Thousands of commuters affected

A cleanup crew (right) soaking up oil using absorbent sheets, while workers replace the tarmac on the BKE (background).
A cleanup crew (right) soaking up oil using absorbent sheets, while workers replace the tarmac on the BKE (background). ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

A 20-minute drive to work for communications executive Julian Soh stretched to an hour yesterday morning, after he was caught in the traffic gridlock caused by an oil spill along a southbound stretch of the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE).

The 30-year-old left his home in Lentor at 8.40am and was en route to Woodlands when he got stuck in traffic along Seletar Expressway.

He detoured by exiting at Upper Thomson Road but still got caught in a jam. "Despite detouring, I still encountered heavy traffic at Sembawang and traffic came to a standstill at Gambas Avenue."

He reached his office only at 9.40am, and was one of thousands of commuters who had their journeys delayed yesterday.

The oil spill on the southbound BKE caused two lanes to be closed from around 6am, as crews worked to clean up and resurface the road.

Traffic built up during the morning peak hour, and caused a massive jam along the BKE that tailed back past the Woodlands Avenue 3 exit. Surrounding roads were also affected, including Woodlands Avenues 1, 2 and 3.

This led to delays of more than two hours for 11 SMRT bus services plying from Woodlands Regional Bus Interchange. Mr Vincent Lee, 26, was travelling by bus along Woodlands Avenue 3 to his workplace in Woodlands Centre Road, and saw a line of buses stuck at the interchange.

Madam Chong Siew Zhu, a 62-year old cleaning attendant at the interchange, said a huge crowd started to form at around 8am and started to ease only at about 11am.

Areas such as Marsiling were also affected. Mr Lee said his colleague waited for more than an hour at Marsiling at 9.30am for her bus, before deciding to take a train to Woodlands and get on a bus there.

The traffic jam left many others frustrated. Mrs Olivia Boh, a teacher in her 50s, said: "My husband and I were travelling from our home in Woodlands to Marsiling which is normally a 10-minute journey. We were stuck in traffic for over an hour before giving up."

Some businesses were also affected, such as Stamford Catering Services. A staff member, who declined to be named, said six catering jobs were late by 11/2 to two hours.

The incident tripled the driving time for Mr Lim Peng Soon, 61, whose workplace is in Tuas. He was forced to deviate from his usual route to avoid the congestion. That took him 11/2 hours instead of the usual 30 minutes.

"I tried to take another route to go to BKE but there were still jams, so I avoided it altogether and just went by Lim Chu Kang Road."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Thousands of commuters affected'. Print Edition | Subscribe