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(3) MINI at the disused Jurong Railway track.

(1) The view of Jurong Port.

(2) Lookout Tower at Jurong Hill Park.

(4) Science Centre logo.

(5) Famous dignitaries planted trees in the Garden of Fame.

Jurong’s New Town

From swampland to thriving industrial centre, Jurong is the epitome of Singapore's progress
Nov 4, 2017 5:50 AM

MARINA Bay Financial Centre may be Singapore's prime symbol of progress today, but roll back 50 years or so and it was actually Jurong which catapulted Singapore from fishing village to developed nation.

Back in the 60s, Jurong New Town and Jurong Industrial Estate were the two most ambitious projects that the government undertook. It was all swampland at the time, yet before long, it would be transformed into factories that provided jobs for thousands of Singaporeans. Jurong Port also opened in the 1960s, to maximise the potential of its deepwater harbour that would make it the hub of the shipping industry.

Still, while Jurong was where the jobs were, it was considered too remote for Singaporeans to want to live there. Then in 1968, the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) Bill was passed, which gave the JTC full rein to develop the area. Apart from housing, one of the things it did was build a park on Jurong Hill for residents to hang out in. The highlight was a lookout tower, which offered a bird's eye view of the Jurong. The tower still stands today - a simple thrill for visitors and a spot of nostalgia for the oldies.

Within Jurong Hill Park itself is the Garden of Fame, so named for the many trees planted by visiting foreign dignitaries. The first to put down roots, so to speak, was Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, who planted a tree in 1969. In the 70s, Queen Elizabeth II and the late Deng Xiaoping also did the honours.

Today, a section of the now defunct Jurong Railway Line can still be found in Sunset Way, where the track cut across. It's easily accessible in the MINI Cooper S Countryman, and you can get a sense of Jurong's short-lived train service which was intended to facilitate goods transportation. The line running from Bukit Timah railway station to Teban Gardens opened to great fanfare in 1965, but never generated enough traffic to make the service sustainable. It was closed in the 1990s and dismantled, apart from the remaining section that is now an attraction in itself.

Other throwbacks to Jurong's early beginnings of course include the iconic Japanese and Chinese Gardens, and the Singapore Science Centre. Those who grew up in the 1980s will remember school excursions to this place of discovery, where watching baby chicks break out of their shells was one of the highlights. Opened in 1977, the Science Centre Singapore has over 850 exhibits to make learning fun.

Even Jurong has its fair share of foodies, and the 70s-era Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre is now both heritage site and popular dining spot. It wasn't uncommon for young couples to enjoy a movie at Singapore's only drive-in cinema and end up having supper at the hawker centre.

While there's much to reminisce, Jurong is also about the future. With the upcoming Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail terminus opening after 2020, and the development of the Jurong Lake District which will mean 20,000 new homes and 100,000 new jobs created, Jurong looks set to be back in the spotlight.

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