Over the past 18 months I have been checking out the 300-km network of trails of our well-curated PCN network.
I am in awe.
Each one is so special that I just cannot not bring myself to pick 10 — at the expense of the others — for a top-10 listing.
Hence I have decided to combine the treks by theme and difficulty (Level 1 being easy and Level 5 treacherous).
The first trek I’d like to share is that of the Rail Corridor.
The 24-km Rail Corridor Experience (Level 1/5)
The Disappearing Trail
The first is a leisurely walk in the park enveloped by lush greenery along the former Malaysian KTM Railway route stretching from Woodlands in the north to Tanjong Pagar in the south. Operations ceased in 2011. The corridor is divided into three sections; the North Rail Corridor (10km); the Central Rail Corridor (4km); and the South Rail Corridor (10km).
Let’s focus first on the fast-disappearing original trail of the North Rail Corridor. This will be replaced in 2024 by a new path of either fine gravel, porous concrete, glow-in-the-dark or grass and gravel. So if you are hunkering after a rustic trek traversing barely-marked trails while imagining the former Malaysian KTM trains chugging along beside you, head out to Hillview station and on to Kranji and Woodlands.
Work has already begun on the section from Hillview station to Junction 10. However, you will be able to stroll among tall shady trees, shrubs, and grassland on the adjacent pavement where the bus stops are. Soon you should reach the Ten Mile Junction.
The journey from Ten Mile Junction
Facing the mall, head to the right and you’ll see a huge carpark for trucks. Walk through to the Pang Sua Canal. Remember to walk/keep to the right of the canal. The well-manicured PCN is on the left, whereas you would be skipping over puddles of water at times, heading in the direction of Woodlands.
When you reach Sungei Kadut, cross the road and continue on the path you see on the right. This stretch is the most tranquil and you can immerse yourself in some forest-bathing while listening to collared kingfishers. Eventually you’ll see the Kranji MRT train track looming above you. The trail gets really muddy after the rain about 30 metres before the Kranji Close intersection. And that entrance has been boarded up for maintenance as at end October. You can do an about-turn and enjoy the walk back to the Rail Mall for a hearty meal and take some pictures at the steel truss bridge.
The Rainbow Bridge
You may have heard of the highlight near the North Rail Corridor: the instagrammable Rainbow Bridge. From the bus stop opposite Kranji MRT station, take bus 170 and alight at the second bus stop (Kranji Lodge 1). Walk through the car park and you’ll see a wide walkway on the right that will take you to Kranji Lodge 1.
Allow ample time to take pictures of and on the famous Rainbow Bridge. After crossing the Bridge, turn right and pass through the elusive gate (closed from 10am to 5 pm). Then take the first left and walk through the tall lallang. This narrow path will fan out into a pleasant 10-minute walk through the tall canopied trees. This will lead to the Kranji Close intersection mentioned earlier.
Cross over diagonally to the Heritage marker sign with the blue building on your right and continue on to Hillview if the entrance has not been barricaded. If you cannot trek back to Hillview, take the bus 925 on the side where you emerged from to Kranji station or Woodlands Interchange. You can pick a lunch stop from the many eateries at Causeway Point Shopping Mall.
Part 2 of the Rail Corridor
The Heritage Trail
Perhaps on a separate day, you can embark on the Central and South Rail Corridor trek. This time you may want to cycle on the well-paved shared track. At the one end is the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, gazetted as a National Monument. Also on the Corridor, two steel truss bridges, one spanning Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road, and the other on Upper Bukit Timah Road (both bulit in 1932), have been gazetted as conserved structures.
The 4-km Central Rail Corridor
You can access the corridor from the Rail Mall where the truss bridge is (steps opposite Springleaf Prata) and cycle or walk comfortably to the old Bukit Timah Railway Station. There are eight entry points with two being wheelchair accessible. Once on it you’ll pass interesting heritage sights. The Bukit Timah Railway Station is already undergoing refurbishment to become a heritage gallery, with the Station Master’s Quarters becoming an F&B outlet.
The 10-km South Rail Corridor
After you pass the fringe of the Clementi Forest on your right, you’d be awed by the next highlight and great picture spo: the massive Bukit Timah Diversion Canal (1972). This canal diverts much of the water that used to cause heavy flooding in the Bukit Timah area.
The next scenic point is a lush undulating green valley; not advisable to trek as the gradient is steep with the climb leading nowhere. As you walk through an underpass towards Buona Vista, you’ll hear the traffic of Holland Road (Cold Storage Jelita) overhead. Trekkers join the route here too as there are steps from the supermarket leading to the corridor.
Shortly after cycling past the commercial buildings in One-north, you’ll get a glimpse of the first HDB flats built in the 1960s: Singapore’s first satellite town–Queenstown. It was amazing to see so many shorter paths branching out from the Rail Corridor for the residents to take shortcuts from their homes to the offices in the Portsdown and Ayer Rajah area.
With Queensway in sight and the sound of the traffic still muted, I cycled past the back of the Sri Muneeswaran Temple, the Blessed Sacrament Church, and a quaint mosque named Masjid Hang Jebat. Around the corner was the Alexandra Hospital. The trail is dotted with many overhead bridges and highway flyovers. Soon after the Ayer Rajah Expressway and the Interlace I found myself beside all the vehicle workshops at Alexandra Village. And the famous food joints. So if claypot laksa calls out to you, detour and delight in it. You’d be all fired up to press on to Jalan Bukit Merah and Lower Delta.
The final stretch beside Keppel Road can get rather hot as there is not much shade. In the distance is not a mirage but the sepia-toned signal station of the conserved Tanjong Pagar Railway Station proudly displaying the words “Singapura”. Work on the station is still ongoing as it is being developed as a multi-functional community building.
As we have come to the end of our railroad journey, may you document your own memories too as you traverse different trails. And you may be making new tracks while at it. Go for it!