Here are the most annoying station names on the Singapore MRT network

Yishun station in Singapore. Image: Getty.

Editor’s note: On Twitter, after publishing yet another rant about London station names, I noted that I would be delighted to publish similar rants about other cities, if only anyone thought to send them to me. Here’s one now.

one-north

This station, named after a neighbouring business park, is the only station on the whole network to have a name which starts with an uncapitalised letter (and also the only one with a hyphen in its name).

Every time I see this station on the map, I get annoyed because I think that someone has made a typo. Then I remember that this is the station’s correct name and I sigh.

HarbourFront

This one’s located underneath HarbourFront Centre, which is on Harbourfront Place. Unfortunately, the station takes after the shopping centre rather than the street name, leaving yet another station with inappropriate capitalisation in its name.

Farrer Park and Farrer Road

These two stations sound they should be right next to each other: they sound so similar!

The MRT system map. Click to expand.

Unfortunately, they are about 6.6km apart, with Farrer Park being located in the fairly central district of Little India, and Farrer Road lying in the middle of an upmarket suburb. These two stations are not even on the same MRT line.

The similarity of the two names have gotten many people confused, and unfortunately for anyone who has made the mistake of going to the wrong one, it’s a 25 minute journey between the two.

Downtown

This station’s name implies that it is in the heart of Singapore’s central business district, which is slightly misleading. One of its exits literally opens out into an empty patch of grass, which is not something one usually finds in the heart of a city.

The actual “downtown” area can be found around Raffles Place, a neighbouring station about 8 minutes’ walk away.


Jurong East

There is no Jurong West station, unfortunately. The suburb of Jurong West is served by three MRT stations (Lakeside, Boon Lay and Pioneer) but it feels like a missed opportunity that none of them have been named in such a way to serve as a complement to their neighbouring station in the east.

This is especially evident when you look at the suburb of Tampines, whose three stations (Tampines, Tampines West and Tampines East) form a satisfying trio.

Beauty World

The name of this station is evocative, leading one to imagine vibrantly coloured wildflowers blooming in green meadows just lying in wait right outside.

Once you step out of the exit however, there is not much beauty in sight. This station is located in a distant suburban neighbourhood best known for its 24-hour restaurants, and is named for an amusement park which once stood in the vicinity but is no longer there, having been replaced by 70’s-era concrete block towers.

Cashew

It is a bit difficult to take a station seriously when it’s named after a nut.

In its defence, it’s actually named for Cashew Road, and is located in a neighbourhood where all the other streets are also named after nuts. They include Hazel Park Terrace, Chestnut Close and Almond Avenue.

Image: Open Street Map.

Stadium

This one is a little vague, as there are two stadiums located in the vicinity of the station (the National Stadium and Singapore Indoor Stadium), and it is not exactly clear which of these the station is named after. Furthermore, it seems to imply that there is only one stadium in the whole country, which is not the case. Perhaps a better name for this station would be National Stadium, which would solve both of these issues at one go.

Tuas Link

Many stations are named after nearby roads, which is a perfectly acceptable (if a little unoriginal) naming method. However, in this case, there isn’t an actual road called Tuas Link.

There is a Tuas Link 1, along with Tuas Link 2, 3 and 4. But no Tuas Link, which is frankly unacceptable and needs to be rectified immediately.

Image: Open Street Map.

Lavender

As with Beauty World, one almost expects to exit this station and be greeted by fields of aromatic purple flowers. No such luck. The only thing worth sniffing around for in this area is the Michelin-starred food stall selling delicious minced meat noodles in a soy-and-vinegar based sauce.

If you would like to complain about the names of stations in your city, you know where we are.

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Park Life: on John Claudius Loudon, the father of the modern park

Arboretum et fruticetum Britannicum: an engraving from one of Loudon’s books. Image: Wikimedia Commons/public domain.

Where did parks begin? Where was the first park? Who created it?

These questions aren’t actually as unanswerable as they might first appear. If you’re talking about purpose-built public parks as opposed to private gardens or common land, there’s an at least plausible answer in Derby, which at the very least is home to what might be the oldest extant example in Britain.

