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Documenting Bishan Bus Interchange

The non-air-conditioned, open-air bus interchange in Singapore is an endangered species.

The current trend is to convert open-air bus interchanges into air-conditioned Integrated Transport Hubs (ITHs), which connect a bus interchange, MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station, and shopping mall in one seamless space.

There are 10 ITHs in Singapore. Yishun Bus Interchange became Yishun ITH in 2019; Woodlands Bus Interchange became Woodlands ITH in 2021. The same year, work started on turning Jurong East Bus Interchange into Jurong East ITH.

So far, Bishan Bus Interchange remains an open-air bus interchange.

Not much about the bus interchange has changed since it opened on 30 April 1989. It was built to complement Bishan MRT Station, which had opened two years earlier to serve the up-and-coming New Town of Bishan.

Integrating bus interchanges in towns with MRT stations had been a policy since 1984, as town building proceeded at a brisk pace alongside the construction of Singapore’s MRT system.

The Business Times, 31 October 1984. Credit: SPH Media Trust.

Creativity was invested in the architecture of Bishan Bus Interchange, to give residents of fledgling Bishan New Town something to cheer about.

As The New Paper reported in November 1988, a few months before the opening of the bus interchange:

Credit: SPH Media Trust.

Is it a bus interchange? Or a piece of Disneyland in Bishan?

Now it’s just half ready. But the new bus interchange at Bishan New Town Street 13 is already an eye-catcher.

This colourful castle-like structure right in front of the interchange will soon be greeting passengers and drivers.

Next to the pink “castle” will be a children’s playground and a round-top building housing a fast food restaurant.

A HDB spokesman said: “We want each new town to have its own distinctive feature. With time, this interchange may even become the landmark for Bishan.”

The castle-like structure has survived to the present:

Credit: Google Maps.

When the bus interchange finally opened, it replaced a nearby temporary bus terminal. According to The Straits Times, it “had the facilities of a modern bus interchange, including a sheltered passenger concourse, colour-coded queuing system, coin-changing machines, information boards and a canteen”.

And then, 33 years passed.

Taking the escalator up to ground level from the Circle Line segment of Bishan MRT Interchange, I was greeted by a spacious, open-air concourse with a high ceiling. It was obvious SBS Transit ran the place - their livery coloured the pillars.

Like other bus interchanges, buses were parked in the open next to the alighting and boarding berths.

It was raining heavily, and there were strong winds, so it was cool in the open-air bus interchange.

A helpful map showing the layout of the bus interchange. In 1989, it served four trunk services; today, there are 11 services beginning from the bus interchange.

The alighting area.

Berth B3.

Berth B4.

The bus interchange was a constant hive of activity - buses ceaselessly moved in and out.

An iconic feature of open-air bus interchanges - the metal bars for waiting passengers.

Also, the coloured metal boards displaying service numbers.

And of course, the orange floor tiles.

I am not sure for how long Bishan Bus Interchange will remain as it is. It might be converted into an ITH when neighbouring Junction 8 is redeveloped. That doesn’t seem to be on the cards anytime soon, but who knows.


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