S'pore-Malaysia land VTL capacity to be reviewed weekly, countries exploring possibility of train journeys

The next step is looking at whether train journeys between Singapore and Malaysia can tap the land VTL scheme, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.
The next step is looking at whether train journeys between Singapore and Malaysia can tap the land VTL scheme, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.PHOTO: ST FILE
Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong speaking to the media on the Singapore-Malaysia land vaccinated travel lane, on Nov 24, 2021.
Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong speaking to the media on the Singapore-Malaysia land vaccinated travel lane, on Nov 24, 2021.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM MTI LIVESTREAM

SINGAPORE - The daily quota of travellers allowed to cross the Causeway under the upcoming land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia will be reviewed on a weekly basis, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said on Wednesday (Nov 24).

In the initial phase of the land VTL, which starts next Monday (Nov 29), up to 2,880 people will be able to travel between the two countries each day - up to 1,440 in each direction.

They will have to make the trip on designated bus services, but both sides are also exploring the possibility of train journeys, Mr Gan said.

If the public health situation in both countries allows for it, the daily capacity can be expanded week by week, Mr Gan told reporters at a virtual briefing after the Prime Minister's offices of both countries announced the launch of the land VTL earlier.

But it will take some time before traffic on the Causeway will return to pre-pandemic levels, Mr Gan said.

Earlier on Wednesday, he spoke with his Malaysian counterpart, Senior Minister for International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali, via video conference to discuss the land VTL launch.

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

“We also discussed (that) it is probably not possible for us to revert back to the pre-pandemic situation where we have maybe more than 100,000 people travelling across the Causeway every day.”

Before the pandemic, about 415,000 travellers travelled across Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link daily.

The pace at which the land VTL scheme can be expanded will depend on the pandemic situation in both countries, Mr Gan added.

“In the immediate future, the idea is to continue to monitor the infection situation. (If) both countries remain stable, then there will more scope for us to progressively open the travel lane for more people... and also to include non-citizens, (non- permanent residents), and non-long-term pass holders,” he said.

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.

Mr Gan also explained that the reason why travel under the land VTL is allowed only on designated buses is that buses are easier to manage.

“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.

The next step is looking at whether train journeys between Singapore and Malaysia can also tap the land VTL scheme.

However, it will take some time before private vehicles are allowed onto the land VTL, and there would need to be a booking or registration system in place so the authorities can track the number of travellers crossing the border.

Mr Gan said the land VTL will not have an impact on the existing arrangement for cargo truck drivers, nor will it affect the periodic commuting arrangement (PCA), which allows workers to travel between Singapore and Malaysia with stay-home notice, for now.

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

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.

Mr Gan said that as the land VTL is expanded, more Covid-19 cases will come through the borders. But if they are vaccinated, the expectation is that they will have 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 who also want to come back,” he said.

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

Correction note: The story has been edited for clarity.