August 8, 2009 Saturday

Kebun Bahru station? Where's that?

LTA dismisses 'future MRT stations' appearing in condo sales pitches

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

UOL's ad for an upcoming condo in last week's Sunday Times showed 'planned stations' like Springleaf and Kebun Bahru, even though the LTA has not confirmed any such sites.

THE proximity of MRT stations to new housing projects has long been a selling point when developments are launched, and it is common to find condominium advertisements displaying 'nearby' train stations.

But a couple of developers have taken the sales pitch one step further: by pinpointing the sites of MRT stations which have not been confirmed.

In UOL Developments' recent advertisement for Meadows@Pierce, a freehold condominium project in Upper Thomson Road expected to be ready around 2012, the developer ran a map showing station sites of the future Thomson Line, which will only be completed in 2018.

These include 'Springleaf', 'Kebun Bahru', 'Venus Drive' and 'Sin Ming' stations.

Another major developer, Far East Organization, showed the location of a 'Marine Parade MRT' station in an online page for its Silversea condo. The east coast development is expected to attain TOP in 2014.

The station is supposedly part of the Eastern Region Line, which will be completed in 2020.

The Land Transport Authority has not confirmed the alignment of the new rail projects, much less the location of stations. An LTA spokesman dismissed the developers' information as 'wild guesses'.

Far East Organization declined to comment; but Ms Claire Cher, spokesman at UOL Group, parent company of UOL Developments, said it got the location and names of the stations from - an online map service.

According to the website, the names and locations of the supposed Thomson Line stations were suggestions from users.

Ms Cher nevertheless stood by the advertisement, saying 'we're not misleading, because we put the word 'planned' under each of the station site'.

The Consumers Association of Singapore does not quite agree.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said that it fell short of the advertising industry's code of practice, which dictates that all advertisements should be 'legal, decent, honest and truthful'.

'In this case, the sites of the MRT stations as indicated in the advertisement are questionable when the LTA has not confirmed them. As such the advertisement could be misleading.'

Other developers interviewed said it is an occasional practice among some players to include hypothetical sites of new stations in their sales materials - although some frown upon it.

Mr Gerry de Silva, head of group corporate affairs at City Developments, said his company does not resort to this.

Ms Sarah Jane Smith, spokesman for SC Global Developments, said her company has never had to do so because 'all our properties have been very centrally located, so all MRT stations and lines are well established'.

The inclusion of transit stations in property ads is tightly controlled in advanced countries. In Japan for instance, the Real Estate Fair Trade Council says 'future lines or stations are not allowed to be presented in sales collaterals unless the plan is already announced to the public by the transportation company'.

Even so, the line's planned start of operation has to be clearly stated. And the walking distance between MRT station and development has to be made known.

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