As a Singaporean runner, you already know how assertive the government has been about maintaining, creating and nurturing green space, but what you might not know is that the most spectacular long-range project any country has tackled in recent memory is beginning to take shape: the rejuvenation of an area that once hosted the nation’s busiest rail line.
A team of designers, bio-engineers, animal and plant scientists and municipal planners are about to transform this corridor into a wonderland of activity spaces and linked running paths that will serve millions of people. No group will benefit from this largesse more than Singapore runners.
The Rail Corridor: A Humble History
You may be familiar with this 15-mile parcel of land. It was carved out of vegetation at the turn of the 20th Century by British engineers intent upon connecting one end of Singapore to the other by rail. Time passed. The use of rail transport literally fell by the wayside over the years and that long snake of track began a methodical return to its former overgrown state as the earth reclaimed the land.
By 2011, Singaporeans from all walks of life, as well as municipal and environmental planners, had had enough of the blight. The railway’s infrastructure was removed, but what was to become of the vast swath of land now in the backyards of more than a million people living, working and taking recreation along the former railway? In some people’s eyes, a small miracle was on the horizon.
The Future of the Rail Corridor
Communities, neighbourhoods, government officials and environmentally-responsible entities joined together to re-imagine this corridor’s potential. Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority helped steer an initiative to develop the land into an all-purpose chain of natural-use enclaves sprawling across the parcel. Singapore residents who crave more green space and harmonious, purposeful design will be thrilled by the makeover.
Runners, in particular, can look forward to a continuous path that’s even longer than the distance covered by a half-marathon, so for those wishing to up their training distance, can 15 contiguous miles be anything but an amazing gift? Runners won’t be the only beneficiaries; plans call for bike and pedestrian use plus eight “activity nodes.” These stations give Singaporeans places to rest, rock climb, socialize or engage in Yoga and Tai Chi.
Designed by Japan’s Nikken Sekkai firm – they won the contest held to find the contractor for the project – plans were firmed up in 2014 as feedback from Singaporeans living along the corridor was solicited. News that over 100 paths will be joined together to shape a single running path is a particularly exciting outcome for runners as this ambitious project moves full steam into the future.
To prepare the land, infrastructure improvements were necessary. Among the most ambitious and extensive is the Murnane pipeline, since about half of its 22km length of pipe will run beneath the corridor. Construction is estimated to run between 2016 and 2019. Further, the two steel truss bridges along the former railway will be conserved at both the Rail Mall and the Bukit Timah Railway Station and given landmark status so they have the same legal protection as those given to the Botanic Gardens bandstand and central business district bridges.
Worried that your regular run is going to be interrupted by construction because you frequent a path that’s in the middle of this huge project? Don’t be. There’s a master plan in place that prioritizes the recreational needs of Singaporeans, so the work will be done in sections and then progressively be re-opened as soon as each section is complete to keep citizens’ routine disruptions to a minimum.
Lines of Life: The Rail Corridor Rejuvenated
Want to know what you can expect once this corridor is complete? The project name says it all: Lines of Life. This all-purpose green space will physically and symbolically connect Singaporeans, from recreational runners eager to train here to millions of people benefiting from a more scenic commute to work and home. There’s not an age or stage of community life that won’t be represented once the corridor is complete.
In terms of aesthetics, everyone involved in the creation of this park has taken into account design objectives that are important to the nation’s sensibilities: space, nature, time and people. A mission statement includes three critical objectives: extension of modern life, the perpetuation of a green horizon and the potential for development as a result of improved space. Specifically in this video:
- The Line of Life is sure to inspire citizenry to take pride in this accomplishment because it has so much capacity to improve the lives of Singaporeans thanks to the unique and diverse uses the finished park offers,
- Just about everyone depending upon accessible ways to get around will benefit from 122 access points along the corridor that are just five minute walks from offices and homes,
- Signage installed throughout the network is going to point millions of people to points of interest and activities that encourage healthy lifestyles and fitness,
- Safety and comfort issues are addressed; from concrete pavers offering runners uniform, smooth running surfaces to state-of-the-art lighting, even toilets, shower facilities and rest areas are included in the plan,
- The history of the railway won’t be forgotten: viable artifacts, structures and buildings are to be restored using vintage design motifs and elements to add nostalgia and evoke the railway’s heritage,
- Every aspect of the Line of Life is being undertaken in a thoughtful, sustainable way so natural habitats along the way aren’t just preserved, but biodiversity will flourish along the path into the future.
Will this ambitious undertaking benefit runners most of all? Probably. Athletes can extend the distance of conditioning runs along uniform, connected paths that are so well-lit, even night runners will feel safer. Comfort stations along the contiguous circuit mean you no longer have to finish a run and hop a bus home looking like you’ve just run a marathon, thanks to convenient showers located along the corridor. You can even climb rock walls installed along the path to add strength training to your workout.
More Running Options
When Singapore hosts marathons, ultras and even fun runs, runners will want to show off this magnificent green corridor to guests from around the world, and the impact of this Herculean effort won’t go unnoticed in their eyes. When you tell them that this corridor was once a complex made up of an overgrown rail line, disconnected running paths and, in some areas, unsightly blight, they may not believe you!
What does the construction of this ambitious project mean to you as a Singaporean runner? Additionally, if you could add one more feature to this corridor, what would it be?