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Inconsiderate drivers add to traffic congestion at checkpoints, says K Shanmugam; queue-cutting a common gripe among motorists

SINGAPORE — Inconsiderate drivers are part of the reasons for traffic congestion at the causeways linking Singapore and Malaysia, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Jan 10)

Inconsiderate drivers add to traffic congestion at checkpoints, says K Shanmugam; queue-cutting a common gripe among motorists
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  • Inconsiderate drivers are part of the reasons for congestions at Singapore's land checkpoints, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam
  • Drivers whom TODAY spoke with agreed and said such acts generally include cutting of queues and driving on the wrong vehicle lane
  • One motorist admitted to cutting queues himself, and justified his actions by saying that every one does it too

SINGAPORE — Inconsiderate drivers are part of the reasons for traffic congestion at land checkpoints that link Singapore with Malaysia, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Jan 9).

This is despite efforts by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Traffic Police to ensure orderly traffic flow towards the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints, he added.

Mr Shanmugam cited the examples of how the authorities have encountered drivers attempting to cut queues or driving in the wrong lanes — all acts which add to the congestion.

Motorists whom TODAY spoke to on Tuesday agreed with Mr Shanmugam’s comments, adding that they come across such inconsiderate drivers at the Woodlands Causeway and the Second Link at Tuas regularly, and that this is a long-standing problem.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to parliamentary questions from Member of Parliament Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency).

Mr Murali had asked what are the steps ICA intends to take to reduce congestion at the checkpoints without compromising security and the number of immigration counters there are available at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints to deal with motorists leaving and entering Singapore in December 2022.

There are 302 and 276 counters for immigration clearance of travellers at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints respectively, said Mr Shanmugam in a written reply.

He added that traffic at the land checkpoints during the December peak period had returned to pre-Covid-19 levels and saw close to 400,000 travellers passing through both checkpoints daily.

On average, about 92 per cent of the vehicle clearance counters were manned during this period.

Mr Shanmugam also said that heavy departing car traffic at Woodlands Checkpoint during the year-end period led to frequent tailbacks at the Causeway, all the way from the Malaysian Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex to ICA's departure car counters in Singapore.  

'EVERYBODY CUTS QUEUE'

Motorists whom TODAY spoke to said that queue-cutting is a common occurrence at the checkpoints, adding that such encounters sour their mood because they lengthen the time they spend waiting.

Also, it does not just affect car drivers, but motorcyclists too.

One such motorcyclist is Mr Ahmad Syatibi, a 23-year-old undergraduate who travels via the Woodlands Causeway at least once a week.

Mr Ahmad observed that some riders of Malaysian-registered motorcycles “have a very bad habit” of creating extra queues.

For instance, they do not stay within the lanes designated for motorcycles. Rather, they occupy those meant for cars to get ahead of other bikers before cutting back into the designated motorcycle lanes.

And because every one is in a hurry, particularly during rush hour, as soon as a motorcycle moves off, another will rush forward to occupy the space, said Mr Ahmad.

This sometimes results in “bumps here and there” between the two-wheelers.

All these bad habits, he said, just make the congestion worse and he reckons it increases his travelling time by at least half an hour.

For some car drivers such as Ms Atiqah Jamari, 25, the wait can go up to three hours just to clear customs due to the congestion at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

And it irks Ms Atiqah, who is in between jobs, when someone tries to cut into her lane to get ahead.

“I would be quite defensive (as a driver) and won’t give them a way to enter my lane. I just feel that it’s unfair that as responsible road users, we spend our time queueing, but they don’t,” said Ms Atiqah, who drives into Malaysia every weekend.

She added that “a lot of drivers” would hog the lanes meant for heavy vehicles before entering the car lanes nearer to the checkpoints.

The culprits, she observed, are a fair mix of drivers of Singapore- and Malaysia-registered vehicles.

In explaining why car drivers cut queues, one motorist, who admitted to doing so, said that it is because everyone else is doing it.

“If you don’t do it (cut queue), you’ll be stuck,” said Mr Edward Tan, 39, who declined to state his occupation.

“The congestion at the Woodlands Causeway is bad. There are just too many cars, and I don’t think the cutting of queues makes a huge difference (because of) the sheer volume of cars."

The motorists TODAY spoke with suggested a few ideas that they thought would help ease congestion.

These included having more lanes for cars, preventing motorcyclists from travelling on the car lanes through barriers as well as having more automated counters and clearly defined vehicle lanes.

Said Ms Atiqah: "I heard they're expanding the Woodlands Checkpoint in a few years' time, so I hope to see more automated counters for cars and bikes."

Motorists had previously told TODAY that queue-cutting at the checkpoints are often a cause of road rage incidents. 

WHAT SINGAPORE IS DOING

In his response, Mr Shanmugam said there are infrastructure and manpower constraints that limit the extent to which Singapore can open up more counters, and also spoke about the need to ensure ICA officers have both sufficient rest and a work-life balance.

Nevertheless, he highlighted several initiatives that Singapore is working on that aim to tackle the congestion.

Among them is making automated clearance a norm, and this will apply to visitors from Malaysia as well.

ICA also adopts "a dynamic approach" in managing traffic at the land checkpoints.

Officers are deployed to areas which require more support to manage traveller volume and clearance lanes are converted flexibly for different modes of conveyance based on the traffic situation.

Beyond that, he said ICA works with partners such as SBS Transit and Causeway Link to schedule more cross-border buses to cope with the increased traveller volume. 

“In the longer term, the upcoming Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link and redevelopment of Woodlands Checkpoint will further increase the throughput at our land checkpoints,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Until then, he urged travellers to heed the advisories which ICA issues periodically, informing when the peak days and peak hours are likely to be.

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

Related topics

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority

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