In May 2010, it was announced that from 1 July 2011, KTM train services from Singapore will depart from Woodlands instead of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
KTM stands for Keretapi Tanah Melayu, which means Malayan Railways. Everyday, it operates a few train trips between Singapore and many parts of Malaysia. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is KTM’s only station in Singapore.
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, built in 1932, will then be “conserved given its historical significance. It will also be the centrepiece for the proposed new development on this site.” (ChannelNewsAsia, 24 May 2010)
We in Singapore know that the word “conserve” can only mean one of two things: 1) The building will be given a new coat of paint and some renovations and it will be leased or sold to the highest bidder who will convert it to a restaurant, a pub, a shopping mall, a discotheque or a residential property (quite unlikely for this case though); or 2) The building will be given to some government entity (e.g. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc.) and the place will become out of bounds to the general public.
Following the announcement, my immediate thoughts were that it might suffer the same fate that had beset on other historical buildings in Singapore such as the former National Library at Stamford Road (demolished) and Old Thong Chai Hospital (since 1990s, it has existed as a nightclub, a few restaurants and others at different times).
Although I had only commuted on KTM trains not more than 10 times in my 39 years of life, I nonetheless felt strongly that this will mark the end of yet another legacy in Singapore. Documentary Photography has always been close to my heart, especially so in the past couple of years. Singapore has changed so much and is still changing so quickly that I firmly believe that I, as a photographer and a Son of this Land, have the moral obligations to our future generations to preserve images of Singapore that will be gone forever.
Thus my journey began at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station on a Thursday afternoon in June 2010…