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Nepal Circus, a transport vestige

As discussed in my book, Jalan Singapura, there are only half a dozen registered traffic roundabouts, or “circuses”, left in Singapore. This is one of them: Nepal Circus, next to one-north MRT Station in the Buona Vista area.

Facing south.

This roundabout is also the only one in Singapore which is connected to just one road - Portsdown Road - which defeats the purpose of a roundabout in the first place, as they are supposed to connect two or more roads.

Nepal Circus is presently a transport vestige because of its past.

In 1945, Buona Vista Road ran through a hilly area from Holland Road to the coast at Pasir Panjang Road. North of the junction with Ayer Rajah Road, it wound past three hills at heights of 125 feet, 120 feet (named Buona Vista Road II), and 80 feet.

A map of the area in 1945, with the three hills shaded light blue.

Base picture credit: Survey Department, Singapore.

Sometime between 1945 and 1950, the British built Slim Barracks at the foot of Buona Vista Road II, to house Gurkhas, soldiers recruited from Nepal and famed for their fighting prowess and loyalty. The Gurkhas were led by British officers of course. They and their families were given accommodation in the form of bungalows constructed on the 125-feet hill and Buona Vista Road II.

Because of the Gurkhas, Buona Vista Road II was named Nepal Park; because of the British connection, the 125-feet hill was named Rochester Park, after Rochester, Kent; the road which connected Buona Vista Road (later North Buona Vista Road) to Nepal Park was named Portsdown Road, after Portsdown Hill, Hampshire.

The area in 1954.

Portsdown Road met North Buona Vista Road at a steep curve, which resulted in a Y junction. To ease traffic flow, a roundabout was built there sometime between 1966 and 1969. As it was near Nepal Park, the roundabout was named Nepal Circus.

The area in 1972, with the roundabout shaded light blue.

Soon, there was a need to straighten North Buona Vista Road, perhaps because traffic volume on it was far higher than that on Portsdown Road. Hence, the straightening was done between 1981 and 1984, while Nepal Circus remained where it was. The result was a roundabout that had lost its purpose, but for some reason was never expunged.

The area in 1984.

The area in 2000.

After that, the Portsdown Road area saw significant development, as it was integrated into the one-north business precinct. The old Portsdown Prison made way for Fusionopolis. Nepal Park’s colonial bungalows were incorporated into Four Acres Singapore, a leadership development facility run by Unilever. One-north MRT Station brought the Mass Rapid Transit system to the area.

Amidst all these, Nepal Circus has somehow survived.

The view of the roundabout today, from Portsdown Road. The roundabout is mostly used for free parking.

A bird’s eye view of the area today.

Base picture credit: Google Maps.

In the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s 2019 Master Plan, there is no Nepal Circus, so I’m not sure for how long the curious transport vestige will remain.

Credit: Urban Redevelopment Authority.


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