SINGAPORE: The impact of the North-South Corridor (NSC)’s construction on the 92-year-old Ellison Building can “be reduced to one corner shophouse unit, instead of a larger portion of the building”, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 8), citing recently concluded engineering studies.
A prior assessment had stated that three units of the conserved structure on the edge of Selegie Road will have to be torn down to facilitate works on the NSC. These will be reconstructed and reinstated once the NSC is completed in 2026.
Responding to Nominated Member of Parliament Kok Heng Leun's question, Mr Lee said that the original alignment for the NSC would have impacted even more buildings, including Rex Cinema on Mackenzie Road, and several of the shophouse units at Ellison Building.
“Nevertheless, we recognised the heritage value of Rex Cinema and Ellison Building. Hence, agencies were committed to carry out detailed engineering studies to further minimise the impact on these buildings. On that basis, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) proceeded to gazette the two buildings for conservation in 2008,” said Mr Lee, adding that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the URA eventually managed to develop a solution for the NSC to avoid Rex Cinemas completely.
When completed, the 21km North-South Corridor will connect the residential estates in the North such as Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Toa Payoh to the city centre. It will incorporate bus lanes, cycling trunk routes and an expressway that runs elevated as well as underground.
'CHALLENGING ENGINEERING TASK'
Mr Kok also wanted to know why the decision made by the authorities regarding Ellison Building is the “best option”, and whether they have consulted with stakeholders and considered mitigation measures.
In response, Mr Lee explained that space is “extremely tight” in the segment of the NSC leading into the city centre.
“On the one side of Bukit Timah Road is the underground Rochor Canal. This is an important drainage facility to ensure that low-lying areas in the city can cope with intense periods of rainfall. The North-East MRT Line (NEL) cuts across Bukit Timah Road, while the Downtown MRT Line (DTL) runs beneath Bukit Timah Road. This means that the NSC tunnels must run in between the foundations of existing buildings along both sides of Bukit Timah Road, the underground Rochor Canal as well as the NEL and DTL stations and tunnels,” he said.
Mr Lee added that the project is a “challenging engineering task” as sufficient clearance distance must be allowed between the NSC tunnels and surrounding underground structures for safety reasons.
“The NSC tunnel also cannot be lowered further into the ground to avoid these underground infrastructures, as doing so will require extensive ramps and portal structures to connect the NSC carriageway with surface streets which will affect the nearby MRT stations and impact other buildings. Given these constraints, LTA has worked out the best possible alignment for the NSC tunnel under the circumstances,” said Mr Lee.
Following an earlier pre-tender exercise, the Government will engage a conservation specialist to provide advice on how to better protect Ellison Building, said Mr Lee, adding that this consultant will explore various mitigating measures in detail.
He also noted that the Government has held two rounds of discussion with heritage groups, to get their views on how to better protect the Ellison Building during the construction process.
“URA and LTA will continue to work closely with the heritage groups on the construction methods to protect Ellison Building, as well as the measures that should be taken to preserve the heritage and history of the site. The Government will finalise its implementation plans after these discussions,” said Mr Lee.