Keep an open mind on Cross Island Line: Khaw

The 50km Cross Island Line (CRL) will be an important part of Singapore’s rail network, with about 30 stations – nearly all of them interchanges to other MRT lines – that will offer commuters many travel options, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

Serving residential areas such as Loyang, Pasir Ris, Hougang, Ang Mo Kio, Sin Ming, Bukit Timah, Clementi and West Coast, commuters will make at least 600,000 trips on the CRL every day, he told Parliament yesterday. This will benefit executive condo residents from The Terrace EC, Waterwoods EC, Treasure Crest, The Vales EC, Amore EC, Sea Horizon EC and Bellewaters EC.

But as to whether the underground CRL will be built through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) or route around it – an issue of contention – Mr Khaw said more environmental and engineering studies, along with public consultations, must be done.

These may take more than two years, before a decision on the alignment can be made, he added, in reply to questions from MP Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) about the CRL.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to study the effects of site investigation works, released last month, took two years.

Noting the CRL’s importance, Mr Khaw said the line – to be completed by 2030 – will “significantly enhance” the MRT network’s resilience, and its capacity and usage will far exceed that of the existing North-East Line.

Yesterday, he also revealed that the longer 9km skirt around the CCNR will incur an extra travel time of six minutes, compared with the more direct 4km route cutting through the reserve.

Suggesting that the public has high expectations of train efficiency, he quipped that in a minute of delay, a commuter could post 100 times on Twitter to “flame” the Land Transport Authority and the rail operator.

This extra six minutes could not just be “brush(ed) aside”, he said.

While Mr Ng said the skirt-around alignment would serve more commuters, Mr Khaw replied that residents in the area are already served by the Circle Line and future Thomson-East Coast Line.

Additionally, he said this alignment would require longer tunnels and ventilation facilities on the surface. This would cost $2 billion more and could result in land acquisitions.

For the direct alignment option, 2km will be deep below the CCNR at about 40m – or 12 storeys – below ground level, and there will be no structures built at the surface level, the minister noted.

In a separate query, Mr Ng also asked for the total cost of the CRL project, and which houses and buildings will be acquired.

Mr Khaw replied that it was still too early to know these details, and a second phase of EIA, to look into the impact of construction and running of trains through the nature reserve, will be done.

He urged Singaporeans not to take a biased approach to the issue, adding that some comments on the first EIA were “very toxic”.

Referring to the movie Zootopia he saw with his granddaughter, he said the film’s protagonist, a female rabbit, had to fight off stereotypes and prejudices in her mission to be a police officer.

“Keep an open mind. I think go with the facts. Keep an open mind and look for the evidence,” he said.

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