A Morning Walk on a future green link in urban Singapore
A shot for the album – with BG Tan Chuan Jin along the Rail Corridor
Earlier in the week, I received an email from the Ministry of National Development to invite me to join the Minister of State, BG Tan Chuan Jin, on his walk on the Rail/Green Corridor – the railway track that used to belong to Malaysia. This rail corridor, totalling some 173Ha and stretching 24km from Tg Pagar to Woodlands, ceased functioning on 1 Jul 2011 and the land vested to Singapore after a long bilateral exchange and the agreement was finally settled.
This was the view at the start of the trek – looking towards the KTM railway line
0620 hrs : After a short wait, the group was almost 30-40 strong (just my estimate, as it was still dark, and my brain was supposed to be still asleep!). Led by BG Tan, the group set off into the darkness. Fortunately, there was just enough light from the street lamps and adjacent buildings to light up the railway track. My iPhone clock read 6:25am as the group hit the tracks and started walking on the gravelly trail.
Off into the darkness!
0630 hrs : There was the usual laughter and banter amongst friends and new-found acquaintances and the group was in high spirits. BG Tan zoomed off at SAF Road March pace, leaving the less fit amongst us (including yours truly) huffing and puffing behind. Fortunately, he eased off his pace and spent some time taking photos with his D700 (one up for Nikon!), and walking back to make sure that all the stragglers moved along.
We walked in the dim lighting of the street lights and nearby apartments as dawn was breaking
0645 hrs : As we pounded the loose gravel and skipped on the railway track sleepers, the natural scenery that unfolded was inspiring. The lush greenery that bounded both sides of the track offered a visual relief from the surroundings, and the morning air was alive with birds singing. My favourite butterflies however, were obviously still fast asleep.
0655 am : Just before 7:00am, the morning light took on a bluish pall, washing everything in its wake an unnatural pale mauve. The air was still, and the infamous tropical humidity started to take effect on the group. We passed the HDB flats at Bukit Merah, and walked briskly along the tracks, never far from the drone of the morning traffic that was beginning to build up.
0740 hrs : Pressing on, we could see an Indian temple on the right (Sri Muneeswaran Temple) and other regious buildings. A little further, Block 55, Commonwealth Drive with its eye-catching colour, dominated the vista along the track. The rolling fields and lush greenery of Wessex Estate embraced the few bungalows on the left of the track.
Having a break under the Buona Vista viaduct. Graffiti or Art?
0815 hrs : After a quick rest, the group pushed on, passing the backyards of some nice bungalows that probably housed the rich and famous. The homeowners took full advantage of the borrowed views that the open rail tracks offered, some even appearing to encroach onto the side tables of the tracks for their own use! I wonder if any of these homeowners are having problems sleeping, without the rumble and tumble of the KTM trains passing just a few metres away from their windows daily.
Two big bungalows along the trail
0830 hrs : Moving past the Holland Road area, we reached a nice green patch of forest as the rail track straightened out, heading towards the Bukit Timah Station. Already there were many others on the track, young and old, on two feet and on wheels, out and about on this Saturday morning.
The Bukit Timah Railway Station
0900 hrs : The little solitary single-storeyed building that was the Bukit Timah Station came into view, as the track split and widened into three different tracks. There was a crowd around the whole area, making me wonder where they all came from!
BG Tan being interviewed by the Media, and surrounded by well-wishers and curious onlookers
0915 hrs : The ChannelNewsAsia crew that was following us interviewed the people around, and very soon, there was a crowd around BG Tan as he spoke to the journalists and mingled with the largely Singaporean crowd. I recognised a few familiar faces amongst the nature photographers, toting their professional equipment and shooting everything that they considered worth digitally recording for posterity.
A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?
1000 hrs : A little further, we crossed one of the iron bridges over Bukit Timah and Dunearn Roads. The typical black-painted bridge is one of many along the route. There was a small crowd walking to and fro, taking photos and just enjoying the higher vantage point over the busy road.
1010 hrs : I remarked to my friend from URA that the authorities would have concern at the level of safety (or lack thereof) on this bridge. The "railings" that stood between the curious visitors and a 5m drop onto two major roads was just a simple strand of barbed wire!
BG Tan (in blue) chatting with friends
10:30 hrs : The compass on my iPhone read NorthEast as we marched off over Bukit Timah Road, and towards our midway lunch stop. After crossing Bt Timah Road, we headed on towards Rifle Range Road. We moved onto a straight track, and I remember a veteran walker who was with us, telling me that the track ran straight for 2km along this stretch. The backyards of the condominiums along Upper Bukit Timah Road were on our left, as we walked on growling tummies towards the last lap of the first half of BG Tan's walk.
This was a lush area, with the greenery of Bt Timah Nature Reserve on the right of the track, and I was beginning to see quite a few butterflies flying around, now that the weather is warmer and they have woken up. But the species were still mainly the urban common ones like the Chocolate Pansy, Striped Albatross, Psyche, Grass Yellows and several Bush Browns.