Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan stated that site investigation works on the two alignment options have commenced, and are expected to complete by end-2018 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island MRT Line.
Mr Khaw was responding to the questions by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP of Nee Soon Grc who asked the Minister for Transport whether the Ministry can provide an update on site investigation works on the two alignment options as part of Phase 2 of the EIA for the Cross Island MRT Line and how is the Ministry engaging volunteers from the nature community to monitor and manage the impact on the ground as the rainy season increases the risk of spills into forest streams caused by boring works.
Mr Khaw stated that the Government consults with the nature groups regularly. LTA has also appointed one of the nature group representatives as an advisor to monitor and audit the implementation of the Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan developed in Phase 1. Though no mention of the actual nature group is made.
The CRL is a 50km long new train line announced in January 2013 as part of Singapore’s aim to “improve the connectivity, accessibility and coverage of the rail network” to support Singapore’s potential growth in the future. The CRL is targeted to be completed by 2030.
According to LTA, the SI works for the CCNR will start in December 2016 and is expected to complete by 2017. Throughout the SI works, a team of LTA officers and the contractors will work closely with the National Parks Board (NParks) and the nature groups to ensure that all mitigating measures are rigorously implemented.
Both the direct and skirting alignment options are being studied. The findings from the SI works will provide inputs to Phase 2 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which assesses the impact of construction and operations for the two possible alignments.
Only after the SI works, Phase 2 of the EIA, and taking into account the various concerns and considerations from all stakeholders as well as the potential impact on the CCNR, will the Government take a decision on the alignment.
Earlier in July 2013, the Nature Society released a position paper that states the soil investigation activities involving the core drilling of 70 metres deep bore holes along the alignment will cause tremendous permanent damage to the habitat. The society has since made recommendations to LTA for them to adopt alternative routes for to have the MRT line rerouted so to avoid cutting through the reserve.
In March 2016, Member of Parliament from the Yishun GRC, Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang asked the Minister for Transport, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, about the main factors taken into consideration when deciding on the possible underground alignments in the vicinity of the CCNR for the CRL.
He also asked if the Ministry would consider the alternative alignment along Lornie Road which will allow the MRT line to serve more residents and commuters in that vicinity and will result in the protection of the nature reserve and primary forest.
In reply, Mr Khaw said that the alternative alignment to skirt around the nature reserve for the CRL will cost commuters six minutes of additional travel time. He said: “Some people say it’s just six minutes, but I’m not sure we can just brush aside the extra six minutes just like that because for MRT commuters, even an extra half a minute is terrible.
“We know this because when a train gets disrupted and there’s a one-minute delay, within that minute, they can send out maybe 100 tweets to flame LTA or SMRT. So one minute is a lot of time, let alone six minutes. That’s why in the rail industry, they define disruption as anything that causes a delay of more than five minutes and six is more than five.”
Mr Khaw added, “The skirting alignment on the other hand, is about 9km long… and because it is 9km long, it will require longer tunnels. And therefore, it would require ventilation shafts, ventilation facilities on the surface whereas the earlier option, because it is short enough…you do not have to build all those…exhaust ducts…These options could incur around 2 billion dollars in expenditure, 2000 million dollars and could result in land acquisition.”