The first electric trams in Singapore began operations on 24 July 1905.
The enactment of The Tramways Ordinance in 1902 by the Municipal Authorities in Singapore allowed the London-registered company, Singapore Tramways, Limited, to set up a tramway system as well as future transport services.On 29 March 1905, Singapore Electric Tramways, Limited, took over the management of the tram development from Singapore Tramways, Limited.
There were six tramway lines, which were based on the routes of the former steam tram service that was discontinued in 1894. The routes covered Telok Blangah Road to Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Road to Geylang Road, Anson Road to Johnston’s Pier, Bras Basah Road to Serangoon Road, Serangoon Road to Kallang Road and High Street to Tank Road.
Despite trial runs of the electric trams being reported in the local newspapers — possibly to drum up some public interest — the official opening of the trams on 24 July 1905 drew little response.
Besides the limited tram routes covering areas away from town, high fares and the complicated payment structure added to the public’s reluctance to commute via tram. Tram rides were initially charged by the number of sections in a route or by the full distance of the route, with fares ranging from 10 to 20 cents. This was expensive in comparison to other existing modes of transportation such as rickshaws or gharries (horse carriages), as well as the fare standards in England.
Tram fares were eventually reduced to as low as three cents per section. More people began to use the trams and in 1909 an average of 32,000 passengers a day used the trams.
However, trams faced a variety of issues such as obstructions on tramlines, boycotts by Chinese guilds, as well as infrastructure and mechanical issues.
In 1922, under advice from the Shanghai Electric Construction Company, tram operations were revamped, including repairs to the tramcars and revised fare scales in an effort to keep the system going. The situation improved and the operators were able to turn a profit.
In 1923, an ordinance proposing the substitution of trams with trolleybuses was drafted and passed in October 1925 as the Singapore Traction Ordinance. The service officially came to an end on 4 September 1927.
1. TRAMWAYS START RUNNING. (1905, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; York, F. W., & Phillips, A. R. (1996). Singapore: A history of its trams, trolleybuses & buses. Vol. I, 1880's to 1960's (p. 27). Surrey: DTS Publishing Ltd. Call no.: RSING q388.41322095957 YOR; THE NEW TRAMWAYS. (1905, February 17). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. 16, 27.; Singapore Electric Tramway Company. (1905, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. 16–17.
4. THE TRAMWAY. (1905, May 26). The Straits Times, p. 5; ELECTRIC TRAM STARTS (1905, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 4; SINGAPORE ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS. (1905, April 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The Straits Times, 24 Jul 1905, p. 4; York & Phillips, 1996, p. 27.
6. Khoo, B. L. (1972, November 17). Singapore's first power station. New Nation, p. 9; From trams to trolleys. (1979, July 9). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. , 28.
8. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. 29–.
9. York & Phillips, 1996, p. 28; ELECTRIC TRAMS VERSUS JINRICKISHAS (1906, April 13). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Waterson, R. (2003). Gathering speed: transport and the pace of life. In Chan, K. B, & Tong, C. K. (Eds.). Past times: A social history of Singapore (pp. 112–113). Singapore: Times Edition. Call no.: RSING 959.57 PAS-[HIS]
10. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. 28, –32.
11. York & Phillips, 1996, pp. 33–35.
12. York & Phillips, 1996, p. 35.
The information in this article is valid as at Feb 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.