Since 2011, construction along the Down Town Line 2 (DTL2) MRT line and stations has left these home owners in Duchess Road in Bukit Timah with nagging headaches and genuine fears for their safety.
According to these landed property owners, they found their homes damaged due to the massive construction work that was taking place just 70 meters away from their home at the Tan Kah Kee MRT Station. Cracked and slanted walls, burst water pipes and front gates that are unable to properly shut were among some of the more serious issues.
However, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and its contractors have not given them a satisfactory answer or compensation for their woes. At least 6 residents who spoke to reporters blamed the LTA and its construction on the DTL2 for their problems.
Two residents, Mr and Mrs Lim, serve as the spokespersons for the affected residents. The couple, who are in their 50s, said that repeated attempts to get the LTA and its contractors to be responsible have fallen on deaf ears.
In September 2011, cracks started to appear on the walls of their house. A year later, more cracks surfaced on their car porch roof, allowing rainwater to seep through and dislodging a shoe cabinet. Several tiles in the porch had also cracked and become dislodged.
After they lodged a complaint, LTA surveyed the defects and installed devices to track any widening of cracks. Instruments were also fixed outside a few houses to stabilise the ground.
LTA’s Austrian contractor, Alpine Bau, also did some interim repairs on the couple’s home in both 2011 and 2012, assuring them that full repairs will be conducted after the completion of the station.
However, Alpine Bau went bust in 2013 – before full repairs could be done – and a South Korean contractor, SK E&C, was appointed to take over construction works.
The Lims were left helpless after that.
In June 2014, the Lims and their immediate neighbour, who only wanted to be known as Mr Yang, discovered that they could not fully close the front gates as the wall supporting them had tilted to one side.
The new contractor, SK E&C installed a temporary metal bar to prevent the wall from tilting further. Mr Yang says that he too had made a similar request as Mr Lim, but his was rejected and he had to chisel away part of his wall for the gates to close. Mr Yang was told his cracks were caused by a palm tree outside his home.
Another resident, Mrs Tan, says that the construction caused her underground water pipes to burst twice, once in 2012 and then 2014. She discovered the leakages only after the Public Utilities Board billed her for a whopping $800 on average.
Besides being made to foot the huge water bill, she had to spend $3,450 to repair her pipes.
The People’s Action Party’s Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Mr Christopher de Souza says he has made two home visits over the last couple of years.
“I have requested a compensation board to be convened to address the families’ concerns in an impartial way to resolve the difference in views.”
When asked for a response, LTA explained that a survey carried out in 2009 found that some houses had pre-existing cracks. Independent experts also later assessed that the construction works did not cause damage to the Duchess Road houses, added LTA.
The LTA spokesman said: “Residents who do not agree with the assessment made by the independent experts may refer their claims to an independent Compensation Board, which is headed by a District Judge.”
The Compensation Board requires the residents to engage a lawyer – a move they have not been keen on as it would incur additional costs.
“We have invested $1 million of our life savings into building our dream house,” Mrs Lim said with tears welling up in her eyes. “To be dealing with unaccounted damages like these for over five years now is really, very tiring. “