My Turf: Tuas, an industrial hub with the feel of a former fishing village

Raffles Marina Lighthouse on Nov 20, 2017.
Raffles Marina Lighthouse on Nov 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
A migrant worker roams the compound of Tuas View Dormitory on Nov 20, 2017.
A migrant worker roams the compound of Tuas View Dormitory on Nov 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

With its open grass fields and wide roads, the area around Tuas West Extension (TWE) might feel foreign to those living in land-scarce Singapore.

The area is home mainly to factories and industrial complexes for businesses in logistics, electronics and engineering.

Some even say that, with the Tuas Second Link nearby, it is faster to go from there to Malaysia than to Jurong Point shopping mall in Boon Lay.

Tuas was once swampland, but later became a fishing village where it was common to see hundreds of boats across the waters.

It was developed for industrial use in the 1970s after residents there were resettled into public housing.

The area was in the news when thousands were affected by the closing of TWE MRT stations - Gul Circle, Tuas Crescent, Tuas West Road and Tuas Link - following a train collision last Wednesday (Nov 15) at Joo Koon.

While services at the four stations have resumed, the authorities said train service between Joo Koon and Gul Circle stations could be suspended until mid-2018, with buses to bridge the gap.

The opening of the new MRT extension to the area in June, after a delay from the end of last year, was a milestone in the development of Tuas, whose name is derived from a method of fishing.

Fishermen would float coconut leaves and branches on the surface of the water and spread a large net suspended below.

The shade would attract schools of fish before the net was hauled up onto the boats.

As a verb, the Malay word "tuas" means to lever; as a noun, it refers to a tool for lifting something heavy.

Many workers there were disappointed by news of the suspended train service.

Assistant engineer Bernadette Lirio, 31, said: "It is upsetting. The bridging buses are inconvenient because you have to exit the station and re-enter again."

She said peak-hour traffic jams are worse now as more buses ply the roads and more people choose to take taxis to work instead of the trains.

"I didn't expect the service to be down for so long."

Accountant Koh Ling Ling, 33, was disappointed that workers in the area got to enjoy the MRT service for only five months before the collision.

"The TWE was highly anticipated, so it's frustrating.

"They should have made sure everything was in order before opening," said Ms Koh, who works near Tuas West.

The TWE extends the East-West Line (EWL) further west into the Tuas industrial area.

Workers there told The Straits Times that the extension - which spans 7.5km and cost $3.5 billion to build - had made commuting to the Tuas area easier.

Before this, many relied on company shuttle services or public feeder buses to get to work.

Ms Sharon Ng, chemical firm Michelman Asia-Pacific's human resources leader for Asia, whose office is in Tuas Avenue, said she and her colleagues were excited with the opening of the TWE as it shortened their commute to work and allowed them to go to more places for lunch.

"We are looking forward to the full line opening again ," said Ms Ng, who declined to give her age .

Migrant workers returning to Tuas View Dormitory on Nov 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mr Rodel Ornales, 47, a maintenance supervisor who stays at Tuas View Dormitory, said the train services allowed him to travel more quickly to work and to places like Boon Lay on his days off.

Despite being home to industrial complexes, incineration plants, and the upcoming Tuas port, the area has a more relaxed facet to it.

Raffles Marina on Nov 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

It is, afterall, also home to Raffles Marina, Singapore's first private dock for small boats and pleasure craft.

It is not near Marina Bay or Raffles Place, despite its name.

At the tip of the club's breakwater, which is accessible to the public, sits a still-functioning lighthouse that is a popular spot for photography.

The 12m lighthouse was built in 1994 and overlooks the Tuas Second Link.

A 24-year-old waiter at one of Raffles Marina's restaurants, who declined to be named, said the MRT service disruption did not affect club patrons, as many drive to the club. "The restaurants are still packed during meal times, " he said.

The club may be out of the way, but this is precisely why some people frequent it, said a British construction manager.

The 63-year-old who wanted to be known only as Mr King, has been living out of his boat docked at the marina for the past three years.

"It's far from the city, and that's the whole point because it's unaffected by crowds or noise.

"I like it. There's nice food and scenery, and a peacefulness you can't get anywhere else."