The first tunnelling contract on Singapore’s 12km long US$880M Kallang/Paya Lebar expressway has been awarded to one of the country’s largest contractors.

SembCorp Engineers & Constructors, won the US$129M deal to build the East Coast Parkway-Nicoll Highway section.

The company, a subsidiary of government-controlled Singapore Technologies, beat off a challenge from 12 rival contractors to take the Land Transport Authority (LTA) contract. It will start work on the 1.5km cut-and-cover tunnel section early next year. The work also includes construction of an interchange and a ventilation building at the parkway portal.

The most challenging tunnel section, according to the LTA , will be through clay under the Geylang river. The river will be diverted temporarily. The parkway and other roads, including Tanjong Rhu Road and Stadium Boulevard, will have to be realigned during construction.

Overall about 9km of the expressway will be built in tunnel, and the Singapore authorities believe it will be the longest tunnel highway in South East Asia when completed in 2006.

The dual mainly three-lane highway will connect the East Coast Parkway with the Tampines Expressway, improving traffic flow in the north-east area of Singapore and relieving congestion on Central Expressway, currently the only major north-south highway.