All Malaysia-Singapore VTL bus tickets in early Feb snapped up amid CNY rush

A spokesman said that the demand is high but the company is not allowed to release more tickets as stipulated by the government. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - All 6,480 tickets sold by bus operator Causeway Link under the Malaysia-Singapore land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) were snapped up within hours on Monday (Jan 10) as people made plans to cross the border for the coming Chinese New Year.

The tickets for trips on the first six days of February - including the first day of Chinese New Year on Feb 1 - were up for grabs at 10am on Monday (Jan 10).

Tickets by Transtar Travel, which went on sale last week, have also been snapped up.

Causeway Link and Transtar Travel are the only two bus operators plying the route under the Malaysia-Singapore land VTL.

Singapore on Dec 22 last year suspended the sale of new VTL tickets for travel into the Republic or Malaysia until Jan 20, in view of rising cases of infection globally due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The authorities also temporarily halved quotas for the number of travellers allowed to cross the Causeway under the land VTL from Jan 21. They have yet to lift the measure.

A Causeway Link spokesman said more than half of the tickets for sale on Monday were sold within an hour.

She added that the demand is high but the Malaysian bus operator is not allowed to release more tickets, as stipulated by the Government.

Some people who successfully purchased tickets from Causeway Link later complained that their bookings had been changed – they had originally booked tickets from Johor Baru to Singapore, but the online bookings later reflected tickets from Singapore to Johor Baru.

At press time, more than 20 people had lodged complaints, and the company spokesman said the issue was due to a technical glitch.

“All passengers should check their tickets to ensure that all the details are correct. If they find that it is incorrect, we will offer two options – to get a refund or reschedule to Feb 7, which is not yet open,” she said.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will do our best to rectify the issue for them.”

Customers on Facebook reported long waiting times.

Among those in line was Singapore Management University student Tan Ke Wei, 29, who hoped to snag a ticket from Johor Baru to Singapore on Feb 6 - when the Chinese New Year break ends.

The Malaysian, whose family lives in Kuala Lumpur, started queueing two hours before tickets went on sale on the website.

He said: "It would be good for Causeway Link to be more transparent by issuing queue numbers, which they did initially (for bookings in December).

"Bus operators could allow a full refund on cancellation of tickets because there are some people who panic buy, which leads to these tickets being wasted when no one can use them. But they should also be careful not to allow buyers to sell their tickets, as that would encourage reselling."

Mr Tan added that he would have to let his ticket to Johor Baru scheduled for Jan 26 go to waste if he cannot secure a trip back before school reopens.  

Meanwhile, Transtar Travel, a Singapore bus operator, which is selling daily VTL tickets across the Causeway one day at a time, sold all its tickets for Feb 8 in about 80 minutes.

After trying for five days on the Transtar Travel website, Mrs Karmini, who goes by one name, managed to secure a ticket for her husband around 10 minutes after bookings opened.

It has been almost a year since the 34-year-old Malaysian has seen her husband, who works as a bus driver in Singapore, after they got married in Malaysia in March last year and spent a week together in March.

She said: "Booking tickets is like the Hunger Games. Now, I just have to buy a ticket for his journey back to Singapore."

"We are hoping that we can see each other every one or three months from now on."

Separately, Causeway Link said in a Facebook post on Monday that passengers are now allowed to amend their personal details on its website after booking the tickets. This change can be done once and can apply only to either the passenger's name or passport details.

The Straits Times has contacted Transtar Travel for comment.

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