Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the Launch of the Exhibition for Rail Corridor (Central)
Oct 21, 2017
Good morning. I am very happy to join all of you today to unveil the preliminary design for the central 4-km stretch of the Rail Corridor, which features rich biodiversity and heritage.
Providing unique, highly accessible green spaces island-wide
Singapore is a City in a Garden that is committed to integrating greenery with our urban landscapes through careful and intentional planning.
As a city-state, we have had to take a very different approach from larger countries, right from day one – where nature and greenery are intensely woven through our dense urban areas, estates and homes, and where parks and green spaces are highly accessible across communities, no matter where you live, work and play. These spaces do not serve merely as respite from our urban landscape; but there is immense potential for these spaces to be a repository of shared memories and experiences, and to connect communities.
It is not just about the sheer number of green spaces that we have, but also how we go about establishing, creating, nurturing and protecting these spaces. It is about our collective experience in conceiving of and developing these shared green spaces for all, and how we are able to work with our communities to co-create spaces that we are proud to call our own.
Today, I will share with you some of our efforts to create unique green spaces all across our island. First, I will provide an update on our plans for the Rail Corridor, which runs from the North in Woodlands, all the way down South to Tanjong Pagar. Second, I will share how we intend to work together with the community to realise these plans for a one-of-a-kind shared community space. Third, I will talk about the Coast-to-Coast Trail, which will connect our Jurong Lake Gardens in the West to Coney Island Park in the Northeast; and finally, I will outline how the Rail Corridor and the Coast-to-Coast trail intersect with the greater Nature Park Network to give our visitors a greater diversity of experiences.
Collectively, these will serve to connect communities along the whole length of the Rail Corridor, and function as a gateway for visitors to traverse the entire length and breadth of Singapore, with multiple options to explore green spaces in the heart of our city, and endless possibilities for new sights and experiences for people living here.
Partnering the community in the journey to shape the Rail Corridor
First, I start off with the Rail Corridor. We are all familiar with the Rail Corridor, which has connected us in different ways over the years. For decades, the Rail Corridor served as an important railway line connecting people, places and the transport of goods.
The return of the Railway land to Singapore in 2011 gave us an unprecedented opportunity to create a unique community space – one that connects spaces, nature, heritage, and brings people and communities together from North to South through shared memories and collective experiences.
Since that time, URA has consulted widely and developed the Concept Master Plan for the Rail Corridor. Our planners then sought feedback from the community. In fact, many of my URA colleagues had many exhibitions from Tanjong Pagar all the way to the North, at different locations, setting up exhibitions, bringing people on walks, soliciting feedback from a wide spectrum of people.
Residents and stakeholders, including many of you who are here with us today, gave feedback on how the plans could be improved, including the provision of amenities like well-landscaped open spaces and community gardens where families and neighbours can gather and bond. Making the Rail Corridor experience more inclusive, so that people from all walks of life, including the elderly and physically challenged, can enjoy what it offers. Celebrating the rich heritage along the Corridor, and curating it as an open museum where our future generations can learn about the story of the Singapore Rail history is also one example of feedback we received. URA has reviewed the feedback and worked with NParks to incorporate some of this feedback to refine the plans, it is continuous refinement.
Many of you here partnered us on this journey. In particular, I would like to thank the members of the Rail Corridor Partnership, whose input and support have been instrumental in shaping these plans.
Start of enhancement works and launch of exhibition
I am pleased to announce that we are now shifting into active gear to implement the central stretch of the Rail Corridor, a stretch that we term “Rail Corridor (Central)”. This is a 4-km stretch between the Hillview area and the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station.
Rail Corridor (Central) is an ideal stretch to start translating some of the concepts and plans developed with the community’s feedback. It is one of the most popular and well-used stretches today, known for its lush natural landscapes and rich heritage elements such as the iconic railway bridges. It is highly accessible, anchored at each end by King Albert Park and Hillview Downtown Line MRT stations.
Today’s exhibition will outline the plans for Rail Corridor (Central) which are anchored around three themes. The first theme is Heritage and Culture; the second is Biodiversity and Greenery; and the third is Recreation.
These plans also feature key proposals for the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station as a major landmark of Rail Corridor (Central). It will be transformed into a vibrant community node with amenities, open spaces, and even a heritage gallery where people can meet and bond in a relaxed green setting, and discover more about the history of our Rail Corridor.
