Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development, at the launch of the Rail Corridor Request for Proposal awards exhibition at URA Centre Atrium [Speeches]
09 Nov 2015
Mr Desmond Lee,
Mr Ng Lang, CEO, URA
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m very happy to join you today for the launch of this Rail Corridor exhibition.
A Connected Rail Corridor
For decades, the Rail Corridor served as a transportation line to carry goods and people to and from Singapore. It was a journey of many twists and turns, as those of you who were involved in the process would know, before we finally obtained this stretch of land back in 2011.
The Corridor has outlived its function as a rail line. But in many ways, we have a higher degree of connectivity than before, even though it is no longer a rail line. First, we now have a fully connected Corridor with more contiguous parcels of land, which offer better development opportunities for housing and other economic activities. In time to come, these developments will add to the diverse landscapes of homes, schools and industrial estates which are already along the Corridor today.
Second and very importantly, the Rail Corridor will provide a distinctive community green space for all Singaporeans. The Rail Corridor, north to south, has a length of 24 km. This is more than a half marathon and almost 10 times longer than the New York High Line, which is also a linear park built on a disused railway line. Along the Corridor, people can come together to jog, walk, cycle, or simply enjoy the greenery and appreciate the historic railway buildings and landmarks. In fact, many community activities already take place here, such as the annual Green Corridor Run, and flea markets and community events at the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Overall, we have a beautiful Rail Corridor which touches almost 1 million people living in estates along its entire stretch. It connects Singaporeans not just physically, but also emotionally, with the various historical landmarks littered all along the Corridor.
A journey with the community
This is why we actively sought ideas from the public and interest groups to shape our common aspirations for the Rail Corridor, right after the last train plied the former railway line four years back.
Since then, we have consulted extensively, through exhibitions, public workshops and ideas competitions. We have been engaging Singaporeans young and old. On student engagement alone, we reached out to more than 2000 youths. To help us formulate the plans for the Rail Corridor, we also consulted the Rail Corridor Partnership, a dedicated community group comprising passionate individuals, with expertise in areas such as nature conservation, heritage and cycling. I understand that many of them are here with us today, and I would like to thank all of you who have participated in our consultations and your contributions over the last few years. Thank you very much.
We received many useful and interesting ideas from the Rail Corridor Partnership, as well as members of the public. These ideas include using the Rail Corridor as a showcase of our sustainability initiatives, as an attractive commuter cycling route and as a more inclusive and comfortable oasis for recreational activities. We also heeded the call to preserve the heritage of the Rail Corridor by retaining and protecting the remaining railway buildings and artefacts.
From ideas to concept plans and designs
So from many of these ground-up ideas, we put together the concept brief and launched the Rail Corridor Request for Proposal, or RFP, in March this year. This was done to invite design professionals to draw up concept plans and designs based on the ground-up and community ideas we have received. When we received the proposals, we found that many of the design professionals who participated agreed that the Rail Corridor should be sensitively integrated with existing and future developments to benefit the surrounding communities. Many also agreed that we should enhance the landscape of the Corridor to reinforce its identity.
This Rail Corridor RFP saw an overwhelming number of submissions from local and international firms. The proposals that came in were often a combination of an international firm and a local partner. We received 64 submissions in total where eventually 5 design teams, each formed from collaborations between local and foreign firms and experts, were shortlisted for the second stage of the RFP.
Today, we are here to award the winning proposals. Let me announce the winning proposals and share some highlights from their entries.
The awarded Concept Master Plan is from architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, working together with Tierra Design and Arup Singapore. Congratulations to the team. They envision the Rail Corridor as a seamless and comfortable shared space for walking, jogging and cycling. But there will also be specific nodes along different stretches of the Corridor to cater to the different local communities. In particular, the team proposed eight distinctively-themed stretches along the entire Rail Corridor, each embodying a unique characteristic of the Corridor. You can take a look at the exhibition later to see for yourself what these themes are. I will cite one example – at Stagmont Ring which is near the residential community, the Rail Corridor, under this proposal, can provide community oriented amenities such as playgrounds, community farming plots and fishing ponds. They have other proposals for the other nodes all along the Rail Corridor, each designed and conceptualised in a distinctive manner, unique to the local community. It is a wonderful proposal to preserve the entire Rail Corridor, at the same time develop each segment according to its unique characteristics.
