Driving centres get lease extensions

The lease for Bukit Batok Driving Centre (above) has been extended to Aug 31, 2020, while the ComfortDelGro Driving Centre lease will be extended to the end of 2024.
The lease for Bukit Batok Driving Centre (above) has been extended to Aug 31, 2020, while the ComfortDelGro Driving Centre lease will be extended to the end of 2024.PHOTO: ST FILE

ComfortDelGro Driving Centre's lease will continue to end-2024, while Bukit Batok Driving Centre's ends in August 2020

Two learner driving centres are staying put at their current sites despite their leases having expired.

This is because the authorities have granted them extensions.

ComfortDelGro Driving Centre's lease on its Ubi driving school expired in 2016, while Bukit Batok Driving Centre's lease expired last year. The former's 28,000 sq m site has been earmarked for light industries and the latter's 30,000 sq m site is zoned for housing.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Police Force said both leases have been extended.

The ComfortDelGro lease has been extended to end-2024, while the one for Bukit Batok Driving Centre has been extended to Aug 31, 2020 - for now.

"Further lease extensions may be made to tie in with the completion of the replacement sites," said the URA and police, adding that various alternative sites are being studied.

ComfortDelGro spokesman Tammy Tan said the lease extensions are on a "three plus three (year) arrangement".

"We are in discussions with the relevant authorities regarding longer-term plans," she noted.

The Bukit Batok centre said the same when contacted.

 

ComfortDelGro has been operating from its Ubi site since 1997, while the Bukit Batok centre has been at its current site since 1988.

Singapore's third driving centre - the Singapore Safety Driving Centre - operates from a multi-storey complex in Woodlands. It secured that site, which is zoned for "transport facilities", in 2005 with a bid of $6.67 million.

ComfortDelGro was, in fact, eyeing the same site, but it lost out with a bid of $4.8 million. There were only two bids for the 25,000 sq m, 30-year leasehold site.

Observers reckon that new learner driving centres are likely to be multi-storey complexes as they are more space-efficient, but are costlier to build and operate.

According to sources, an interim site could be in Changi, on a 41ha plot once set aside for a motor racing circuit.

It is now reserved for aviation-related industries to support the upcoming Changi Airport Terminal 5, which is likely to be ready from 2030.

Between now and then, the sprawling site could be converted to a driving centre at fairly low cost, according to industry watchers.

The only downside is it is far from population centres and not accessible via public transport.

Meanwhile, the reprieve given to the two driving centres should be welcome news for learner drivers. Of the 70,000 or so who obtain their car driving licence each year here, about 40 per cent are schooled at the two centres.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said the lease for Bukit Batok Driving Centre's ends in March 2021. It should be Aug 31, 2020.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'Driving centres get lease extensions'. Print Edition | Subscribe