The Green Corridor

The Green Corridor:

The idea of having a continuous Eco-Heritage Corridor or Green Corridor would constitute a grand and bold project that will capture the imagination of all parties concerned in Singapore.It could well be one of the most important civic participation project and perhaps a potential contender for the World Heritage Site in the future.

Nature lovers, recreational or competitive runners and cyclists, brisk walkers, gardeners and health enthusiasts will find an expansive place for their pursuits.Many more would love it simply because it is there.

The corridor will also enhance the value of existing and future developments in the adjacent areas.The Eco-Heritage Corridor would contribute to a Lively & Liveable City for a Sustainable Singapore and a model Green City.It is an opportunity not to be missed to achieve a balance between built development and nature conservation.

 

To read the full Proposal To Keep the Railway Lands as a Continuous Green Corridor Click here.

Straits Times, October 9, 2010, Saturday Article Click here.



The Green Corridor proposal has come a long way since it was first proposed. Below is a chronicle of its early development:

28 May 2010: Pact Over KTM Land - A triumph for two neighbours
Leong Kwok Peng sent in a letter to The Straits Times (ST) Forum to voice his idea, "Imagine an almost continuous stretch of natural forest, fruit orchard and greenery from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. Where else can one exercise uninterrupted by road crossings and enjoy nature simultaneously? Wouldn't the railway line make a fabulous nature corridor and green expressway connecting northern and southern Singapore?"

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3 June 2010: Go for Green Corridor
Thomas R Keeble wrote in support of this idea, "The potential release of land owned by the Malayan Railway (KTM) presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a beautiful cycling, hiking and nature trail linking the north and south of Singapore."

21 September 2010: Landmark land deal sealed
Announcement of the land deal was reported.

9 October 2010: Nature Corridor proposal for railway land - Nature Society's idea incorporates cycling paths, recreational areas
ST journalist Jeremy Au Yong reported that NSS was close to finishing the Green Corridor proposal and described it as having "cycling paths connecting different neighbourhoods to the town centre and recreational spaces. It would also be home to many of Singapore's native plants and animals. The proposal seeks to preserve the railway tracks, which the society regards as an important part of Singapore's history." He quoted Dr Shawn Lum, "If we could have green strips along the railway land, we would be connecting existing green spots from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the north all the way to almost Mount Faber. As a green corridor, the railway land would serve as a sort of Central Expressway for plants and animals. It would allow the movement of species previously cut off from each other, increasing the genetic diversity of local wildlife."

13 October 2010: Keep railway's vibrant heritage, don't parcel out the land
NSS Immediate Past President and former NMP Dr Geh Min lent her voice to this idea in the ST Forum page, "... the most unimaginative solution - and a costly mistake - would be for policymakers, planners and developers to parcel out the land as real estate." She added that the land has value "as ballast in nation building and sustainable development."

13 February 2011: A ready-made green corridor
Writing in the ST Forum, Leong Kwok Peng reiterated the value of the railway land as "a ready-made nature corridor, recreational space and eco-friendly transport route all rolled into one."

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Bukit Timah station

9 April 2011: Tanjong Pagar station a national monument
Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Preservation of Monuments Board jointly announced that Tanjong Pagar Railway Station had been made a national monument, while Bukit Timah station had been gazettted as a conserved building.

16 June 2011: Government in talks on green corridor
ST journalist Grace Chua reported on Minister of State for National Development BG Tan Chuan-Jin's Facebook posting. In it, BG Tan said that URA and NParks were in discussion with NSS about the green corridor proposal. BG Tan called the proposal "fascinating" and as having "exciting possibilities to bring Singaporeans together". NSS had conducted flora and fauna surveys along the railway line. NSS had also been hosting public walks along the corridor. Coverage was given to NSS' plan to request for a six-month 'stay of execution' on the removal of the railway structures.
 

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25 June 2011: Tracking our past, present and future
Eisen Teo wrote of conserving the KTM tracks to pay "homage to the Singapore we all came from".

30 June 2011: Nature lovers push harder for Green Corridor
The various newspapers reported on the final closure of the KTM line. ST reporter Grace Chua quoted Leong Kowk Peng saying, "The essence, the beauty of it lies in an unbroken countryside view. If you don't keep it now, I don't think you'll have the chance to in future."

1 July 2011: All aboard, last trains chug across Singapore
"When the last train pulled out of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station late last night, many mourned the end of an era of rail travel."

2 July 2011: Unbroken green stretch along railway land?
URA announced that it would "comprehensively review and chart the development plans, and study the possibility of marrying development and greenery, such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor, without affecting the development potential of the lands". Leong Kwok Peng was quoted as saying that there is space for some development at the edges of the corridor, as long as the corridor itself remained continuous, with any development merging with the landscape.

2 July 2011: Explore old rail tracks? You can during this month
The government announced that most of the railway line would stay open to the public till 17 July 2011. A section from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall would remain open till 31 July.

