2011/04/08

Singapore to conserve historic railway stations

SINGAPORE, April  8, 2011 (AFP) - Two railway stations to be returned by Malaysia to Singapore will be conserved as historic sites, officials announced Friday following a citizens' campaign to save the buildings from destruction.

There were fears that the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, located on prime real estate on the fringes of the central business district, would be turned into yet another shopping mall or condominium in construction-mad Singapore.

A government statement said the art deco-style terminal would be a national monument, while the smaller Bukit Timah station close to the Malaysian border would also be conserved, in recognition of their "deep historical significance".

Both were built during British colonial rule over the two countries as part of a railway line that serviced Singapore, Malaya and Thailand.

The Malaysian federation retained ownership of railway land and structures within Singapore after the two countries separated in 1965, and the stations became part of a long-running spat that periodically strained relations.

In May 2010, both countries agreed Malaysia would cede ownership of the land in exchange for real estate in two of Singapore's most expensive districts.

The agreement sparked concerns that the Singapore government would convert the shabby buildings to commercial use, triggering an online petition to save the buildings for posterity.

Carolyn Seet, an information technology specialist who started the petition, welcomed the government's announcement on the Tanjong Pagar station.

"Needless to say, I'm very happy. Hopefully, they will keep it open to the public. My wish is basically it will be a transportation museum like the one in London," she told AFP.

She also suggested the station can be "a place for people to reminisce, and see how far Singapore has come, from the humble rickshaw to the modern driverless" train system.