My dad always mentioned to me a certain place near 独立桥, and I stopped to ponder for a short while – where is this 独立桥..or Merdeka Bridge. Not many people nowadays talk about this Bridge. It’s not mentioned for quite sometime and even I also have to ‘rewind’ my memory to recall where is this Bridge haha.
The younger generation may ask where exactly is Merdeka Bridge in Singapore? In the 50s to 70s, this bridge was commonly known as 独立桥 (Independence Bridge) by the Chinese. ‘Merdeka’ is a Malay word which means Freedom or Independence.
In fact from 50s to the 70s, Merdeka Bridge was mentioned frequently by the people. As time goes by especially in the late 80s onwards, Nicoll Highway was mentioned instead of Merdeka Bridge as Merdeka Bridge is just part of the Nicoll Highway.
Where is this Merdeka Bridge then? This Bridge crosses the mouth of both the Rochor River and Kallang River. This Bridge was built in 1955 by PWD (Public Works Department).
It was named Merdeka probably to symbolise the people’s pursuit and spirit for independence. The bridge was constructed to link two stretches of the then new Nicoll Highway. It was built at a cost of $9,500.000. It was declared open by the then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock on 17 August 1956. It was the longest prestressed concrete bridge in South East Asia then (mid 50s).
So why is this Bridge built then? It was built to ease the traffic congestion during peak hours at Geylang Road/Kallang Road then. It was part of the Nicoll Highway which the bridge linked.
It should be 50 over years old by now.
The main icons of the Merdeka Bridge should be the 2 Stone Lions guarding each side of the bridge. They have since been removed, first to Airport Road, and are currently placed at the SAFTI Military Institute in Jurong.
Below shows 2 photos of the Merdeka Bridge after its completion in 1957;
Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.
You can see from the above 2 photos that there were a lot of undeveloped areas in the 50s. Probably we cannot recognise it haha. The stadium was not built then. Now, the National Stadium is going to be teared down…
This is how the bridge looked like in 1978;
Photo Credit : http://www.hanthorn.com
Here is another view of the Merdeka Bridge;
Photo Credit : Penang Antiques
Here are some old postcards of the Merdeka Bridge;
Note : You may wish to take note of the street lights design on the bridge was totally different from now.
Take a closer look at the Stone Lion;
Photo Credit : Nusantara