What is the easternmost road on Singapore Island?
Over 200 years of modern Singapore’s history, the answer has changed a number of times, because of waves of land reclamation, and infrastructural development at the eastern end of the island.
The British founded modern Singapore in 1819. From the 1840s, country roads began to be built from the Town - occupying an area roughly three miles by one mile in the southeastern corner of the island, around the Singapore River - to various corners of the island. One such road snaked from the eastern end of the Town, crossing the Sungei Kallang, across the eastern part of the island, to Sungei Changi at the eastern end, 15 miles away.
As the road passed the Sungei Changi, itself named after the chengal tree, the road was named Changi Road. It was completed sometime between 1843 and 1845, and became Singapore’s easternmost road.
Below is an 1846 map showing Changi Road ending around the Sungei Changi in the east of the island.
With the road came settlers to the area around Sungei Changi, although it is also possible that settlers arrived by sea. By the start of the 20th century, two villages arose along the coast off the 13th and 14th Milestones - Kampong Telok Paku and Kampong Beting Kusah. Telok Paku is Malay for “Bay of Nails”, while Beting Kusah is Malay for “Troubled Shoal” - possibly hinting at the dangerous waters off the coast.
Below is a 1923 map showing two tracks connecting the kampungs to Changi Road - Telok Paku Road and Beting Kusah Road. A footpath ran north from Telok Paku Road, hugging the coastline, making Telok Paku Road Singapore’s easternmost road.
During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese forced Allied prisoners-of-war to start work on an airfield in the area, building two landing strips intersecting in a cross. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, they were made to complete the airfield, and it opened as Changi Airfield the following year.
The airfield was laid down over parts of Telok Paku Road and Beting Kusah Road, and the shorter, horizontal landing strip forced the realignment of Beting Kusah Road to the east, closer to the coast. However, it still fell short of Telok Paku Road, which remained Singapore’s easternmost road.
Below is a 1945 map showing Telok Paku Road in blue, and Beting Kusah Road in yellow.
Telok Paku Road finally relinquished its title close to a decade later in 1955, when Nicoll Drive was completed as the new road hugging the Changi coast, running from the mouth of Sungei Changi to Tanah Merah Besar Road.
For years, there had been calls for such a road to serve the bungalows lining the coast. Nicoll Drive was built over parts of Telok Paku Road and Beting Kusah Road, and it was named after Singapore Governor Sir John Nicoll (below). He also gave his name to Nicoll Highway, many miles away in the City.
Below is a 1955 street directory map showing the realigned Telok Paku Road in blue, and Nicoll Drive in green.
Nicoll Drive was Singapore’s easternmost road until the late 1970s, when major land reclamation pushed the island’s eastern coast eastward for the construction of Changi Airport. The new coastal road serving the reclaimed land was Changi Coast Road, which officially opened in 1981.
Below is a 1981 street directory map showing the realigned Telok Paku Road in blue, what was left of Nicoll Drive in green, and Changi Coast Road in yellow. The kampungs of Telok Paku and Beting Kusah, and the seaside bungalows along the idyllic beach served by Nicoll Drive, became distant memories.
One drove along Changi Coast Road to get a good glimpse of Changi Airport and its control tower (below, in 1990).
From the 1990s into the 2000s, more reclamation took place in phases to the east of Changi Coast Road, creating a massive, 1,545-hectare block of land called Changi East. By 1995, Changi Coast Road became a misnomer - the coast had retreated far from it.
By 2001, Changi Naval Base was completed at the southeastern corner of the reclaimed land. The road serving it, accessible from Changi Coast Road, was Tanah Merah Coast Road - which then became Singapore’s easternmost road.
Between 2009 and 2017, Aviation Park Road became Singapore’s easternmost road instead, as it was built in the northern part of Changi East to serve Changi Exhibition Centre.
Below is a 2009 street directory map showing Changi Coast Road in yellow, Tanah Merah Coast Road in blue, and Aviation Park Road in green.
By 2017, Tanah Merah Coast Road was extended from south to north to meet Aviation Park Road, covering the eastern coast of Changi East, consequently becoming Singapore’s easternmost road again.
With the completion of the extension of Tanah Merah Coast Road, most of Changi Coast Road - save for a short stretch between Nicoll Drive and Aviation Park Road - was closed and expunged for the building of Changi Airport Terminal 5 (below).
Today, Tanah Merah Coast Road remains Singapore’s easternmost road. It is also the only public road in Singapore with a dedicated on-road bicycle lane (below).
The current coastline at Changi East is miles away from the original coastline of the 19th century. And, it is set to move further east in coming years, away from Tanah Merah Coast Road.
It has been announced that reclamation of around 900 hectares of land will start by the end of this year, to the east of Changi East (below). The project will take at least 10 years to complete.
It remains to be seen what the land will be used for. Likewise, it remains to be seen whether Tanah Merah Coast Road will be realigned to hug the new coastline, or a new coastal road will take its place as Singapore’s easternmost road.