SINGAPORE – To manage congestion at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints amid increased traveller volume, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) ensured that more than nine in 10 vehicle clearance counters were manned during the December peak period.
Traffic at the land checkpoints returned to pre-Covid-19 levels that month, with close to 400,000 travellers passing through both checkpoints daily, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said on Monday.
Responding to a parliamentary question from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok), Mr Shanmugam said 92 per cent of the vehicle clearance counters at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints were manned in that period. He added that there are 302 counters at Woodlands Checkpoint and 276 counters at Tuas Checkpoint.
Mr Murali asked how the ICA intends to reduce congestion at the checkpoints without compromising security.
Mr Shanmugam said ICA continues to work with partners such as cross-border bus service providers to schedule more buses to cope with increased traveller volume, and with the traffic police to ensure orderly traffic flow towards the land checkpoints.
ICA has also leveraged technology, having implemented 100 per cent automated clearance for all motorcyclists at the land checkpoints since January 2017, said Mr Shanmugam, whose response follows media reports of long jams faced by Singaporeans crossing the Causeway.
He said: “Following successful live trials, ICA is now working to introduce automated in-car clearance for car travellers.”
Going forward, automated clearance will be the norm, he added. This includes allowing visitors from eligible countries, including Malaysia, to be automatically eligible to use an automated lane for subsequent departure and visits to Singapore, after they have obtained clearance at manned counters.
The ICA has also been practising dynamic traffic management at the land checkpoints, with officers deployed to areas that require more support to manage traveller volume, he said.
Clearance lanes are also converted for different modes of transport based on the traffic situation.
“For example, during car departure peaks, more manpower resources are deployed to the car departure zones, and lorry departure lanes are converted for car departure clearance,” Mr Shanmugam said.
Such deployment is implemented while ensuring that other objectives such as managing security and checking for contraband items are not compromised, he added.
But there are limits to the effectiveness of such deployments, said Mr Shanmugam.
He noted that during the year-end period, heavy departing car traffic from Woodlands Checkpoint to Malaysia led to frequent tailbacks at the Causeway, all the way from the Malaysian side to Singapore’s departure car counters.
Travellers should play their part, such as by heeding advisories that ICA issues periodically on when peak days and peak hours are likely to be, said Mr Shanmugam.
They should avoid travelling during these times if possible, or be patient if they have to travel during such periods, he added.
Mr Shanmugam also said that inconsiderate drivers, such as those attempting to cut the queue or driving in the wrong lanes, added to the congestion.
Infrastructure and manpower constraints also limit the extent to which Singapore can open up more immigration counters, he added.
“We also need to make sure that our ICA officers have sufficient rest and a reasonable working schedule that allows them to balance their work and their family and personal life,” he said.