Inside Tanjong Pagar station – Long-time businesses there may end with station's impending move to Woodlands

May 30, 2010

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has been the talk of the town the last week. As expected, the Straits Times covered the issue extensively and today, they published an article on the impending end long-time businesses there may face.

I personally would like to see things remain as they are. Can we strike a balance between modernization and retaining our heritage? It seems that the people who patronise the food businesses at the railway station are not the railway passengers but Singaporeans who live or work around the area. This being the case, there is much value to retaining a building that many Singaporeans hold dear to their hearts. And by retaining, I do not mean modernizing and renovating and refurbishing the place until it has no semblance of its former character.

Vote on what should be done to the Tanjong Pagar Railway station here.

Read on for the Straits Times article written by Melissa Pang, or see my previous post and photos of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, food and facade.

May 30, 2010

Inside Tanjong Pagar station

Long-time businesses there may end with station’s impending move to Woodlands

By Melissa Pang

His teh tarik and teh halia are rich and creamy with just the right amount of milk and, as one customer put it, ‘cannot be found anywhere outside’.

Every day, Mr Masudul Hasan, 63, sees a steady stream of customers at his drinks stall at the M. Hasan Railway Station Canteen in the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

But the days are numbered for him and the other tenants at the 78-year-old station.

Last Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak announced that the Malayan Railway (KTM) station in Keppel Road will move to Woodlands by July next year.

The move marks the resolution of a 20-year land dispute between the two countries.

It also spells the possible end of businesses at the station, including Mr Masudul’s.

In 1958, he and his elder brother, Mr Mahmoodol Hasan, now 66, migrated here from India.

They opened a coffee shop at the station’s Platform 2 in 1984. In 1990, Mr Masudul moved the business to its current location at Platform 1.

His brother later took over a space in the main hall to set up another coffee shop named M. Hasan Railway Food Station, which is sub-let to eight tenants except for the drinks stall. Mr Masudul personally runs the shop at Platform 1.

Their 24-hour eateries sell Malay and Indian food and cater to the mostly white-collar lunch crowd from the nearby Central Business District, and late-night crowds looking for supper.

‘Everyone knows about this place. It is famous for its cheap and good Malay food,’ said Mr Masudul with a hint of pride.

‘On the Internet, the mee siam is said to be the most popular and the cheapest,’ he added.

The station is also home to Ali Nachia Briyani Dam, which serves one of the best mutton briyani in town. The parents of former national footballer Rafi Ali own this stall.

The tenants said they have not heard anything about the impending move from KTM.

Even if they are offered lease space at the new station in Woodlands, they have reservations about the new location.

‘Business here is better because there are more people. Train passengers don’t eat here. We get most of our customers during lunch time and at night,’ said Mr Masudul.

Mr Ajimul Naseerullakhan, 35, of Habib Railway Bookstore, which has been around since 1938, agreed.

‘I was very sad when I saw the news of the station’s move. We have been here since my great- grandfather’s time and we have no idea what is going to happen,’ said Mr Ajimul, who has been helping out at the shop for more than 10 years.

His uncle, Mr M.Y. Syed Ahmad, 63, has been in charge of the family business since 1977.

Even as tenants fret about their future, shutterbugs have descended on the station since news of the move.

For Mr Yang Oi Kwok, 35, it is a chance to revisit a place close to his heart.

From 1990 to 1992, he would take the train from his home in Johor Baru to his workplace here.

‘The two-hour commute was tough, starting at 5am. I remember the crowded train carriages and having a soothing cup of teh tarik after alighting,’ said the data analyst, who now lives here.

Mr Ashvinkumar Kantilal, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, said that the station’s architecture is ‘a stylistic infusion of Art Deco and modern vernacular’.

The building will be conserved. Mr Ashvinkumar said its strategic location made it a suitable venue for ‘an interactive learning-based museum’ where young Singaporeans could learn about the country’s growth as a free trade entreport.

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