The loop made up of Tanglin Halt Road and Tanglin Halt Close was once the witness of the rise of Singapore’s earliest light industrial development program.
When the iconic 10-storey Tanglin Halt flats were built in the early sixties (they were recently demolished in 2017), a nearby light industrial estate was proposed. It was aligned with the government’s industrialisation plans, where large and heavy industrial estates were developed mainly at the rural Jurong area, while light and medium industrial estates built at high-density housing districts or fringe of the country’s central area. Both plans aimed in reducing Singapore’s reliance on entrepot trade as well as tackling the high unemployment rate.
In 1964, the $1.5-million project was launched at Tanglin Halt, serving as a test bed for Singapore’s light industrialisation program, at the same time providing ample job opportunities for the nearby residents. Managed by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), similar light industrial estates were also established at Redhill and Kampong Ampat. The successes of these pioneer industrial estates led to identical setups at Ayer Rajah, Kallang Basin, Telok Blangah and Toa Payoh in the late sixties and early seventies.
Forming a loop and linked to the main Commonwealth Avenue and Commonwealth Drive, Tanglin Halt Road and Tanglin Halt Close were extended and constructed respectively to provide accessibility to the new Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate.
Local and foreign investors were invited to set up factories at the new industrial estate, and within a few years, it became home to numerous companies of different trades, such as Celbuildings (specialised in steel framed buildings), Daiwa (prefabricated steel structures), Nippon Paint (paint), Diethelm (aluminium works), Lee Kah Ngam (wood works), Great Malaysia Textile (textile), Unitex (garment), Federal Match (matchsticks) and Besley & Pike (envelopes). There was also Singapore’s first polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe manufacturing factory, set up by Sekisui Malaysia Company.
One of the better-known names at Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate was local television manufacturer Setron (Singapore Electronics), which had established its new factory in April 1966. By the late sixties, the company was producing some 1,000 TV sets in their monthly outputs. In the same period, Roxy Electric Industries joined in the competition with their production of Sharp televisions.
Another famous name was Van Houten Chocolate, which in 1966 had collaborated with the local Sheng Huo Enterprise Ltd to start a chocolate factory at the industrial estate. The smell of cocoa in the air was perhaps one of the fond memories of Tanglin Halt’s early residents.
The golden era of Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate lasted about 20 years, between the mid-sixties and mid-eighties. By the late eighties, the industrial estate was a shadow of its former self, after the companies and factories shifted out to other newer or refurbished industrial estates such as the Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate.
With the buildings demolished and land vacated, the loop of Tanglin Halt Road and Tanglin Halt Close became underutilised, and was used only by motorists as an alternative to Commonwealth Avenue. On 11 March 2018, a section of the loop was closed, marking the end of a former busy road with a forgotten glorious industrial past.
Published: 12 March 2018