‘Refurbishment of the old Railway Bridges at Rail Corridor Singapore’, with Wong Kia Fu is the fourth talk in the Commonwealth Heritage Forum’s Series on ‘Railways across the Commonwealth’ (Autumn 2023).

In 2011, the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway line ceased operations at the Tanjong Pager and Bukit Timah stations and the land was returned to Singapore. This presented an extraordinary opportunity to reimagine how to best make use of the uninterrupted 24km- long stretch of land, from Woodlands in the north all the way to Tanjong Pagar in the south.

Following extensive engagements with the community on the 24km-long strip of land now called ‘Rail Corridor’, the feedback was distilled into a set of goals for the Rail Corridor’s transformation. Agencies embarked on efforts to carefully plan and enhance the Rail Corridor into a place that everyone can enjoy. A three-way balance between the different goals was achieved by preserving the Rail Corridor as a continuous green artery and community space for users of all ages and abilities, celebrating the heritage by conserving, restoring and repurposing key railway buildings and elements, and developing the parcels of land adjacent to the Rail Corridor to meet Singaporean’s’ needs for homes, jobs and amenities.

To demonstrate the approach, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Parks Board drew up the implementation plan and carried out the improvement works for a 4km-long central stretch of the Rail Corridor, between Hillview and the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station.  The project was completed in two phases, with work on the paved trail and restoration of bridges that formed the connectivity done in 2021, and environmental improvement works to the nodes at both ends of the trail a year later.

Two steel truss bridges, one steel girder bridge, and one reinforced concrete bridge were sensitively restored and refurbished. The conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station building, along with its key architectural and railway elements, was carefully restored and repurposed as a heritage gallery. The conserved Railway Staff Quarters, a former staff housing block, has been repurposed into a café with a rustic, relaxed ambience. The 4km-long trail was strengthened with more durable pavement materials and finishes that complemented the character of the route at different stretches.

Wong is a civil engineer at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore and a part-time lecturer at Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority Academy. In his talk, Wong will share his experience of working on the Rail Corridor project, Singapore, which has seen the preservation of the Rail Corridor as a continuous green artery and community space, celebrating the heritage by conserving key railway buildings and developing the parcels of land adjacent to meet Singaporean’s needs for homes, jobs, and amenities.

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