ICA: Security Checks, Lack Of Lane Discipline Led To Causeway Jams

A lack of lane discipline by motorcyclists streaming in from Malaysia and heightened security checks in the wake of the Paris attacks were among the reasons for the crush seen at the Causeway last week, where some took to crossing into Singapore on foot.

These factors, cited by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at a media briefing today (Dec 21), worsened the waiting times already stretched by the spike in the number of travellers during the holidays.

And Malaysian motorists told TODAY that some travellers, expecting to slip through customs quickly owing to the large crowds, may have arrived at the Singapore customs without valid travel documents, and ended up subject to additional checks.

Last Thursday, large numbers of travellers, tired of the long wait, had disembarked from buses to enter Singapore on foot, spilling onto the roads as there is no proper footpath on the Malaysian side of the Causeway.

Traffic came to a near standstill, as motorcyclists from Malaysia had cut into the four lanes meant for other vehicles on the way to Singapore, only to find themselves trapped in a bottleneck when they reach the Singapore side, which has one designated lane for motorcycles.

The ICA said today that it does not have jurisdiction over this, and it has informed the Malaysian authorities on the need for enforcement during massive jams.

About 430,000 travellers cross the checkpoints daily during the year-end holiday period, compared to 400,000 during the off-peak period.

Other reasons worsening the problem include the surge in the number of foreigners detected at the two checkpoints in Singapore with invalid travel documents, such as having an expired passport. Last year, there were around 3,400 cases, while there are already 3,500 cases as of October. Among Singaporeans, there were 622 cases of using the wrong travel documents when departing Singapore as of October, compared to about 690 cases last year.

The commander of Woodlands Command, Assistant Commissioner Alan Koo, said at the car lanes for example, using invalid travel documents will mean setting up a cordon for further checks. “We treat (this) very seriously to ensure that there is no malicious intend to use this as an excuse … it could be used by terrorists to impersonate the person,” he said.

In response to queries, an ICA spokesperson said: “We have alerted the Malaysian authorities to such incidents (of invalid travel documents) and hope to work with them to resolve the problem soon.”

Motorists could also be adjusting to a new process by the ICA introduced on Dec 1 — a one-stop “forward checks” system with double barriers at the checkpoints.

Under this system, vehicles coming into Singapore will be stopped at the first barrier and checked by ICA officers. Vehicles then enter a second area and stop before a barrier, for their passports to be checked. Previously, there was only one barrier, which could lead to tailgating and car intrusion cases as seen in recent years, the ICA noted.

Mr Koo noted as with any changes, it could have “slowed down (the process) by a bit”.  He added: “We have to shape their behaviour before it comes naturally, after a few times of using the checkpoints.”

A Malaysian motorist who travels to work in Singapore daily, said he has seen some motorcyclists pass through the Malaysian customs without scanning their passport properly, and this can go unnoticed during peak hours. “To save time, some motorcyclists will just zoom pass the customs and many others will just follow suit,” he said.

He also said he has seen the Malaysian police plying the roads of late to ensure motorcyclists stay in their designated lane. Nonetheless, with the increase in holiday traffic, he hoped the authorities could open more counters during the wee hours.


Source: www.todayonline.com


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