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The last of Jurong Road

This past weekend, a significant event in the History of Movement in Singapore took place - the historic Jurong Road was closed on 27 September for future expungement.

Jurong Road, facing west. The base picture was taken from Google Maps, although the view is outdated - most of the Tengah Forest north of Jurong Road has been cleared for Tengah town, leaving a narrow strip of trees next to Jurong Road.

In the 19th century, Jurong Road was laid down to connect what is now Upper Bukit Timah Road to the Sungei Jurong (now Jurong Lake) area. Over decades, the trunk road was lengthened in stages, until it met the sea at Tuas Village in the early 1930s. In all, its length was around 10 miles. Jurong Road became a major trunk road serving the rural southwestern part of Singapore Island.

(Around 1961, the trunk road west of the junction with Boon Lay Road - Jalan Boon Lay today - was renamed Upper Jurong Road to make it easier for the postal and utility services to locate addresses.)

Urban redevelopment arrived in Jurong, starting with industrialisation in the 1960s. Bukit Batok New Town came up in the 1980s, causing much of the eastern part of Jurong Road to be expunged. A small stretch next to Upper Bukit Timah Road survives as Old Jurong Road today.

Old Jurong Road, at the junction with Upper Bukit Timah Road. Credit: Google Maps.

Also, in the 1980s, the extension of the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) to the west of the island permanently separated Jurong Road from Upper Jurong Road. More of Jurong Road was expunged, leaving a 2.5-km stretch just north of the PIE - the stretch which closed this past weekend.

Meanwhile, a small part of Upper Jurong Road has also survived, mostly next to SAFTI Military Institute.

Upper Jurong Road, next to SAFTI Military Institute. Credit: Google Maps.

It is clear that in the Jurong area, the PIE has replaced the Jurong-Upper Jurong trunk road as the primary channel for motor vehicles. What is left of Jurong Road was a time capsule of an era when trunk roads served the rural parts of Singapore - but no longer.

Throughout modern Singapore’s history, a persistent theme is that of old channels of Movement being replaced by new channels. Jurong Road will suffer the same fate - it will make way for viaducts of the upcoming Jurong Region MRT Line, and road connections between Tengah town and the PIE. As reported in the news:

Motorists and residents of the upcoming Tengah town in the west will have direct access to the Pan-Island Expressway by 2027.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be calling a tender for new connections which will include a flyover, and which will also give residents in Jurong town another link to the PIE.

The project involves building new roads and modifying existing ones.

It includes a 0.5km dual four-lane flyover along PIE near the exit to Jurong Canal Drive, a road junction below the flyover that will connect the PIE, Jurong Canal Drive and Tengah Boulevard leading to Tengah town, and widening of the PIE between Hong Kah Flyover and Bukit Batok Flyover.

The LTA said yesterday the tender will be called by the end of this year.

To facilitate the construction of the new flyover and a surface road junction, a 1.5km stretch of the PIE will be moved northwards onto a part of Jurong Road.

With this, traffic along Jurong Road will be re-routed to the PIE before joining Bukit Batok Road...

Credit: The Straits Times.

I’ve explored Jurong Road several times over the last few years, the most recent trip being a couple of weeks ago, after I read about the road’s imminent closure. Right to the end of its existence, the road has remained a single-lane dual carriageway, mostly without pavements or curbs; to the south, a buffer of grass and trees next to the PIE; to the north, what is left of the secondary forest of Tengah after mass clearance for Tengah town. I will miss the rustic peace and quiet walking along the road, and I will miss the company of the tall, mature trees lining the road.

I hope some of these mature trees will survive the sweeping changes to the landscape.
SBS Transit Bus Service 174. After Jurong Road's demise, 174 will ply the PIE instead.

I will also miss the bus stops along the road - some of them are themselves time capsules, bearing the names of old roads and tracks which had gone out of use and / or been expunged. Examples include Track 18, Track 22, and Hong Kah Circle. With the closure of these bus stops, the last physical reminders of these lost roads will disappear too.

"aft Track 18"

A bus enthusiast did a great job of filming the road and the bus service - SBS Transit’s 174 - which plied it until the night of 27 September, including the last buses to traverse the road in both directions. The YouTube video is here.

A YouTube user then commented on the video:

Jurong Road, it has been a good ride, and thank you for your service.


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