Design teams also proposed innovative ways to integrate future developments alongside the Rail Corridor with greenery and water. For the parcel of land at Choa Chu Kang between the Rail Corridor and Pang Sua Canal, the winning design is from Singapore’s MKPL Architects and China’s Turenscape. They proposed a housing design which will be integrated with the Rail Corridor, so it will have an extensive public space that allows residents to appreciate the enhanced greenery of the Rail Corridor from various heights through sky links and bridges.
For the area around the historic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the winning concept proposal also comes from MKPL and Turenscape. Congratulations to the team again. This particular segment of the Rail Corridor is very important and significant because it is the historic Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Their proposal is sensitive and befitting to the station’s stature as a national monument and icon of our railway history. It includes a large community space in front of the building for community events and for the public to admire the station’s elegant architecture.
Cementing connectivity and heritage of the Rail Corridor
These are some designs and concepts that have come out from the RFP. I am glad that heritage was one element that came out strongly, so I am pleased to announce that URA has today begun the process for the conservation of two steel truss bridges along the Rail Corridor. The bridges are important landmarks that once facilitated the seamless transport of passengers and goods along the Corridor. They were traditionally used as locational markers for the 7th mile and 9th mile of Bukit Timah Road. They are now beloved railway artefacts that capture Singapore’s railway history, and they will become important connectors for users of the Rail Corridor.
At this exhibition, you will discover how the Concept Master Plan has developed design ideas for the two bridges to provide safer crossings for different users, and to recapture the Corridor’s sense of place and memory.
Continuing the next stretch of the journey
Going forward, we intend to conduct a preliminary feasibility study of a 4km signature stretch of the Rail Corridor, which spans the former Bukit Timah Railway Station area to the Hillview area. Why this stretch? Because it is a popular stretch with Rail Corridor visitors and the proposed improvements to this particular area will allow better accessibility to many of the green and heritage landmarks in this area such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Old Ford Factory. The learning points from this feasibility study will also help us improve the design and improvements required for the rest of the Rail Corridor.
We will not be limited to just this first portion of the Rail Corridor. We will also be exploring how some of these ideas from the feasibility study can be introduced along other stretches of the Rail Corridor to improve its usability, and to better integrate the Corridor with adjacent developments in the near future. For example, in Buona Vista, we plan to introduce more economic and commercial activities in the vacant land next to the Rail Corridor, as an expansion of the Biopolis. At the same time, we can create public spaces amidst this economic node along the Rail Corridor so that the community in this area can enjoy a vibrant live-work-play proposition. For instance, some of these public spaces can hold events such as outdoor movie screenings where workers from one-north and residents from Buona Vista and Queenstown can all enjoy.
The RFP exercise that we have done has allowed us to transform your ideas and aspirations into quality concept plans and designs. But, these are still not the finalised plans. This is a broad concept plan that design professionals have worked with from the ideas which came from the community. What we want to do is to hear ideas from Singaporeans on these proposals. So in addition to this exhibition, we will be organising a roving exhibition to key local community nodes along the Rail Corridor. We would like all residents to work closely with us to study the stretches near your community. So please share your suggestions on how to further improve the proposals, and how you can play a part in volunteering and planning activities for the various nodes along the Rail Corridor. Do visit the exhibitions and tell us what else you would like to see and how we can all contribute to making the Corridor even more exceptional.
Next month, we’ll be launching the “Future of Us” exhibition to launch the next chapter of the Singapore story. This is our final SG50 event. As part of this exhibition, we will be having a series of conversations on how we can build our future together. One of the conversation topics will be on the Future of Greening, and the Rail Corridor project is one of many projects which will see us co-creating a more liveable environment for Singaporeans. So there will be more opportunities for Singaporeans to continue this dialogue on your aspirations for the Rail Corridor, and for other green, community spaces in Singapore.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you for taking the time and effort to share your invaluable ideas for the Rail Corridor. So much can be achieved when we work together. So let’s all continue to do our part to create something really special for the Rail Corridor and make Singapore a more liveable and endearing home for all of us. Thank you very much.
Source credit: URA
- URA establishes Rail Corridor Partnership to explore and promote community activities along Rail Corridor
- My Thoughts on the Concept Master Plan and Proposals for the Rail Corridor
- URA launches Request for Proposal for the Rail Corridor [Press Release]
- ‘Rail Corridor’ endorsed by consultation group to be final project name
- 5 teams shortlisted for stage 2 of the Rail Corridor RFP [Press Release]