6 years in the making: How the Cross Island Line's direct route was decided

6 years in the making: How the Cross Island Line's direct route was decided

workers at cross island line site
Site investigation works for the future Cross Island Line being carried out at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. (Photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: More than six years after it was first announced, a key decision on which route Singapore's longest MRT line will take has finally been decided.

The Government on Wednesday (Dec 4) announced the Cross Island Line (CRL) will take a direct route under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) - after years of debate and consultation - instead of an alternative route skirting around the reserve.

READ: Cross Island Line to take direct route under Central Catchment Nature Reserve

Nature groups and environmentalists had raised concerns that the direct route could have an impact on Singapore's wildlife and nature, but on Wednesday the authorities said it had chosen it after in-depth studies.

Cross Island Line proposed alignments - map
Proposed alignment options for Singapore's Cross Island Line.

Here are some key dates leading up to the decision:

Jan 17, 2013: Authorities announce a new Cross Island Line which will run across Singapore, as part of the Land Transport Masterplan 2013. The line will have a targeted completion date of 2030.

Jul 11, 2013: A site visit to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is conducted with nature group representatives.

Jul 18, 2013: Nature Society (Singapore) releases a position paper saying works for the line will degrade habitats within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and recommending the design alignment be adjusted.

Jan 21, 2014: A discussion and lunch is held with nature groups.

Changi East Depot
The Changi East Depot, an above ground facility for CRL trains. (Image: LTA)  

February 2014: LTA calls a tender for an Environmental Impact Assessment to help authorities make a considered decision on the line's alignment and how it will affect Singapore's wildlife and fauna.

July 2014: LTA awards a tender to global consulting firm Environmental Resources Management to carry out the impact assessment, which will consist of two phases.

January 2015 to October 2015: Various site visits to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve are held, including at least one recce with nature group representatives. Discussions held on the Environmental Impact Assessment report.

Nov 13, 2015: A working meeting is held regarding the draft phase one Environmental Impact Assessment report.

Ang Mo Kio Station
Artist impression of the CRL Ang Mo Kio MRT Station. (Image: LTA) 

January 2016: Another site visit is held with nature groups.

Feb 29, 2016: Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan tells Parliament it may take two more years to complete the environment and technical studies, as well as the public consultations needed for the Government to reach a decision on the project and its exact alignment. 

He says two possible options were being evaluated – a “direct option” which will see part of the line going below the central catchment reserve, or a longer option which skirts around the area. 

Cross Island Line direct alignment cross-section

May 2016 to September 2017: Site investigations are carried out as part of efforts to assess the feasibility of the two alignment options. These include borehole works carried out near Bukit Golf Course as well as geophysical survey works near Sime Track.

June 2018: LTA says site investigations carried out to study the impact of both alignment options have been completed. Findings suggest wildlife present in the area. The findings will provide input for phase two of the Environmental Impact Assessment, expected to be completed later in 2018.

August 2018 to October 2018: Various site visits carried out including a Central Catchment Nature Reserve walk and a Thomson–East Coast Line tunnel visit. 

Jan 25, 2019: Mr Khaw says the first of three phases of the line will open by 2029, and construction will start in 2020.

Cross Island Line phase 1
​​​​​​​(Image: Land Transport Authority)

June to July 2019: Various deep dives carried out into issues such as habitat evaluation, construction activities and mitigation at the work site.

September 2019: A biodiversity roundtable is held with 42 nature groups, including a briefing on the Environmental Impact Assessment findings, engineering schemes and a discussion on how to optimise work sites.

The phase two report of the Environmental Impact Assessment is published. The environmental impact of both potential routes near the Central Catchment Nature Reserve can be “adequately managed” with “comprehensive” mitigation and monitoring plans, says LTA. 

However, the authority says it has not made a final decision yet.

Dec 4, 2019: The authorities announce the Cross Island Line will take a direct route under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. They say they will continue to work closely with all stakeholders as the design and construction of the line continues.

Source: CNA/nc(mi)