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Woodlands Checkpoint to be expanded

SINGAPORE — With burgeoning crossings at the Causeway and fast-evolving security challenges, Woodlands Checkpoint will be expanded, with a new wing set to be built at the adjacent Old Woodlands Town Centre.

SINGAPORE — With burgeoning crossings at the Causeway and fast-evolving security challenges, Woodlands Checkpoint will be expanded, with a new wing set to be built at the adjacent Old Woodlands Town Centre.

While exact configurations of the immigration facilities at this new extension are still being studied, the roughly 8ha plot earmarked for the expansion would boost clearance capacity considerably, particularly when the new Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System is completed in 2019.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), in announcing plans for the expansion on Thursday (March 30), did not state whether the new wing is meant for vehicular or human traffic. It also did not state when the extension wing would be built, but when completed, it would be the second upgrade of the checkpoint facilities at Woodlands.

The current Woodlands Checkpoint, which started operations in 1999, was the first upgrade, replacing the old customs complex built in the 1970s.

Daily volume — both incoming and outgoing — at the checkpoint, which covers an area roughly the size of 31 football fields, has nearly tripled since then to over 300,000 travellers in 2015. In particular, congestion at the checkpoint worsened during the year-end holidays two years ago, with some motorists claiming of five-hour jams.

The plot of land eyed for the extension is where the once-bustling Old Woodlands Town Centre sits. A measurement tool on OneMap shows the area to be roughly 8ha, which can fit around a dozen football fields.

Two properties at 268 and 270 Woodlands Centre Road – home to Woodlands Point mall and the now-defunct Shaw Brothers cinema respectively – in the town centre were gazetted on Thursday for acquisition. The two properties are located at the immediate east of the checkpoint.

The ICA said that since the checkpoint opened in 1999, traveller and vehicle volume through the facility has been increasing, even as the security threat has heightened “significantly”. 

“The (checkpoint) has to be upgraded to meet growing traffic needs and ensure that immigration clearance remains secure,” it added. 

A feasibility study will be conducted to decide the optimal design of the checkpoint’s extension and the full extent of upgrading and redevelopment works required. This includes “considerations on the capacity of the Woodlands Checkpoint, the overall traffic flow and upcoming developments such as the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS),” said an ICA spokesperson.

The RTS, a cross-border MRT system, will be linked by a high bridge between Johor and Woodlands, connecting Johor’s Bukit Chagar terminus station to Singapore’s Woodlands North terminus, and connected to the Thomson-East Coast Line.

The ICA said that expanding into space at the Old Woodlands Town Centre  will enable upgrading works to be carried out progressively at the Woodlands checkpoint, without affecting operations there.

Members of Parliament from the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law noted that the extension will help ICA officers with their duties. Bilateral commercial activities are set to expand, and the additional space will allow for faster clearance, without comprising on future security needs, said Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC).

Mr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) added: “It’s timely that ICA has more space to build an extension. This will make it easier to upgrade existing facilities without too much disruption.”

The three lessees and 14 tenants at the two affected properties will have till Oct 1 next year to vacate the premises, said the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).  The Housing and Development Board is the head lessee of both properties, which make up a total land area of 3,264 sq m. Compensation will be pegged to the market value at the date of gazette. 

“SLA will work closely with the affected lessees and tenants, and assist them throughout the acquisition process,” said a spokesperson.

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