SINGAPORE: It may take two more years to complete the environment and technical studies, as well as public consultations needed for the Government to reach a decision on the Cross Island Line project and its exact alignment, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
Mr Khaw said the line is expected to see 600,000 trips daily, and will have a higher capacity and greater usage compared to the existing North-East Line. Nearly half of the 30-odd station line will be interchange stations, he added.
In a separate written answer in response to a question from Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Mr Khaw said that if and when it is completed, the Cross Island Line (CRL) will 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,” he said. This will benefit executive condo residents from The Terrace EC, Waterwoods EC, The Vales EC, Amore EC and Bellewaters EC.
The studies and consultations will “adequately factor in all views”, taking into account “the potential impact on the nature reserve, the travelling distance, the time for commuters, the cost to taxpayers, and the potential acquisitions of homes and businesses”, said the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, responding to questions on the Cross Island Line in Parliament on Monday (Feb 29).
The Cross Island Line had attracted much public debate after the first phase of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was released earlier this month, particularly from green groups concerned that part of the line may cause disruption to the environment near the central catchment reserve.
Mr Khaw emphasised that two possible options are still being evaluated – a 4km “direct” option that will see 2km of the line going 40 metres or 13 stories below the central catchment reserve, and a 9km option that skirts the area, which may cost an additional S$2 billion.
Mr Khaw noted that the 9km option could add six minutes to travelling 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.”
He added that even though the first option goes directly under the central catchment reserve, there will be no construction at the surface level, while the second option – which requires a longer tunnel – will need ventilation shafts to be constructed at the surface. Land acquisitions may also be needed for the latter option.
“The Cross Island Line 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 is only one of the many studies which we need to undertake to help us determine the best alignment for the stretch of the line in the vicinity of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve,” said Mr Khaw.
MORE PUBLIC CONSULTATION NEEDED
MP for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng wanted to find out the total construction cost for the line, and how much more – in percentage terms – the “skirting” option would cost.
“A short answer to both questions is: I don’t know yet,” said Mr Khaw.
He added: “In this particular instance, because of the interest of nature groups and the sensitivity of the possible impact of any work of this part of the (Cross Island) Line on the nature reserve that the issue now surfaces.
“For the next leg of the studies, if we are allowed to proceed with the site investigation, we will be doing much more public consultation, and that will allow us, LTA, to firm up on many of the answers to many of the questions that have yet to be answered.”
The 50km Cross Island Line, which will be the eighth MRT line in Singapore, will link Singapore’s eastern and western areas, from Changi to Jurong.