Category: Current Affairs
Published on Friday, 04 March 2016 00:00
Written by Shawn Danker
Here are some of the parliament questions that were filed in the last Parliament sitting (Note: we report the parliamentary Q&As as is as opposed to the MSM's abridged versions to help give you, our readers, a clearer idea on what is being done in the house in your name.)
What were the main factors LTA took into consideration when planning the upcoming Cross Island Line and whether the Ministry of Transport will consider an alternative route
Filed by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang:
a. what are the main factors taken into consideration when deciding on the possible underground alignments in the vicinity of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) for the Cross Island Line;
b. in view of the moderate environmental impact on the nature reserve for the alignment option that cuts beneath the CCNR, whether the Ministry will consider the alternative alignment along Lornie Road which will allow the MRT line to serve more residents and commuters in that vicinity and also result in the protection of our nature reserve and primary forest; and
c. whether the Environmental Impact Assessment report that was recently published can be made available for viewing online.
Answer: The Cross Island Line (CRL) will be an important part of our future MRT network. It will link east to west, from Changi to Jurong, covering more than 50 km with about 30 stations. The exact alignment is being studied. Our preliminary estimate is that commuters from residential areas like Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming, Bukit Timah, Clementi and West Coast will make at least 600,000 trips on the CRL every day. This will place the CRL higher, in terms of capacity and usage, compared, for example to the North East Line (NEL). The CRL will also significantly enhance our network resilience, as commuters will have many more routing options with the CRL connecting to other lines. Let me translate this into simple English. What it means is that nearly half of all the 30 plus new stations will be interchange stations. That means at almost every other station, you can switch to another line. This will significantly enhance the resilience of our network.
Now, specific to the question raised by the Member, the Government is studying two possible alignments for the CRL in the vicinity of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). Both options are underground, and construction of the tunnels for this stretch of the CRL will be carried out using bored tunneling, instead of the cut-and-cover approach. Cut-and-cover means using a huge bull dozer to cut through, to chop down whatever is in between and then you build a tunnel and cover it up whereas with the bored tunneling approach, you avoid all these trauma and damages above the tunnel.
For the 4km direct alignment option, 2km will be deep below the CCNR. How deep is deep, about 40m. 40m is about 12 stories below ground level and more importantly, this is what geologists call, the hard bedrock level. In our case, this is our Bukit Timah granite. At this level, there are no vegetation, no trees, no animals. Under this option, there will not be any construction of infrastructure at surface level within the CCNR.
The skirting alignment option, on the other hand, is 9km long. Because it is 9km long, it will require longer tunnels and therefore, it requires ventilation shafts, ventilation facilities on the surface. Whereas the earlier option, because it is short enough, we do not have to build all these exhaust ducts, which can be quite ugly, seen at some of our road junctions. This option could incur around $2 billion ($2,000 million) more in expenditure, and could result in land acquisitions. The Member suggested that the skirting alignment could potentially serve more residents. However, the catchment there is already served by the Circle Line and the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line.
The CRL is a massive project and the Government will decide on its entire alignment only after making a total assessment, including financial viability, technical feasibility and other relevant considerations. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is only one of the many studies which we need to undertake to help us determine the best alignment for the stretch of the CRL in the vicinity of the nature reserve. Later, my MND colleague will provide some details on the EIA and also describe how the Government agencies are working closely with the nature groups on the EIA. It has been a very productive collaboration although much remains to be done.
As the alignments can have different impact on the environment, commuters, taxpayers, businesses and home owners, the Government has a responsibility to study both options thoroughly. Besides the EIA, there are upcoming technical site investigation works which will allow us to determine the soil profile and condition. This will feed into the Engineering Feasibility study. Only after all these environmental and technical studies on both possible alignments have been completed, and taking into account the potential impact on the nature reserve, the travelling distance, the time for commuters, the cost to taxpayers, and the potential acquisition of homes and businesses, will we be able to make an informed decision on the project and its exact alignment. There will be many more public consultations so that we can adequately factor in all views. All these studies and consultations may take two more years to complete.
Meanwhile, the EIA Phase 1 report is available online.
Will the government consider building a MRT line to connect Punggol/Sengkang to Yio Chu Kang/ Sembawang
Filed by Mr Gan Thiam Poh: asked the Minister for Transport whether the Government will consider constructing a MRT line to connect the estates of Punggol, Sengkang, Fernvale, Buangkok, Yio Chu Kang, Nee Soon and Sembawang.
Answer: One of the MRT lines that the Government is currently studying is the Cross Island Line (CRL). If and when it is completed, the CRL will, among other benefits, connect the estates in Punggol, Sengkang, Fernvale and Buangkok. In the meantime, commuter travel between the north and north-east regions is being supported by public buses.