Bukit Timah Railway Station



The Bukit Timah Railway Station (BTRS) was originally constructed to serve as one of five railway stations along the Singapore-Kranji Railway. Together with the Alexandra and Tanglin Halt stations, BTRS was later used to service the suburban areas of Singapore.1 The station was closed down when the Malaysian-operated railway service in Singapore ceased operations in July 2011.2 The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) gazetted the station as a conservation building on 27 May that same year.3

Background
The first railway in Singapore, the Singapore-Kranji Railway, was completed in 1903. The line ran between Tank Road and Kranji and consisted of five stations: Singapore, Newton, Cluny, Bukit Timah and Woodlands. Extensions to the line were later made to Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang.4 In 1912, the Federated Malay States Railways (FSMR), which managed the railway lines in Malaya, took over the management of railways in Singapore. Following the takeover, the railways network in Singapore was managed as part of the Malayan railways system.5


The BTRS was one of five stations in Singapore that made up the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur railway route. The FSMR started operating the route from 1923 following the completion of the Causeway. The Malayan railway company Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) took over operating the route from 1948.6

In 1932, a deviation from the main Singapore-Kuala Lumpur line was completed. The 13.6 km-long route ran through Bukit Timah, Tanglin and Alexandra before terminating at Tanjong Pagar. The deviation was part of a plan to double the length of the Woodlands-Tank Road line, with a terminus at the foot of Fort Canning. Work had started on the new line but was stopped because of an economic slump in 1921. The doubling scheme was later abandoned and the deviation was built instead.7

In March 1966, a branch route between Bukit Timah and Jurong opened to traffic.8 The line was constructed by Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) to serve the newly established industrial estate of Jurong, while KTM maintained the tracks.9

Unlike the art décor style of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the architectural design of the BTRS is a simple one. The station comprises an unadorned brick building constructed in the style of traditional stations commonly found in the small towns of the United Kingdom and Malaysia.10 In its final years, the station operated mainly as a freight interchange. It was also where key tokens were exchanged between drivers and the stationmaster.11


Transfer of railway lands
On 27 November 1990, then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew signed a Point of Agreement (POA) with Malaysia’s then Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin to settle the legal dispute over the land surrounding KTM railway stations in Singapore.12 Under a 1918 ordinance, KTM was allowed to use the 63 hectares of land surrounding the Kranji, Keppel (Tanjong Pagar) and Woodlands stations for the purpose of operating the railway service.13 After Singapore gained independence in 1965, KTM retained ownership of the railway land and structures.

Under the POA, KTM was to move its terminus station from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands and return the land surrounding the railway stations in Singapore to the Singapore government. In return, KTM would receive three parcels of land in Singapore to be jointly developed by a Singapore-Malaysia company with a 40-60 ownership.14


Between 1991 and 1998, Malaysia made several requests for Singapore to add the land surrounding the BTRS to the POA agreement.15 The implementation of the POA was not smooth sailing as Malaysia questioned whether the POA was a legally binding document and delayed moving its immigration and customs checkpoint from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands.16

Closure
The BTRS, together with the other KTM railway stations in Singapore, was decommissioned in July 2011. The railway structures, including the tracks, buildings, gates, posts, ballasts and cables, were dismantled over several months following the decommissioning. The BTRS building, platform, adjacent tracks and the nearby steel bridge were preserved.17


After its closure, the BTRS was used as a venue for several public events, including a theatre production by Drama Box, a Chinese theatre company. The station and the railway tracks were also opened to the public for nature walks.18
 
Green lung and rail corridor
Following the decommissioning of the railway service, several interest groups raised concerns about the future of the areas surrounding the station. Given its proximity to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, there were calls for the flora and fauna around the BTRS to be preserved.19 There were also concerns that the natural environment surrounding the station and railway tracks would be damaged during the removal works.20


In response to such concerns, the Singapore government announced that the areas around the former railway tracks at Bukit Timah would be conserved as part of the planned Rail Corridor, which would also feature recreational and leisure venues.21



Author
Jaime Koh



References

1.  Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2011). Rail Corridor: History. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/history.html
2. Chua, G. (2012, January 1).  Final pieces of KTM track removed. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3.
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2011, May 27) Bukit Timah Railway Station conserved [Press release]. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/2011/pr11-62.html
4. 
Federated Malay States Railways. (1935). Fifty years of railways in Malaya, 1885–1935 [Microfilm no.: NL 25928]. Kuala Lumpur, F.M.S., Kyle, Palmer & Co., Ltd., printers and engravers, p. 24.
5.
Federated Malay States Railways. (1935). Fifty years of railways in Malaya, 1885–1935 [Microfilm no.: NL 25928]. Kuala Lumpur, F.M.S., Kyle, Palmer & Co., Ltd., printers and engravers, p. 24; Alias Mohamed. (Ed.). Malayan Railways: 100 years, 1885–1985. Kuala Lumpur: AWS Communications Management, p. 37. (Not available in NLB holdings)
6.
Federated Malay States Railways. (1935). Fifty years of railways in Malaya, 1885–1935 [Microfilm no.: NL 25928]. Kuala Lumpur, F.M.S., Kyle, Palmer & Co., Ltd., printers and engravers, p. 24; Malayan Railway. (1955). Kuala Lumpur: The Malayan Railway, p. 2. (Not available in NLB holdings)
7.
Federated Malay States Railways. (1935). Fifty years of railways in Malaya, 1885–1935 [Microfilm no.: NL 25928]. Kuala Lumpur, F.M.S., Kyle, Palmer & Co., Ltd., printers and engravers, p. 24.
8.
Stanistreet, J. A. (1974). Keretapi Tanah Melayu: The Malayan Railway. Lingfield: Oakwood Press, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 385.09595 STA)
9.
Alias Mohamed. (Ed.). Malayan Railways: 100 years, 1885–1985. Kuala Lumpur: AWS Communications Management, p. 91. (Not available in NLB holdings)
10.
Shankari, U. (2011, April 9). Tanjong Pagar, Bt Timah stations to be conserved. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2011). Rail Corridor: History. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/history.html
12. Kor, K. B. (2010, May 25). Points of Agreement: A 20-year saga. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
Kor, K. B. (2010, May 25). Points of Agreement: A 20-year saga. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Kor, K. B. (2010, May 25). Points of Agreement: A 20-year saga. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Kor, K. B. (2010, May 25). Points of Agreement: A 20-year saga. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Kor, K. B. (2010, May 25). Points of Agreement: A 20-year saga. The Straits Times, p. 6; Malayan Railway land: A slow, bumpy ride to agreement. (1997, April 12). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Malaysia misses immigration row deadline – Singapore. (1998, December 16). Reuters. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
17.
Chua, G. (2012, January 1).  Final pieces of KTM track removed. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Tan, C. (2012, August 28). On the trail of a mythic monkey. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Former train stations open for events; Public can now make use of the buildings for ad-hoc activities. (2012, April 5). Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Chua, G. (2011, July 23). Parts of KTM railway to be retained. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Ng, E. (2011, September 3). Old Bukit Timah Railway Station to be opened to public. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2011). Rail Corridor: About the Project. Retrieved from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/about.html



The information in this article is valid as at 14 November 2013 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.

Subject
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Rail transport
Rail transport (Stations)
Transportation