NParks and URA will commence enhancement works for the Rail Corridor (Central) in 2018 and complete this in phases by 2021. But we will first work on completing the trail enhancements for the 4-km Rail Corridor (Central) by end of 2019.
Concurrently, we will also improve the remaining 20km Rail Corridor trail. By 2021, visitors can look forward to hiking and cycling along the entire 24-km Rail Corridor, except for a small section near Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, which will only be re-opened in 2025 with the new Cantonment MRT station.
Launch of Friends of Rail Corridor community
As we consulted the community and interest groups over the years, we were encouraged by the deep connection and ideas for the Rail Corridor that many of you shared with us. Most importantly, through the consultation process, we realised how many stakeholders the Rail Corridor actually impacts – from residents living along the Rail Corridor, to students, nature enthusiasts and heritage buffs, brisk-walkers, runners, cyclists and even local businesses. These plans mean something only because they have been created in collaboration with all of you, all our stakeholders who reached out and joined us in the consultation process. People who care and wanted to share their views and thoughts on how to make this Corridor better for all of us. This exhibition marks the critical transition of the shifting of gears from planning to implementation, and we want you to continue with us on this journey of realising these plans, together.
To better involve a wider range of stakeholders in the implementation process, I am happy to announce the formation of the “Friends of Rail Corridor”. The “Friends of Rail Corridor” will be a platform for the various stakeholders to step up and champion or lead programmes and initiatives, and even assist in community infrastructure and landscaping works along the 24-km stretch of the Rail Corridor. Later today, as members of this community, we will take our first step by planting native trees along the Corridor, and students from Hwa Chong Institution will be carrying out stream enhancement and monitoring works. We also have students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), who have completed a documentation exercise of the Bukit Timah Railway Station. In the next few weeks, volunteers will be leading nature and heritage walks along Rail Corridor (Central) to share more about the biodiversity and heritage featured in the exhibition. These are just some examples, and we welcome all of you to step forward and join us in implementing these activities, or in fact, initiate your own projects or programmes for Rail Corridor (Central), and we welcome the diversity and ground-up experiences.
Launch of new island-wide trails by NParks
In end-2018, NParks will also launch the 36-km Coast-to-Coast Trail, which will intersect with the Rail Corridor. It traverses Singapore from West to Northeast, and will bring visitors through a variety of parks, park connectors, nature areas, places of interests and urban landscapes. For those up to the challenge, you will be able to walk, jog or run all the way from Jurong Lake Gardens to Coney Island Park! Visitors can look forward to experiential and interactive features along the Coast-to-Coast Trail, such as interesting wayfinding signs, fun game stations, and viewing areas to spot wildlife. For those who prefer to explore on their own, a DIY trail guide and mobile app will also be made available to you then.
Together, Rail Corridor (Central) and part of the Coast-to-Coast Trail will complete the Nature Park Network. The Network will comprise 48-km of trails and will link up our central nature parks such as Bukit Batok, Chestnut, Dairy Farm, and Windsor, as well as the future Rifle Range and Thomson Nature Parks – which are works in progress. It will provide convenient access to a large number of nature parks around the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves, and in a way help ease visitorship pressure on Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, it is after all a nature reserve. To make it easier for visitors to hike from one nature park to another, a DIY trail guide will be available by end of next year, along with new signs that we will install on the ground.
Rail Corridor (Central) is also the intersection between the Rail Corridor and Coast-to-Coast Trail. In other words, this Rail Corridor (Central) will serve as a gateway for visitors to explore new trails, or new combinations of trails – so different experiences every time you want to explore the great outdoors in our city-state, and learn not only about the rich biodiversity, but also our rich heritage value of the Rail Corridor and its immediate surroundings.
This is just the beginning of many exciting things to come for the Rail Corridor. Community involvement and stewardship will be a key strategy in realising our vision for the Rail Corridor as a vibrant, inclusive, and shared community space. Our community spaces can only become more vibrant when they are designed, programmed and cherished in partnership with the people who treasure, care for and use them.
Therefore, I encourage you to join us on this journey and I look forward to seeing how the Friends of Rail Corridor will help shape this shared space. Enjoy the great outdoors today, enjoy the great biodiversity in this City in a Garden. Thank you.