Singapore’s nature community disappointed by move to bore tunnel under forest for trains

Singapore’s Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Photo: NParks
Singapore’s Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Photo: NParks

Singapore’s nature enthusiasts today expressed disappointment over the government’s decision to bore a tunnel directly under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for an upcoming train line, instead of skirting around it. 

The Ministry of Transport announced late yesterday its decision to bore a 2-kilometer tunnel 70 meters deep underneath the reserve for the Cross Island Line, or CRL, instead of skirting around it, claiming that the former would provide a shorter traveling time by about six minutes. Skirting 9 kilometers around the forest is also said to potentially cost taxpayers S$2 billion more. 

“It was a foregone conclusion as nature will always take a backseat to money in Singapore,” Facebook user Herman Phua wrote. 

Plans to build Singapore’s eighth train line was announced six years ago, after which the government engaged with stakeholders including local nature groups who were concerned that the tunnel would cut directly under the primary and regrowth of centuries-old trees. Some also said that construction works could affect the forest’s surface.

Map showing the two tunnel alignment options indicated in blue and pink. Graphic: Land Transport Authority
Map showing the two tunnel alignment options indicated in blue and pink. Graphic: Land Transport Authority

Among those who were involved in discussions with the authorities was the Nature Society (Singapore).

“We tried … but it’s decided,” a post by the Facebook group’s administrator read, as others chimed in with dismay.

“We know you had tried. Thanks! This is to be expected. They had long decided before your proposal was brought to their attention. I just feel very sad for the flora and fauna whose lives we humans are going to destroy in the name of modernization,” commenter Gina Chang wrote.

“A sad result indeed but at least you tried, thank you! I hope that the nature groups can continue to work with the government and have more mitigation measures during the construction!” Toby Tan wrote.

The government’s decision also came a little over a month after the death of Singaporean nature conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai, who was also involved in discussions with authorities, one noted.

“On looking back, I find it strange that our beloved nature conservationist Subaraj died an untimely death, since he was a key member involved in the discussion with LTA regarding the underground MRT tunnel construction plans,” one Jimmy Tan said.

Measuring 50 kilometers, the Cross Island Line is set to become Singapore’s longest underground train line, spanning from Changi in the east to Jurong Industrial Estate in the west. 

On the decision to cut directly under the nature reserve, transport minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday highlighted that the government has decided to build the tunnel much deeper than the regular depths of other train tunnels. 

We consulted widely and deeply. Eventually, we decided to cross it, but dive deep under the Nature Reserve: 70 meters deep under and within solid granite rock,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Normally, MRT tunnels are about 30 meters deep under. With CRL, we decided to go much deeper, so that any impact on the flora and fauna in the Nature Reserve can be almost completely eliminated,” he added. 

“We thank the Nature Groups for their advice, suggestions, and understanding. We will continue to work with them as we move the project into the next phase of Advanced Engineering Study, design and construction.”


Singapore mourns veteran nature and wildlife conservationist Subaraj Rajathurai

Find all episodes of The Coconuts Podcast

Reader Interactions

Leave A Reply


Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on