Shanmugam: Inconsiderate drivers who cut queue add to congestion at S'pore land checkpoints

The minister also called on traveller to heed ICA's advisories.

Matthias Ang | January 11, 2023, 03:19 PM

Incidents of inconsiderate drivers who attempt to cut queues or drive in the wrong lane add on to the congestion at Singapore's land checkpoints Home Affairs and Law Minister Shanmugam said in a written reply in Parliament on Jan. 9.

The minister was responding to a question posed by Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai about the number of immigration counters at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, the average number of counters used in December 2022, and the steps being taken by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to reduce congestion without compromising security.

The minister noted that for the month of December in 2022, traffic at the land checkpoints has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Nearly 400,000 travellers passed through the two checkpoints on a daily basis, he added.

As for the number of counters, there are 302 counters at Woodlands and 276 counters at Tuas, he said.

On average, about 92 per cent of the vehicle clearance counters were manned for the period of December, Shanmugam pointed out.

ICA working to ensure traffic flows smoothly

According to Shanmugam, ICA has been working closely with its "partners" to ensure smoother traffic flow during peak hours, and will continue to do so.

This includes the Land Transport Authority and cross-border bus service providers, such as SBS Transit and Causeway Link, to schedule more buses to cope with the increased traveller volume.

In addition, ICA works with the Traffic Police to ensure orderly flows of traffic towards the land checkpoints.

ICA put in place "various" measures to manage congestion

The minister also pointed out that ICA has put in place various measures over the years to manage the congestion situation at the checkpoints.

This includes adopting a "dynamic approach" in managing the traffic, whereby officers are deployed dynamically to areas that require more support to manage traveller volume, while ensuring that other objectives, such as managing security and checking for contraband and security-sensitive items, are not compromised.

Clearance lanes are also converted flexibly for different modes of conveyance based on the traffic situation.

Shanmugam gave an example of how during car departure peaks, more manpower resources are deployed to the car departure zones, and lorry departure lanes are converted for car departure clearance.

The minister clarified that there were still limits to the effectiveness of such dynamic deployment.

He noted that for the year-end period, heavy departing car traffic from Woodlands Checkpoint to Malaysia has led to frequent tailbacks at the Causeway, all the way from Malaysia's Sultan Iskandar Building (CIQ) to Singapore's departure car counters.

ICA working on introducing automated car counters

ICA has also leveraged on technology to enhance clearance output, Shanmugam added.

It has implemented 100 per cent automated clearance for all motorcyclists at the land checkpoints since January 2017.

The organisation is also working to introduce automated in-car clearance for car travellers, following successful live trials.

ICA is also transforming its clearance processes, where automated clearance will be the norm, he said.

To support this, ICA has introduced automated clearance for visitors from eligible countries, including Malaysia.

These visitors will be automatically eligible to use an automated lane for subsequent departure and visits to Singapore, after they have obtained clearance at the manual counters.

Travellers should heed ICA advisories

Shanmugam concluded his reply by calling on travellers to "play their part" by heeding ICA's advisories on peak days and peak hours which are periodically issued.

He said:

"Avoid travelling during these times, if possible, or if not possible, please do be patient.

There are infrastructure and manpower constraints that limit the extent to which we can open up more counters. 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."

Top photo via Getty Images