3 July 2011: Railway tracks a huge draw
As with Chek Jawa, the large crowds flocking to walk along the railway tracks was a newsworthy event. Sia Ling Xin and Daryl Chin reported, "It was a scene Singapore has never witnessed; scores of people strolling along the railway tracks tracks that run from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar." A 6km walk led by NSS, from Bukit Timah to Ten Mile Junction, was also mentioned. The press reported that Dr Shawn Lum was encouraged by BG Tan's comments in his Facebook page and on the URA website.

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4 July 2011: Finally, some track-side peace and quiet
Amanda Tan's article said that residents along the railway line want the greenery to remain.

9 July 2011: The rail life
Tay Suan Chiang's Life! article featured five spots along the 26km trail to visit.

9 July 2011: Green future for railway land?
"The URA will study the possibility of marrying development and greenery , such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor without affecting the development potential of the lands."

10 July 2011: Informal group to discuss railway land use
Amelia Tan reported on a focus group with a difference. She said that BG Tan was "leading a group of about 30 people from interest groups such as nature and heritage groups, as well as individuals, on a 23 km trek along the railway tracks, from Silat Estate in Tanjong Pagar to Kranji."


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BG Tan Chuan-Jin (3rd from right) trekked 23 km of the Green Corridor, accompanied by, from right to left, Dr Shawn Lum (NSS), Lim Eng Kwee (Chief Planner, URA), Dr Ho Hua Chew (NSS), Leong Kwok Peng (NSS, seen squatting), Kevin Chin (SAF friend of BG Tan) and Jeremy Chan (Green Corridor working group).

17 July 2011: A walk to remember
On the last day of opening the tracks to the public, Amanda Tan reported on the phenomena of thousands of people paying a walking visit to the railway line. She mentioned that various groups have organised walks. Examples include politicians like Minister for Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and BG Tan. She also reported that, "Today, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan is expected to take his two dogs for a walk."

18 July 2011: KTM greenery to be preserved: Khaw
Fiona Low reported that after walking the tracks, Minister Khaw assured the public that the greenery surrounding the railway line would be preserved, even though the possibilities for housing development were being explored. "We will do it in a way where we can still preserve this green spine. I'm quite sure it can be done and it will be very nice."

18 July 2011: Turn historic gem into green haven for all
On the same day as Minister Khaw's announcement, the ST Forum published a letter by cyclist Patrick Low in support of the Green Corridor plan.

23 July 2011: Parts of KTM railway to be retained
Grace Chua reported that discussions were ongoing between government agencies and civic groups including NSS. There were plans to engage the public, including holding exhibitions and dialogues with residents and schools along the line. Certain railway track sections would be left intact: that of the two railway stations, as well as those on the railway bridges at Dunean Road and Rail Mall.

28 July 2011: Government hopes to keep continuous rail corridor
Grace Chua covered BG Tan's announcement that plans for the land will be drawn up over the next two years, and will appear in the 2013 URA Master Plan. There will be an advisory committee that includes community groups like NSS. URA has a website at www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor to engage the public. Said BG Tan, "I imagine there are stretches which we will keep, some we would develop in a way that makes sense, but the idea of it as a continuous stretch is something we would very much like to do."

1 Aug 2011: Former KTM Railway Land Closes to the Public for Six Months

This was to accommodate the dismantling of the railway tracks and auxiliary structures. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is slated to become a national monument while the smaller rustic Bukit Timah Station will become a conserved building.

4 August 2011: Be careful when dismantling rail tracks
Ms Catherine Lim wrote in ST Forum calling for more supervision, transparency and sensitivity in the dismantling of the tracks and other movable parts in the rail corridor. She was alarmed by a scene of bare-faced destruction at the stretch at Bukit Timah.

3 September 2011: Part of KTM railway land to be reopened
Grace Chua reported that a 1.4km stretch of the former railway land in Bukit Timah will be reopened for public access from 16 Sep 2011. This is the stretch that included the old Bukit Timah Railway Station. Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam was at that stretch on the morning of 2 Sep 2011 accompanied by MOS Tan Chuan Jin, various government officers as well as Nature Society (Singapore) and Singapore Heritage Society. 'A lot of people have asked us, why can't we preserve the tracks? I understand that but it's not possible because under the treaty, these belong to Malaysia and we have to give (them) back to them.' said Mr Shanmugam. The Law Ministry oversees SLA, the agency that is carrying out the removal works. Mr Shanmugam reassured the public that no trees will be felled and as little vegetation cleared as possible in the process.

3 September 2011: 1.4 km Former KTM stretch at Bukit Timah to Reopen from 16 September (Straits Times).

This was the first section to have rail removal works completed. Minister of Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam walked the tracks at the Bukit Timah Railway Station with Minister of State Tan Chuan Jin. Accompanying them were officers from various government agencies as well as NSS members. Mr Shanmugam reassured the public that no trees will be felled and as little vegetation cleared as possible in the process.

3 September 2011: Parts of the Old Jurong Line included in Rail Corridor Master Plan (Today).

A 2.5 km stretch of the Old Jurong Line that passes through the steel bridge over Ulu Pandan Canal will be included in the master plan of the rail corridor. This stretch is rich in biodiversity. NSS has recorded birds such as the critically-endangered Asian Drongo-Cuckoo, the endangered Straw-headed Bulbul and the spectacular Changeable Hawk Eagle here. Vice-President Leong Kwok Peng said that the stretch “gives a different feel to an industrial area”.

