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Moving mountains

A great place to watch MRT trains pass by at close quarters is a hillock next to Block 542 Bukit Batok Street 51.

Here, trains go through a short tunnel in the hillock between Bukit Gombak and Bukit Batok MRT stations of the North South Line. The security fence doesn’t cover much of the hillock, so one can get quite close to the trains.

The hillock.
A train emerging from the tunnel.
The tunnel from ground level.

The natural surface of the hillock, with dense forest and bush, belies the curious fact that when construction of this stretch of MRT line took place in the mid-1980s, the top of the hillock was actually excavated for the train tunnel, to save on the costs of tunnelling.

The Straits Times reported in 1986:

The rounded top of the 25-metre-high mound – making up about 5,000 truckloads of earth – has been removed to make room for a 130-metre long MRT tunnel.

Credit: Singapore Press Holdings.

Once the square tunnel is ready, the excavated earth, stored nearby, will be brought back to build up the hillock again.

The Mass Rapid Transit Corporation will restore it the way it was, with the help of topographical drawings and pictures of the old hillock. Residents in the area wanted to keep their piece of high ground, seldom seen in Singapore.

The hillock was reconstructed by the end of 1988, and Bukit Gombak and Bukit Batok stations opened in 1990.

The hillock today. Credit: Google Maps.

Building an MRT line literally involves moving mountains!


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