Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hundreds throng Tanjung Pagar to see last train out

Hundreds throng Tanjung Pagar to see last train out (The Star)

Tuesday July 12, 2011

By Desiree Tresa Gasper

SINGAPORE: It was a historic moment with camera lights flashing everywhere, anxious and excited people chattering - some emotionally charged and scores of people lining up for autographs and to pose for the cameras.

The occasion: It was the last day of operations which signalled the closing of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad’s (KTMB) southern most railway station - Tanjung Pagar - in Singapore.

The atmosphere, similar to a rock concert, marked the end of a railway station that started operations 79 years ago.

The handing over of the station was also significant in terms of enhancing bilateral relations between Malaysia and Singapore, as it was among the long standing issues under the Points of Agreement (POA) between both countries.

Royal ride: The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar waving to the people as he prepares to drive the last train out.

At the historic handover on June 30, hundreds of people - with mixed feelings - could be seen taking pictures of the walls, gates and arches of the station.

The occasion was even merrier as the Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar navigated the last train out of the island republic to the shores of Malaysia.

One of the co-pilots of that last train leaving Tanjung Pagar station, Zulhan Saodi, 30, said he had never seen so many people in the station before.

Zulhan, who has been working at the station for the past five years said he was overwhelmed by nostalgic charm of the station and how it had touched the hearts of Malaysians and Sinaporeans.

“I knew that it would be a special day but I never imagined that the scene would be like this,” he said while taking turns posing with crowds of people who were cheering and calling out for him to smile.

At the platform, over 500 people were scrambling to get into the coaches of the last train out.

An excited bunch of “passengers” were also seen carrying signs thanking KTMB and cheering whenever the train sounded its horn.

Others who were not lucky enough to get tickets for the last train out were seen pushing, shoving and tip-toeing to catch a last glimpse of the train before it chugged out of the station.

One lucky passenger - a scientist - David Weiss, from Germany said he was excited to be a part of history.

“I work in Malaysia but when I heard about the hype surrounding the last train out of the Tanjung Pagar station, I knew I had to be here,” said the 56-year-old.

He added that it was thrilling to see the crowds of people waving throughout the journey back to Johor Baru and it was obvious that the train journey meant a lot to them.

“I hope that the Singapore government retain the station as it is clearly etched in the hearts of many,” he said.

To the 500 lucky passengers, there would never be another train out from Tanjung pagar.