Cross Island Line Debate Misses Elephant In Room

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Christopher Tan responded to the plans by LTA for Cross Island, which is planned to pass through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, in his piece "Cross Island Line Debate Misses Elephant In Room." (CCNR). Tan's main argument is that it is unnecessary and counterproductive to construct an MRT line underneath the largest nature reserve in order to cross a forested area that is not populated. Tan argues that the MRT line should service the general public as its primary purpose, making it illogical to continue with the Cross Island Line's proposed alignment. To support his thesis, Tan has noted several arguments. Firstly, he asserts that the proposal to go through the forest would result in irremediable damage to the habitat in this reservoir and will also render approximately 4 km void of investment and revenue. Secondly, the alternatively suggested route is logical as it will prevent the indigenous flora and fauna from destruction. Thirdly, if the alternative suggestion is adopted, various residents, especially those in Thomson, Adam and Lornie roads, and Bukit Brown will develop massively. Fourthly, it is senseless for LTA to argue that the alternative route will incur increased cost, use more land, involve longer travelling time and challenge the engineering, because the route will definitely serve more people in the community. Fifthly, Tan argues that even though it will be costly to opt for the diversion, the revenue that will come with the line will be so huge because populated areas will be served, thereby paying for the higher cost. Sixthly, it is illogical to say that the alternative option will use more land because whenever a new rail line is built, land has to be used, especially if the land is acquired for the larger good. Seventhly, LTA should not talk about the challenge that the alternative route may pose to engineering because they have never shied away from challenges before (Tan, 2016).

The ideas and issues presented in Tan’s article are sound, but some can be disagreed against. The main argument that the article logically presents is that the route running through the CCNR will disrupt the nature reserve and will not be at a position to serve many people as the alternative route would. According to Nature Society (Singapore) (2013) and Sreedharan (2013), the nature reserve’s main purpose is to conserve the native flora and fauna and should not merely be seen as a vacant land of the state through which transport corridors should be placed. The Nature society (2013) continues to agree with Tan in the believe that construction works as well as engineering investigations for the Cross Island Line has a potential of severely degrading pristine habitats in the Nature reserve and it is for this reason why the design alignment should be adjusted to prevent crossing the reserve. Moreover, Yew (2014), says that the CCNR encompasses a notable portion of the country’s remaining primary forest coverage and it is for this reason that the nature enthusiasts and nature society have raised their concerns about the impact of the new line on the nation’s natural endowment. On the other hand, Lim (2016A) has argued against the alternative route by saying that going around the CCNR will run underneath privately owned homes residing near the Upper Thomson Road. This suggestion will not only influence people in terms of losing their homes, but will also impact their lives. The MRT tunnels will also go through businesses and buildings, which will require acquisition. According to Lim (2016), it would be sensible to go through the Nature Reserve because if mitigation measures are correctly applied, there will be minimal impact on animals and plants. People usually have emotional attachment to their homes and no matter how much compensation they are offered, they will be unwilling to move (Lim, 2016B). Moreover, Tan’s arguments have been disputed by Leong (2016), who said that if the Cross Island Line stretches across the CCNR, commuters will be saved up to 40 minutes of travel. He has continued to say that the line will have a potential everyday ridership of about 600,000 commuters and will connect them to major centers of employment with notably reduced travelling times. Ting (2016) has also disputed Tan’s argument by noting that LTA will make its final decisions after considering factors such as transport links, land use and the manner in which the residents and businesses will be affected. In support to this assertion, (2016) notes that the works of the proposed investigation of the site as well as the implementation of mitigation measures and access that is controlled will be undertaken with moderate impact on the nature reserve’s few parts where the works will be carried out. In the same light, Ministry of Communication and Information (2016) says that direct tunnel’s alignment will have no constructions of infrastructure on the surface in the CCNR.

Generally, Tan’s argument is sensible because he has tried to defend it through logical arguments and facts. If the LTA want to make a commercial impact using the line, then they would definitely opt for Tan’s argument and adopt the proposal that suggests going round the CCNR because it will serve more people and thus increased revenue and more chances for employment. However, Tan’s argument is weak because he has concentrated on showing the economic value of adopting the alternative route without considering the challenges it will have for the people in the affected area. Therefore, Tan could have made his argument more convincing by acknowledging the various challenges that the alternative route could raise and how they could be addressed for the people to enjoy the line they will be easily assessing in the populated areas.


Tan’s argument that any transport infrastructure has the main aim of serving people in the community is sound and MTR line should be aimed at achieving the same goal. However, even though Tan believes that LTA should not consider the engineering, travel time, land acquisition and cost when making a choice between the two proposals, many other people have expressed their disregard to his argument and proved him wrong. If indeed achievement of what is best for the general public is the main goal, then all other factors should be considered regardless of where the line passes through.


Leong, C.M. (2016). Cross Island Line could save commuters 40 minutes: LTA chief. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Lim, A. (2016A). Cross Island Line sparks residents' fears: Proposed path of MRT tunnels around nature reserve could require home acquisition. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Lim, A. (2016B). If Only Singaporeans Stopped to Think. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from (2016). LTA Gazettes Environmental Impact Assessment (Phase 1) Report For Cross Island Line. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Ministry of Communication and Information. (2016). Questions on the Cross Island Line. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Nature Society (Singapore). (2013). Cross Island Line: Discussion and Position Paper. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Sreedharan, S. (2013). Cross Island Line: LTA to study different paths, impact on environment. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Tan, C. (2016). Cross Island Line debate misses elephant in room. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Ting, K.Y. (2016). LTA speaking to those likely to be affected by Cross Island Line’s route. Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

Yew, L.K. (2014). The Proposed Cross Island Line in Singapore: Nature or Development? Retrieved online on 26h February, 2017 from

June 26, 2023

Nature Infrastructure

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