I refer to the $40-million makeover of Orchard Road in the article So, What's New? (LifeStyle, March 15).
Despite the best intentions of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), I think the money could have been better spent elsewhere. The beautiful flower towers and elegant glass panels are barely noticeable against the steel and concrete towers of the malls.
I have a few suggestions on where the money could have been spent.
Improve the pedestrian walkways and underpasses between shopping malls. Widen them, replace steps with ramps, escalators with travellators and/or lifts. This will make Orchard Road more accessible to people with prams, the elderly and those in wheelchairs.
Consider building elevated walkways connecting the shopping malls along both sides of Orchard Road. The walkways could also serve as blank canvases for artists and designers.
How about turning Orchard Road into a street for pedestrians only? With the Circle Line & Downtown Line MRT extensions, there would be less reason for Singaporeans to drive through Orchard Road. If needed, elevated roadways above Bukit Timah Road or a tunnel under Orchard Road itself could be built.
This would cost a lot more than $40 million but given the economic downturn and the drop in tourist arrivals and spending, it would be cheaper and less disruptive if we were to start work now.
The planters may add more greenery to Orchard Road but orchids need the right environment to grow. Most of the orchids died after one week. Kids and other pedestrians also pulled out the flowers to take home as souvenirs.
The glass panels look okay but why ruin the whole look and put multi-coloured lights below them? That makes the panels look cheap. If you want colour, keep to one colour. But get rid of the flashing lights. Orchard Road is a premier shopping district, not a disco.
I have the following suggestions to improve Orchard Road.
Widen the pedestrian crossings at traffic junctions. The pedestrian crossings at the Wheelock and Shaw junction, Paragon and Takashimaya junction, Mandarin hotel and Heeren junction, and Paragon and Park Hotel junction are too narrow to cope with the huge crowds at weekends.
Upgrade the escalators between Far East Plaza and Royal Plaza hotel. The escalators are heavily used and break down regularly. And the overhead bridge is an eyesore.
Perhaps we should call it 'Ouch-ard' Road for the ridiculous amount of money spent on minor cosmetic changes.
The STB is happy to spend $40 million on things that have limited appeal but try getting a $10 deposit back for an expired Singapore Tourism Pass.
The makeover was a big letdown. The changes were so inconspicuous that I thought that the makeover was still in progress.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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