Derailed HSR project threatens Jurong's CBD dreams

Jurong Lake District was supposed to be a terminus for the rail project.

The fate of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) hangs in the balance as Malaysia has yet to formalise its decision to cancel the multibillion-dollar project.

The HSR was expected to not only speed up travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It was supposed to make Jurong Lake District (JLD) one of its terminus and consequently usher the area to become the second “central” business district (CBD) of Singapore.

Also read: What to expect from the future Jurong Lake District

Moreover, it was expected to support the gradual development of the JLD, which shed its grubby image of a pollutive industrial estate prior to the announcement of the HSR, said Tay Huey Ying, head of research & consultancy, JLL. “Its transformation started way back when the 2008 master plan positioned it as a lakeside destination for business and leisure.”

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) also intended to place JLD near the upcoming Tuas Megaport to create 100,000 new jobs in the maritime, infrastructure and technology sectors.

“The siting of the HSR terminus within the district was touted as a game changer owing to its potential to stimulate commercial activities and development around it via direct inter-country link,” Tay said.

However, Tay herself argued that Jurong still has a lot going for it even if the HSR has been scrapped. “The development of the Jurong Innovation District and Tuas Megaport will build on its existing strengths which includes proximity to talent from the tertiary institutions such as NTU, NUS and SUSS, and the availability of a large population base to support commercial activities and business operations,” she said.

Moreover, JLD’s connectivity remains attractive as it will eventually be served by four MRT lines. The Jurong Regional Line and the Cross Island Line will join The East-West and North-South Line.

Also read: Upcoming Cross Island Line expected to have 600,000 passengers daily

“Hence, likening the situation to a game of chess, the king can still be saved with the remaining key pieces although re-strategising and repositioning will be required,” Tay commented. Jurong still has the prospects to be a smart and sustainable mixed-use business district that will support Singapore’s next phase of economic transformation.

However, its ambition to be Singapore’s second CBD will be more challenging now that the spin-offs expected from the direct inter-country link offered by the HSR terminus will no longer be realised.

Meanwhile, homes in the district are expected to remain appealing and continue to ride the wave of rising prices sweeping across the wider market. “Interest in commercial properties could pick up when the development of Jurong Innovation District and Tuas Megaport gain more traction, and/or when the rental differential between CBD and decentralized offices widen to such an extent as to motivate decentralisation either partially or fully for cost savings purpose,” Tay concluded.

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