Over the years, the old Queenstown has seen its former buildings torn down one by one. Like the Forfar House (1959-1995), Queenstown/Queensway Cinema (1977-1999, demolished in 2013), Commonwealth Avenue Hawker Centre (1969-2011) and many others, the latest building to go is the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre, located between Commonwealth Avenue and Dundee Road. Its 10,500-square-meter site, roughly the size of two football fields, is to be redeveloped with new condominiums.
Singapore’s Second Driving Test Centre
Built in 1968 at a cost of $285,000, the Queenstown Driving Test Centre was Singapore’s second driving test centre after the one at Maxwell Road. Design with a state-of-the-art concept, the driving centre allowed 14 driving instructors to conduct as many as 300 tests in driving proficiency and Highway Code in a day. This was able to take some pressure off the Maxwell Road Driving Test Centre, which was facing increasing traffic congestion along Maxwell Road by the sixties.
In early 1969, the Queenstown Driving Test Centre was officially opened by Yong Nyuk Lin, the former Minister for Communications. An interesting trivia about the former driving centre was its driving test method. For the theory portion, the candidate would have to “drive” a miniature toy car on a model designed with traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and road markings. The tester would then ask the candidate questions in order to check his or her responses to different traffic conditions.
Beside conducting driving tests, the Queenstown Driving Centre in the early seventies also functioned as a centre for renewal of road taxes and driving licenses for all classes of vehicles. In 1973, the Public Service Vehicles Training School was held at the driving centre, providing refresher courses for bus drivers and conductors on traffic rules, road courtesy, and responsibility, conduct and attitude towards passengers.
In January 1974, the Registry of Vehicles passed a new ruling, stating that learner-drivers and motorcyclists must pass their Highway Code before they could be granted provisional licenses. This caused a surge in the number of applicants. The Queenstown Driving Test Centre, by 1976, was facing the same issue as what the Maxwell Road Driving Centre faced in the sixties. As the number of candidates applying for provisional driving licenses increased, the waiting period for its driving tests was stretched to five to six months, compared to the three months’ waiting period at Maxwell Road Driving Centre.
Due to the increasing demands, two additional levels were added to the Queenstown Driving Centre in 1975. The upgrading project was undertaken by the Public Works Department (PWD), allowing the floor space of the building to increase from 431 to 1,295 square meters. The ground level was converted into a waiting area, a collection centre and offices for the chief tester and cashier, while the second floor was mostly made up of classrooms.
Other Driving Test Centres
In May 1977, in order to decentralise testing centres in Singapore, a driving centre was established at Jurong, the first of such driving centres to be set up in an outlying area. The new driving centre rented its premises from the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) and hired experienced testers from the Maxwell Road and Queenstown driving centres. Learner drivers took their tests conducted around Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, Jalan Boon Lay, Boon Lay Way and Yuan Ching Road.
A year later, two more driving centres were opened as part of the Registry of Vehicles’ decentralisation plan; the Kampong Ubi Driving Test Centre was set up at Block 26 Eunos Crescent, and the other driving centre was located at Block 7 Toa Payoh Lorong 8.
In September 1985, the Singapore Safety Driving Centre was opened at Ang Mo Kio Street 62. The new driving centre came with a modern driving test circuit and facilities that simulated realistic road conditions for the learner drivers. Another similar driving centre was built at Bukit Batok in 1989 at a cost of $9 million.
Conversion into a Police Centre
In 1995, after 28 years of services, the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre was shut down. Its premises were occupied by the Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre between 1997 and 2005. Although the building was later leased to private colleges until 2011, many of its rooms still retained the signature Dacron blue colour of the Singapore Police Force.
Like the Queenstown Driving Test Centre, the Maxwell Road Driving Test Centre was taken over by the Traffic Police in 1978, with its Accident Branch relocated from the Sepoy Lines.
Published: 26 December 2014