Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heartland To Hotspots In Under An Hour

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hillview and Bukit Timah areas to get rail link to town

FROM the heartland of Bukit Panjang to the bustle of Marina Bay in 45 minutes. In 2015, that will become a reality for residents in north-western Singapore, when the Downtown Line Two (DTL2) is up and running.

Scything through the Bukit Timah and :Upper Bukit Timah areas, it will mean an extra means of transport for students of the many schools in the area, such as Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Girls’ Primary School. Consisting of 12 stations and stretching 16.6km, the new rail line will “enhance accessibility ... into corridors currently not served by rail”, said Mr Yam Ah Mee, chief executive of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), yesterday as he announced the locations of the DTL2 stations.

“While neighbouring estates, such as Bukit Batok and Clementi have been enjoying the benefits of the rail system, residents along the Bukit Timah corridor have mainly been served by our bus network,” said Mr Yam.

This will soon change, with construction of DTL2 due to start in the middle of next year. The LTA had announced last April that the DTL would be built in three stages: DTL1, due for completion in 2013, will run from Bugis to Chinatown. DTL3 is scheduled for 2016 and will run from Chinatown to Expo. The DTL is expected to cost $12 billion to build and have a daily ridership of half a million.

Three stations on DTL2 will be interchanges — Botanic Gardens, Newton and Little India — which will connect commuters to the Circle Line, the North South Line and the North East Line, respectively.

DTL2 will link north-western Singapore directly to the Marina Bay area, including the integrated resort. It will result in “significant time savings” — for example, the current one-hour journey from Bukit Panjang to the city centre will be cut to 40 minutes.

DTL2’s land acquisition will also be minimal, confined to a vacant two-storey building on Halifax Road and two narrow strips at Upper Bukit Timah Road.

Schools near future DTL2 stations welcomed the news. With a station to be built right on Hwa Chong Institution’s doorstep, students, parents and staff “will enjoy even greater convenience and comfort, travelling to school”, said its principal and chief executive officer Ang Wee Hiong.

Boys’ Town in Upper Bukit Timah, which has about 1,600 children under its wing, will also benefit greatly, said its director-general Irene Loi. “A very high percentage of our kids take public transport, or the school bus. This will help not only the kids; it will also help bring in more people from around the island to work for us,” said Mrs Loi.

Real estate agency ERA Singapore’s assistant vice-president Eugene Lim said the announcement of DTL2 sites would cause “initial euphoria” in residents living close by, and some sellers would “take the opportunity to raise the asking price” of their properties.

“It will make condominiums more marketable, and properties around the schools could see even more enhanced value,” Mr Lim said.

Meanwhile, work on the Circle Line’s five stages is progressing well, said Transport Minister Raymond Lim yesterday when he toured the new Esplanade station. He said around 90 per cent of the Circle Line’s tunnels are complete, and plans are on-track to open Stage 3 of the line in the middle of next year.

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