At least 4,400 bus tickets for quarantine-free land travel between Singapore and Johor Baru were snapped up yesterday, the first day that they went on sale.
Three quarters of the tickets sold were for journeys from here to Malaysia, while the rest were for trips in the other direction, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in response to queries.
Demand for the tickets was very high, with both service providers for the upcoming land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia experiencing high Web traffic throughout the day.
But the bulk of tickets for the first 30 days are still available for sale, MTI said yesterday evening.
Both the websites for Singapore bus company Transtar Travel and Malaysia bus company Handal Indah, also known as Causeway Link, did not appear to be able to keep up with demand as some users reported issues accessing the companies' booking systems despite long waits.
About 20 minutes after tickets were released for sale at 8am, Transtar Travel put up a notice on its website saying that all tickets for the next 30 days were sold out.
The website was updated later to say that users would be let in to the bus ticket portal when slots were available, with some netizens reporting that they were still able to make bookings.
The situation was similar on Causeway Link's website, with the queue in its virtual waiting room extending to more than 10,000 people. At times, the website crashed, to users' frustration.
An IT specialist who wanted to be known as Mr Wong queued on seven separate browsers with his wife in an effort to get him home in time for Christmas.
At around 2.50pm, his booking finally went through.
The 36-year-old said: "(I) wasn't hoping for much, as some of the members of the Facebook group Malaysia-Singapore Border Crossers had tried five or six times and still couldn't get to the payment page."
MTI clarified in the evening that the majority of bus tickets for the first 30 days of the land VTL are still available for sale.
"As of 4pm today, more than 90 per cent and 70 per cent of Transtar tickets to Singapore and Malaysia, respectively, are still available.
"Transtar Travel, one of two appointed bus operators, has sold about 4,400 VTL (Land) bus tickets across a 30-day timeframe," said MTI.
While sales figures from Causeway Link were not available, a spokesman for the Malaysian bus company said that about 10,000 tickets were still available for VTL trips between the start of the scheme on Monday and Dec 5 as at 2pm yesterday.
The company had invested in a high-end server in anticipation of high traffic, but was unable to implement it in time, she said.
"What we have now is an interim solution. Starting this Sunday, there will be a much better booking experience for passengers," she said.
As for how Transtar Travel was chosen as a service provider, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the company has over 20 years of experience operating bus services between the two countries.
"It has an online system for travellers to purchase bus tickets, operation facilities at Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal in Johor Baru and a fleet of buses that can meet our operational requirements and tight implementation timeline of the service on Nov 29," added the spokesman.
While some who tried did not manage to book tickets yesterday, persistence paid off for some Malaysians here.
Ms Anneliese Ng, 28, said she managed to book a ticket on the Causeway Link website at 1pm for her father, an engineering director based in Singapore, after waiting on both websites.