NUMBER AND OPERATING HOURS OF IMMIGRATION COUNTERS AT WOODLANDS AND TUAS CHECKPOINTS
I received feedback about the serious congestion at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints during the December school holidays period. I asked the Minister for Home Affairs how many counters were in operation during this period and the % of time they were manned. I note from the Minister’s response that about 400,000 travellers pass through the checkpoints daily. This is close to the pre-pandemic levels. He also said that there are 302 and 276 immigration counters for clearance of travellers at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints respectively. On the average, 92% of the vehicle clearance counters were manned. In my PQ, I asked what further steps ICA intends to take to deal with the congestion problem without compromising safety. Minister outlined several measures including leverage on technology. My PQ and Minister’s response may be accessed below.
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Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how many immigration counters are there at the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints respectively to deal with motorists leaving and entering Singapore; (b) in December 2022, what is the average number of counters that are used and the number of hours that each of these counters are opened on a daily basis to process these motorists; and © what are the steps the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority intends to take to reduce congestion at the checkpoints without compromising security.
Mr K Shanmugam: There are 302 and 276 counters for immigration clearance of travellers at Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints respectively.
Traffic at the land checkpoints during the December peak period this year has returned to pre-COVID levels. Close to 400,000 travellers passed through both checkpoints daily. On average, about 92% of the vehicle clearance counters were manned during this period.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has put in place various measures over the years to manage the congestion situation. First, ICA adopts a dynamic approach in managing traffic at the land checkpoints. Officers are deployed dynamically to areas which 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. In addition, clearance lanes are converted flexibly for different modes of conveyance based on the traffic situation. For example, during car departure peaks, more manpower resources are deployed to the car departure zones, and lorry departure lanes are converted for car departure clearance. That said, there are limits to the effectiveness of such dynamic deployment. For example, heavy departing car traffic from Woodlands Checkpoint to Malaysia during this year-end period has led to frequent tailbacks at the Causeway, all the way from the Malaysian CIQ to our departure car counters.
Second, ICA has leveraged technology to enhance clearance throughput. It has implemented 100% automated clearance for all motorcyclists at the land checkpoints since January 2017. Following successful live trials, ICA is now working to introduce automated in-car clearance for car travellers.
Third, ICA is transforming its clearance processes under its New Clearance Concept, where automated clearance will be the norm. To support this, ICA has introduced the Automated Clearance Initiative to allow visitors from eligible countries, including Malaysia, to be automatically eligible to use an automated lane for subsequent departure and visits to Singapore, after they have obtained clearance at the manual counters.
Fourth, ICA will continue working closely with its partners to ensure smoother traffic flow during peak periods. This includes working with 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. ICA also works closely with Traffic Police to ensure orderly traffic flow towards the land checkpoints. There have been incidents of inconsiderate drivers, such as those attempting to cut queues or driving in the wrong lanes, that add to the congestion.
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.
Meanwhile, we urge travellers to also play their part. 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. 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.