Coronavirus: Singapore

Both countries exploring possibility of train journeys

It will take some time before those looking to drive their own vehicles across the Causeway will be allowed to tap the upcoming land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.

Even then, there would need to be a booking or registration system in place so the authorities can track the number of travellers making the trip across the border each day under the quarantine-free travel lane, which starts on Monday.

In the initial phase, up to 2,880 people will be allowed to travel daily under the new scheme, but they must take one of 64 daily designated bus trips.

This is because buses are easier to manage, Mr Gan told reporters at a virtual briefing.

"There is a booking system for the buses. Therefore, we can actually decide how many people will be allowed to come across (to Singapore)," he said.

This is the same for trains, and both countries are exploring the possibility of adding train journeys for the land VTL, the minister added.

Prior to the media briefing, Mr Gan spoke with his Malaysian counterpart, Senior Minister for International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali, via videoconference to discuss the land VTL.

The ministers agreed to progressively expand the scheme, but did not talk about specifics.

For now, those travelling via the land VTL have to be citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders of the country that they are entering.

"In the immediate future, the idea is to continue to monitor the infection situation," said Mr Gan, adding that if the situation remains stable in both countries, there will be more scope to progressively open the travel lane for more people.

The land VTL will not have an impact on the existing arrangement for cargo truck drivers.

Malaysian cargo drivers are allowed into Singapore but need to take an on-arrival antigen rapid test, regardless of their vaccination status.

For now, the land VTL will also not affect the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA), which allows workers to travel between Singapore and Malaysia and requires them to serve a stay-home notice.

Mr Gan said the PCA is different from the land VTL as there is no vaccination requirement.

But there is a possibility that the PCA could be merged with the land VTL once the latter scheme has stabilised and capacity has increased.

As the land VTL is expanded, more Covid-19 cases will come through the borders, Mr Gan said. But if they are vaccinated, the expectation is that these cases will have a limited impact on healthcare facilities here.

"I know many Singaporeans... really want to visit your family members, your loved ones or your friends over in Malaysia, and many Singaporeans who are in Malaysia now also want to come back," Mr Gan said.

"I urge you to be patient. We need to do this progressively and in a safe manner."

Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Both countries exploring possibility of train journeys'. Subscribe