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Cross Island Line: LTA to study different paths, impact on environment

SINGAPORE — Apart from an environmental impact assessment (EIA), extensive engineering studies will also be conducted before the alignment of the Cross Island Line (CRL) is finalised, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

Cross Island Line: LTA to study different paths, impact on environment

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is home to attractions like the HSBC Tree Top Walk. Photo: Kok Xing Hui

SINGAPORE — Apart from an environmental impact assessment (EIA), extensive engineering studies will also be conducted before the alignment of the Cross Island Line (CRL) is finalised, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday.

Laying out the timeline for the EIA, which is expected to be completed in 2016, the LTA said it will call a tender in the first quarter of next year for a consultant to carry out an assessment of different CRL paths around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, including “possible direct crossing and skirting alignments”.

The EIA will be followed by 18 months of engineering studies to ascertain if it is physically possible for the line to run through selected areas. The CRL is slated for completion in 2030.

Previously, the authorities had said the alignment of the CRL would be finalised only after the EIA. But that did not allay the concerns of nature groups about the possibility that part of the 50-kilometre line could cut through the nature reserve.

The Nature Society (Singapore), for example, had put up a 39-page proposal in July for an alternative, longer route that cuts southwards via Lornie Road around the reserve.

The LTA yesterday reiterated that it “will consider all relevant factors, such as connectivity, travel times, as well as the environmental impact, implications to developments in the vicinity, and costs” before arriving at the final alignment. It added that before the EIA is conducted, nature groups will prepare a document of the relevant studies over the past 20 to 30 years and provide insights based on their extensive experience. Their report will form the base for the EIA.

Conservationist N Sivasothi said this “clear invitation” for environmental groups to participate in establishing the terms of reference and to evaluate candidates for the EIA was significant.

Mr Tony O’Dempsey, the Nature Society’s spokesman on the issue, said it was important that the EIA identify accurately the issues on the ground, the risks of damage and to prescribe monitoring protocols. Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Jose Raymond said that by calling for an EIA, the LTA is showing its concern about the possible environmental impact of running the CRL through the nature reserve.

Nevertheless, the LTA pointed out that some residents of the Thomson area have already raised concerns that their homes and living conditions would be affected by the alternative path proposed by the nature groups.

Mr O’Dempsey said that, while the Nature Society understands their concerns, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is a “unique national asset” that should be kept intact.

LTA Chief Executive Chew Hock Yong said additional testing on the alternative route proposed by the Nature Society would not “make that much of a difference”. “Even if it costs a bit more, it’s money well-spent because we want to make sure that we have explored all possibilities so that, eventually, whatever configuration, details or alignment we take, we will be able to explain to the different stakeholders,” he said.

While stressing that it “was too early to tell”, he could not discount the possibility of more land acquisition due to the MRT line skirting around the reserve.

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