the alternative alignment, which would skirt around the nature reserve, adjustments were made to follow existing roads as much as possible.

$2 billion. That's how much an alternative alignment where the Cross Island Line skirts the Central Catchment Nature Reserve could cost.
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, February 21, 2016

$2b extra cost if Cross Island Line skirts Central Catchment Nature Reserve
Route will require longer tunnels; land and home acquisitions could affect families, says LTA
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 22 Feb 2016

The alternative alignment that routes the Cross Island Line (CRL) around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) could add about $2 billion to the rail project, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has revealed.

This 9km-long "skirting alignment" will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities, it said, compared with the 4km direct route, of which 2km will cut through Singapore's largest nature reserve.

"Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur $2 billion more in expenditure," said LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum page, signed by Mr Chew and published today, the LTA reiterated that the Government was studying both alignment options and had not made a decision.

Since a report on the environmental impact of site investigation works for the project was released recently, green groups have been lobbying hard for the CRL - a 50km MRT line that will span Jurong to Changi - to be built around the reserve, instead of through it.

However, this could entail land acquisition, as the MRT tunnels would pass through homes, businesses and buildings. Residents in Upper Thomson who could potentially be affected have called for the line to go through the reserve.

Mr Chew said the Government will consider all factors, including the engineering feasibility of both alignments, distance and travel time for commuters, cost to tax payers, and the impact on the CCNR and on businesses and families.

Details on the CRL, such as the number of stations and the construction cost, have not been announced.

Green groups conceded that the extra $2 billion and the impact on residents are significant, but called for deeper thought on the issue.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, asked: "What is the long-term cost to Singapore of potentially damaging (the) nature reserve? Are we setting the precedent that, as long as we pledge to be careful, we can do infrastructure works in protected areas?"

Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife Consultancy, said: "This island used to be covered in rainforests; today we are down to 3 per cent. It has taken eons to evolve and the biodiversity is irreplaceable. Homes, however, can be cleared and rebuilt."

Mr Sangameswaran, 69, president of the Yew Lian Park Residents' Association, which has called for the CRL to go through the reserve instead of their 216-home private estate, said: "I think the public will be up in arms about the $2 billion. They will want the justification."

The LTA said the proposed tunnel beneath the CCNR will be about 40m deep and no surface structures will be built.

A second phase of the Environment Impact Assessment, to be completed this year, will study the environmental impact of the construction of both alignments.

Transport consultant Bruno Wildermuth, who was involved in the building of Singapore's first MRT line, said the $2 billion must be viewed in the context of the financial viability of the entire CRL and how many people it will serve.

Dr Park Byung Joon, adjunct associate professor at SIM University, said skirting around the nature reserve involves "social costs", including increasing end-to-end travel time to around four minutes more.

He said an extra $2 billion for 5km more of train tunnelling was "a bit expensive" and showed that there may be construction challenges. "The alignment is substantially curved and the costs to maintain the line may go up," he said.

In a reply ( to recent forum letters on the Cross Island Line (CRL), LTA’s Chief Executive, Mr...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Sunday, February 21, 2016

LTA: Both possible alignments for CRL will be studied

We thank all writers who have shared their views on the two possible alignments of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL).

The Government is studying both underground alignments, and no decision has been taken yet.

For the 4km direct alignment, 2km of the tunnel will be below the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), while the other 2km is located outside it.

The section of the tunnel beneath the CCNR will be about 40m deep, depending on findings from ground investigations. There will not be any construction of infrastructure on the surface.

The skirting alignment, about 9km long, will require longer tunnels and extra ventilation facilities. Besides land and home acquisitions, that could affect families, the extra works could incur $2 billion more in expenditure.

The two alignments may have different impacts on various stakeholders - the nature reserve, businesses, home owners, commuters and taxpayers.

The Government has a responsibility to study both thoroughly before making a decision. Ground investigations and engineering feasibility studies of both alignments have to be completed first.

For the upcoming ground investigations, following our extensive consultations with nature groups for the first phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), we are reducing the number of 10cm boreholes from 72 to 16, and confining them to public trails and existing clearings.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will complement these with non-intrusive geophysical survey methods and horizontal directional coring that will start from outside the CCNR. Thus, no vegetation will be cleared.

National Parks Board staff will accompany the contractors and consultants during all off-trail works to ensure that the greatest care is taken to protect the CCNR.

In making the decision on the alignment, the Government will have to consider the full range of factors, including the engineering feasibility of both alignments, distance and travel time for commuters, cost to taxpayers, and the impact on the CCNR and on businesses and families who may be affected by land acquisition under the skirting option.

Indeed, since the gazette of the EIA, home owners have asked to meet the LTA, and voiced their concerns over possible acquisition of their homes. They urge the Government to be objective, and to also take into account their concerns.

In response to requests from the public, the findings of Phase 1 of the EIA have been made available on the LTA website. We thank the public for sharing their views, and we will take into account the diverse concerns of different stakeholders.

Chew Men Leong
Chief Executive
Land Transport Authority
ST Forum, 22 Feb 2016

#Factually: Got questions on the Cross Island Line? The Ministry of Transport, Singapore is here with the answers.
Posted by on Thursday, March 3, 2016

Cross Island Line
LTA gazettes environmental impact assessment (phase 1) report for Cross Island Line
Cross Island Line: $2 billion extra cost for alternative route skirting Central Catchment Nature Reserve
Cross Island Line to have about 30 stations, with 600,000 trips made daily: Khaw Boon Wan

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