By Richard Wan
It was reported on ST (22 Feb) that rerouting the Cross Island Line (CRL) around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) would cost another $2 billion to the rail project [Link].
"Besides land and home acquisitions that could affect families, the extra works could incur $2 billion more in expenditure," said LTA Chief Chew Men Leong. He wrote a letter to ST to highlight some of the issues involved if CRL was to be rerouted instead of cutting through the nature reserve.
It was also reported that the green NGOs have been lobbying hard for the CRL to be built around the reserve so as not to spoil it.
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, joined in, "This island used to be covered in rain forests; 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."
From past experience, it has been observed that government officials usually won't write to ST Forum unless they disagree on some issues raised by the public. In this case, it is highly likely that LTA has already made up their minds about constructing CRL to cut through the nature reserve instead of rerouting it.
ECP-AYE rerouted at cost of $4.3 billion
However, that doesn't mean that the government won't reroute transportation lines at all, at the inconvenience of motorists or commuters. Take the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), for example, it was constructed at a high cost of $4.3 billion, essentially to reroute the original ECP-AYE.
The MCE was built at the fringe of the new Marina South downtown area. It is the most expensive highway constructed to date, at a cost of $860 million per kilometre. Reason for the high cost is that part of MCE was actually built under the seabed.
It was further revealed that rerouting ECP-AYE helps free up valuable land for downtown developments in Marina South, estimated to be 70ha [Link].
So, one might ask, how much is 70ha of Marina South land worth?
We can use the Singapore-Malaysia railway land swap as a benchmark. In 2010, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak and PM Lee came to an agreement with regard to the KTM railway lines in Singapore [Link].
Under the agreement, KTM would vacate its station at Tanjong Pagar and all KTM's land would revert to Singapore. In return, Singapore would vest 6 parcels of land, four in Marina South and two in Ophir-Rochor to be developed under a joint-venture company owned by both Malaysian and Singaporean governments (60:40).
It was also revealed that the 4 parcels of land in Marina South spanning 2.62ha are worth a gross development value of $7 billion [Link].
Assuming similar gross development value, the 70ha of land free-up in Marina South through the rerouting of ECP-AYE could then fetch about $187 billion!
With this figure in mind, it becomes obvious why the government is so willing to spend $4.3 billion to build MCE so as to reroute ECP-AYE, nevermind about the slight inconvenience to the motorists.
Returning back to the issue of rerouting the CRL, how much money do you think the government can make out of this?
So, do you think LTA will agree to the rerouting of CRL? Do you think it cares about the long-term cost to Singapore with the damaging of our nature reserve?
What do you think?