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May 10, 2014

Maxwell Road Traffic Police Headquarters

Maxwell Road Traffic Police Headquarters  c  1970
The Red Dot Design Museum,  Singapore

The same place, same building, different times over a century ago is still standing on a little street in Singapore today.

From a drab-looking, grey painted heritage monumental building with the same architectural design on Maxwell Road, Singapore dressed in red.  Now known as Red Dot Design Museum .

The purposes and functions for the spaces insides are very different then and now.

The original building at Maxwell Road was built in 1928 by the British colonial government.

The building was a barrack for married junior officers and later became the headquarters for the Traffic Police as well as a driving test centre, and was an important landmark in its day. It was vacated in 1999.  The headquarters for the Traffic Police is now located in Kampong Ubi.


1928 : The British colonial authorities built the headquarters of the Singapore Traffic Police at Maxwell Road.
1975 : The Traffic Police headquarters received a major face lift (the building was dressed in red).
1999 : The Traffic Police vacated the Maxwell Road building and moved to Kampung Ubi.
2005 : Renovation of the Maxwell Road building. The inaugural “red dot: design concept” awards and the Red Dot Design Museum were launched there at the end of the year.

The archived photos with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore. 

The above photos show how a driver have to apply for a driver's licence at the Traffic Police Headquarters at Maxwell Road in 1952.  He proudly display his driver's licence on his hand before driving off his car.

What is the need for motorists and drivers to obtain driving licence in Singapore?

The traffic rules have changed and evolved over the decades due to the ever-increasing number of vehicles in Singapore.

Traffic along Clifford Pier in 1945
The traffic condition in Chinatown in 1950 (photo above) and the crowded and congested Chinatown in 1974 (photo below) ...  then and now.


 How to learn to drive, pass a driving test at the Registry of Vehicles at Maxwell Road in 1971 to obtain a driver's licence in Singapore?

My blogger friend Lam Chun See shared his "How well do you know the old Singapore? - Middle Road" blog at Good Morning Yesterday .

The Queenstown Driving Test Centre was opened in December, 1968 as an alternative place for Singaporeans to take their driving tests and obtain their driving licences.  The main driving test centre was located at the Traffic Police Headquarters at Maxwell Road.

On 1 September, 1995, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), a statutory board under the Ministry of Communications, was established.  It plans, develops, implements and manages all public and private transport infrastructure and policies. In doing so, it supports a quality environment while making optimal use of transport resources and safeguarding the well-being of the travelling public.

LTA was formed through a merger of four government organisations involved in the planning, development and management of land transport policies and infrastructures:

    Registry of Vehicles (ROV)
    Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC)
    Roads & Transportation Division of the Public Works Department
    Land Transport Division of the Ministry of Communications

In August, 1998, Associate Professor Chin Hoong Chor of the National University of Singapore presented a public report on "Urban Transport Planning in Singapore" linked  here .

With thanks and acknowledgement for sharing the relevant excerpts here:

Forms of transportation

In the early years, land transportation was heavily dependent on bullock carts, horse carriages, jinrickshaws and bicycles (Archive & Oral History Department, 1981).  These animal-powered and man-powered vehicles met the transport needs well as most trips were short.  Pedestrians shared the road space with these rather slow-moving vehicles.

Electric tram at Bras Basah Road, Singapore  c  1908
Electric tram at Upper Cross St., Singapore  c 1950

With the introduction of mechanised vehicles, a greater mix of transport modes was seen on the road.  First, there were the steam trams introduced in 1867 and then the electric trams in 1905.  The first motor car imported in 1896 ushered in the motorised age and by the 1930s the motor vehicle population comprising cars, buses and lorries amounted to a couple of thousand.

Transportation was not given the priority largely because heavy commitments were already placed on housing and industrialisation.  As observed by Dimitrious (1992) about ex-colonial cities, Singapore inherited "an urban transport system predominatly designed to service colonial economic, administrative and residential needs, developed and operated separately from the local transport system predominantly utilized by indigenous population."  This, together with the massive developments in housing, factories and schools in the 1960s and 1970s which resulted in increased travel volume and longer travel distances put a great strain on the land transport system.



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