7 September 2011: Paradise Once Lost, Can’t be Regained (Today).

 Professor Steffen Lehmann, the current Chair in Sustainable Urban Development for Asia and the Pacific is lending his expert voice to keep the KTM tracks as Singapore’s “green spine” for nature and leisure. “We can’t have anything less than excellence for this strip of land. Leaving it as nature intended would be better than any building or development which could possibly be created,” he said.

4 October 2011: Flood of ideas for railway land use
Grace Chua wrote that some of the 400 or so ideas by interest groups, designers and architecture and landscaping students went on show in the Re-Imagining the Rail Corridor exhibition, which is being held at the URA Centre. The exhibition is jointly organised by NSS and Friends of the Rail Corridor and supported by URA.


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8 October 2011: ‘Re-imagining the Rail Corridor’ Design Workshop

The workshop sought to foster the imagination of students, designers and interested members of the public on what they envision the Rail Corridor to become. A public critique session held at the end allowed the public to actively engage workshop participants in the ideas put forward. The workshop saw students from NUS Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Singapore Polytechnic gather with members of the design community to brainstorm and develop ideas.

10 October 2011: Creating a ‘City in a Garden’ (Straits Times).

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan singled out two eco projects as examples of communities taking greater ownership of their living space. One was the Rail Corridor that had brought Singaporeans together to co-create a green spine from the 26 km stretch of former Malaysian Railway Land.

30 November 2011: Launch of “Journey of Possibilities” Ideas Competition.

This competition sought to draw fresh new ideas from the public in addressing some of the key challenges in planning for the future use of the Rail Corridor. Participants were encouraged to be bold and creative, to envision “possibilities” for transforming the Rail Corridor into a truly extraordinary trail with multiple landscapes and experiences

30 December 2011: Seven Singaporeans Look Back on 2011 to Select their ‘Political Event of the Year’ (Straits Times).

Vice-president Leong Kwok Peng was one of the seven Singaporeans interviewed. He saw the preservation of the nature belt along the railway tracks as the political event that has made the most impact on nongovernmental organisations in 2011. It signalled the government’s readiness to engage civil society groups at a deeper level.

1 January 2012: PM Lee’s New Year Message (Straits Times),

“I am glad to see signs of such positive engagement emerging. For example, nature, heritage and other interestgroups are working closely and enthusiastically with the Ministry of National Development on the project to redevelop the former KTM railway land. Interested Singaporeans are making innovative suggestions on how to balance development and nature along the rail corridor.”

1 January 2012: What do Civil Activists Hope for in the New Year? (Straits Times ).

NSS member Azmi Mohamed’s wish was to keep the rail track as a green corridor as it would provide a “grand spine” to the National Parks Board’s park connector system and also preserve the biodiversity along the route.

3 January 2012: NSS Submits its Biodiversity Report of the Rail Corridor.

A meeting was held with NParks to present the results of NSS’ monitoring of the wildlife along the Main and Jurong Lines. The report recommended the conservation of important woodlands and forests contiguous to the corridor including Clementi forest, Alexandra woodlands and Maju forest.

10 January 2012: Rail Corridor Reopens for Public Visits (Straits Times)

The Rail Corridor reopened six months after the track was returned to Singapore.

31 March 2012: Imagination Runs ‘Wild’ on Rail Land (Straits Times).

The ‘Journey of Possibilities’ ideas competition by URA drew more than 200 submissions from Singapore and beyond. The top prize in theExtraordinary Ideas’ category went to The Tiger’s Garden by Australian landscape design firm Oculus. It proposed allowing the Green Corridor to be recolonised by native plants and animals, turning it back into something like a jungle, but with an elevated trail and spaces for research and recreation. The jury,comprising architects, academics, civic group and government agency representatives said that Oculus’ idea “lauds the single big idea of gifting the Rail Corridor back to the wild, and reconnecting modernSingapore with its primeval past”. The second place went  to TransFARMation, which proposed setting up various types of farms along the stretch, from research to family farms.

5 April 2012: From Railway to Fashion Runway at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (Straits Times)

The government announced that both Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah railway stations could be rented for short term events of not more than 90 days.

3 May 2012: “Don’t Rush Rail Corridor Development”(Straits Times)

President Tony Tan said, “This is not the sort of thing where you want to say, we have a master plan, let’s build it in three years’ time and everything must fit into one common concept.” He added that it could take up to 10 years before it settled down into an asset which could be enjoyed by all Singaporeans, and which more importantly would reflect the aspirations and interests of Singaporean of all groups.

3 May 2012: Rail Corridor Partnership

URA announced the expansion of the existing Rail Corridor consultation group into a broader partnership with public sector agencies. The Rail Corridor Partnership (RCP) would look into the programming and promotion of community activities along the corridor. Feedback from these events would be used to draw up design specifications and requirements. It would form part of the brief for the Rail Corridor Master Plan and DesignCompetition that was being considered. RCP would include representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, People’s Association and the Singapore Sports Council.

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