Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Farewell for former Queenstown Driving Test Centre

By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 15 Dec 2014

FOR almost a decade, the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre stood silent.

The rumblings of the MRT trains from the nearby Queenstown Station echoed in its spartan compound. Cars zipped by. Taxis picked up passengers at a stand on its fringes, with most barely giving the old site a glance.

Soon, the forgotten place will disappear, giving way to a new condominium.

But, at least for a few hours on Saturday, around 1,000 people had a chance to say their last goodbye.

The Singapore Land Authority granted civic group My Community a permit to host a carnival and exhibition there one last time.

"It is one of the few instances when the authorities worked with civic groups to allow the community to say goodbye," said Mr Kwek Li Yong, founder of the civic group.

"Otherwise, many socially significant sites disappear from our landscape without a sound."

For decades, the facility was the start of the driving journey for many Singaporeans, tapping tepidly on the brakes and struggling to change gears under the watchful gaze of trainers.

Every day for years, since its opening in 1968, many people went through driving tests under its 14 strict examiners.

Candidates were trained on Queenstown's roads as the compound did not have its own circuit. A Queenstown resident, housewife Doris Koh, 64, remembers that the roads were challenging.

"Back then, we drove manual cars and many of us were terrified of a slope along Margaret Drive," she recalled. "If we didn't use enough force or manage the clutch properly, the car would slip downwards."

The driving centre was replaced by a police station in 1997, which closed in 2005 when it moved to a new complex in Queensway.

In September, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced that the 10,500 sq m site - about the size of two football fields - was up for redevelopment.

Police officers such as station inspector Lim Yen Teck, 38, also attended the event.

He said: "As I was one of the first few officers to be posted there, I feel that it is also important for me personally to witness its last few days before its demolition."

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