Welcome to Bukit Panjang, an estate of about 120,000 on the edge of Upper Bukit Timah Road, one left behind by the MRT.
Many residents rely on bus services to go to and from town, unlike commuters elsewhere. The town’s name – long hill in Malay – reflects the area’s ridges and it has retained a touch of the rustic. A row of shophouses, some decades old, lines one edge along Upper Bukit Timah Road.
In recent years, Bukit Panjang has housing blocks that sport a more modern design – in Segar and Senja in its north – as well as additions such as its first swimming pool, which opened in 2011 at Senja-Cashew Community Club.
It is home to Beacon Primary – one of those designated as FutureSchools, or test-beds for classroom technology.
But it is still best known for its transport blues. Not only is it not hooked up to the MRT like most estates, but it also suffers from frequent breakdowns of the LRT that plies in two loops within the town’s confines. The most recent lasted a couple of days.
It was the first town to have the LRT in 1999, but the hilly terrain has hindered its smooth running, said its Parliament representative Liang Eng Hwa, an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
The LRT system, which is designed for simple tracks, is forced to make complex turns and go up and down hills, as it was built about a decade after the town’s buildings.
Unlike other satellite towns, Bukit Panjang’s irregular infrastructure hinders effective traffic planning, he added. Since 1999, the town’s LRT has had more than 150 incidents and disruptions, from carriages stopping in the middle of the track to trains passing a station without stopping, or doors opening while the carriages are still moving. In 2002, a wheel fell off, leading to a five-day shutdown.
But the town will get its own MRT station by next year, and Mr Liang said it would be a “game changer”. The MRT station will be the last stop on the western end of the Downtown Line, going into town via Newton or Bugis.