About 6km of the walking trail in the Rail Corridor between Kranji and Hillview MRT stations has been enhanced and was opened to the public on Friday, offering better access to the northern stretch of the recreational green route.
With this, visitors to the corridor can enjoy a 21km walking trail stretching from Kranji MRT station in the north to Spooner Road near Tanjong Pagar in the south, the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Friday.
One of the key features to look out for is a 6m-high, 28.8m-long, 4m-wide steel bridge that sits above Hillview Road and can be easily accessed from Hillview MRT station.
It has newly embedded railway tracks to reflect its past as a railway crossing and its railings are painted black, similar to the nearby Upper Bukit Timah truss bridge.
The new Hillview bridge replaces the former steel girder bridge that served the previous Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway line between Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. The old bridge, which was shorter and lower, was dismantled in 2011 when the 24km stretch of railway land previously owned by KTM was returned to Singapore.
A short walk from the bridge is a 6m-high lookout deck that offers scenic forested views of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Dairy Farm Nature Park and Bukit Timah Hill.
Work is still going at two segments of the northern leg of the corridor but visitors can take diverted paths that lead back to the main trail.
At the opening on Friday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the vision for the Rail Corridor is that of a continuous green artery from the north to the south of Singapore that will be inclusive and accessible, to bring people closer to nature.
For instance, nearly 6km of the walking trail that was enhanced made use of quarry dust and was given a grass-and-gravel finish to make the route safe for visitors to walk on and also reduce disruption to the diverse wildlife habitat close by, he said.
“When this former railway land was returned to Singapore in 2011, we wanted this valuable stretch of land to become a meaningful space for people of all ages from all walks of life, a place that is accessible to all,” said Mr Lee.
He unveiled a distance marker located opposite Kranji MRT station that indicates the start of the Rail Corridor and planted a gutta-percha tree, a species native to Singapore, near the new Hillview bridge. He was joined by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.
The entire Rail Corridor spans 24km and is part of Singapore’s overall plan to curate a 360km islandwide network of recreational routes to enable every household to be able to walk to a park in 10 minutes by 2030.
It was also identified by the URA as one of five “identity corridors”, which are routes aimed at strengthening the identity of distinctive places and safeguarding the nation’s heritage.
There are more than 30 access paths along the more than 21km stretch that is now open to the public. Of these, 23 are barrier-free and connect to neighbouring communities, residential estates and the newly completed Kranji-Mandai park connector.
Crossing pads made of glass fibre-reinforced concrete have been introduced at locations where access paths intersect with the corridor.
Designed to simulate timber train sleepers, these serve as ground visual markers to alert visitors and cyclists to slow down for others who may be entering the corridor.
Another 10 or more access paths will be progressively completed from the first quarter of 2023.
The corridor will be further enhanced in time, with a new community node at Buona Vista set to be completed by the end of 2023, and the reopening of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station after 2026.
At the newly opened Kranji node, which is the northernmost point of the corridor, visitors can walk along a 250m nature trail lined with native trees and shrubs. The trail connects to a 2,000 sq m field which will serve as a recreational space for community events.
The Rail Corridor is a major ecological corridor that allows wildlife movement between major green spaces.
As such, it is not lit at night, to facilitate nocturnal wildlife movement; only certain sections such as essential walking paths leading to public toilets are lit.
More than 52,000 trees and shrubs have been planted along the corridor. Critically endangered and near-threatened species of animals such as the straw-headed bulbul, Sunda pangolin and Malayan colugo have been sighted at the corridor.
NParks group director of conservation Lim Liang Jim said with Friday’s opening, the Rail Corridor offers three distinct trail experiences for visitors.
The northern segment near Kranji offers a grassland setting with more coastal elements, while the central segment near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is more forested. The southern leg leading to Tanjong Pagar provides a more urban experience as the area is more built-up, he said.
“We wanted each segment to offer visitors different experiences and views, taking into account the natural landscape and the variety of nature within the space,” added Mr Lim.
Ecologist David Tan, 34, said the Rail Corridor naturally sprang up along the decommissioned train line, and research and evidence have shown that animals have been using the Rail Corridor for a long time.
“For example, we found civet poop, so we know civets use the Rail Corridor. We hear the call of the straw-headed bulbul, a critically endangered bird, all along the corridor. People from neighbouring countries come to Singapore to see these birds because we’re the only refuge left for them,” said Mr Tan, who is a member of Friends of Rail Corridor, a volunteer group that organises ground-up initiatives and activities along the corridor.
Mr Tan noted that works in the corridor had to be carried out in a sensitive manner. “By not lighting the corridor at night, chances of negative interactions between humans and mammals are fewer. It is a balancing act, to develop a site in a way that preserves its ecological function, while making sure it works for humans and animals.”
Credit: Straits Times