The Arboretum was created in 1840 by Joseph Strutt, a public-minded (ish) industrialist. His intricately landscaped park was designed to give the workers (e.g. the ones in his own cotton mills) somewhere for recreation and exercise on the two half-days off he generously gave them.

Loudon. Image: Royal Horticultural Society/Wikimedia Commons.

Strutt may have paid for it, but the real credit should perhaps go to its designer, John Claudius Loudon: he even provided the name, having been the first person to apply the word arboretum to curated botanical gardens. You thought you were having fun in a park: Loudon was trying to trick you into learning about trees.

Loudon is a now slightly obscure figure, having been eclipsed by those he influenced. A pseudo-self-made Scot (his father was a farmer who was at least successful enough to ensure his kid got an education), by the time he was 30 he’d made a fortune introducing new farming and gardening methods to southern England.

At this point, not dissuaded by – for example – the Napoleonic Wars, he sent himself on a Grand Tour of Europe. This was to, in his own words, cast off “confining coil of insular thought”, but he was especially seeking to increase his botanical knowledge. Along the way he picked up a strain of social liberalism, particularly focussed on the importance of public, ideally green, spaces.


Practical efforts in this area were hindered by discovering on his return from Europe that a dodgy investment meant he was broke, and later through health problems that highly excellent 19th-century medicine eventually attempted to cure by cutting off one of his arms. But he wrote extensively, contributing to the Encyclopedia Britannica and publishing Encyclopedias, magazines and various other works of his own, primarily on the subject of landscape gardening, but also tackling the design of everything from pubs to cemeteries.

The preservation and development of green space within the city was something Loudon thought about throughout his life. In fact, his first published writing was a letter about the importance of public squares in London as “breathing zones”.

One of his most intriguing ideas in this arena was sadly never developed, or at least never documented, beyond an initial thought: a proposal to surround London with a ‘promenade’, a circular route around the city that would link, to his mind, its most important features. It would run from Hyde Park, south over Vauxhall Bridge to the (now vanished) Vauxhall Gardens, then through south London to Greenwich Park. At that point, Loudon got really ambitious, with a proposed Thames crossing consisting of an iron bridge big enough for ships to sail under. On the other side the route would run in some unspecified way to meet what’s now the City Road, run up to Marylebone and back down to Hyde Park.

This proposal, which he charmingly noted would be inexpensive “with the exception of the bridge” (no, really?), would provide a day’s tour (presumably horse-propelled if you actually wanted enough time to stop and see anything) of the most interesting gardens, scenery and objects close to London. He was clearly on to something: not only the importance of urban green spaces in themselves, but the fact that within a city they could act almost in concert. Today London has several orbital walking routes which link its parks – although massive garden-based bridges, not so much.

Loudon’s green belt plan. Image: BuldingCentre.co.uk.

In 1829 “Hints on Breathing Places for the Metropolis, and for Country Towns and Villages, on fixed Principles”, Loudon would go on to make an even bolder proposal: not just for what we’d now call the green belt, but green belts plural, alternating rings of city and countryside/garden which as a city expanded could keep going until they hit the sea. Although he accepted the grandiosity of such a plan perhaps made it unlikely (the fact that the following year he married a science fiction novelist feels contextually notable here), he emphasises that the important thing is the basic principle: that towns and cities should be planned in such a way that no-one has to live more than a quarter mile from some kind of park, garden or piece of countryside.

Loudon may have seen his legacy as his writings: three years after completing the Arboretum in Derby, he died having spent almost every penny to his name on publishing various expansive and expensive tomes to share his knowledge and promote his ideas, which might seem to have been a bit of fool’s errand given no-one much reads them now. But it’s at least highly probable that Ebenezer Howard, father of the garden city movement, had read Loudon’s ideas.

And while that Derby park may not be world famous itself, it was highly influential on the parks that came after it – including something called Central Park in somewhere called New York, for which the Arboretum was a direct inspiration. Loudon lives on.