By Terry Xu
In August 2013, MP for Aljunied GRC, Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap, asked the Minister for Transport whether the cases of Malaysian buses flouting regulations by entering Singapore to ferry tourists to Malaysia have been increasing.
According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) regulations, tour buses “shall only be used to carry tourists from an ASEAN member country to visit Singapore.” (See here.)
Basically, it is alright for buses to ferry tourists into Singapore whether on scheduled or unscheduled services.
It is also permissible for the buses to ferry tourists from Singapore to ASEAN countries – but these are only for scheduled services.
Scheduled services means scheduled bus services operating from designated locations that are approved by LTA through application. (LTA application form)
In recent months, local tour bus drivers have observed that there have been Malaysian tour buses ferrying tourists from Singapore on unscheduled services. This is perhaps why Mr Muhamad Faisal raised the question in Parliament.
Mr Lui Tuck Yew replied:
“There has been only one case of a Malaysia-registered bus caught entering Singapore to ferry tourists to Malaysia in 2013, and none in the prior two years.” (Hansard report)
However, The Online Citizen (TOC), working on a tip-off, witnessed 2 such cases when we paid a visit to Victoria Street and Rangoon Road on 16th September and 20th September.
The LTA was informed of the first incident, while the second was not as the coach driver was not sure of the exact timing of the pick up . The coach driver was surprised to see LTA sending its enforcement officer down as this was the first time LTA turned up after calling them up several times in the past.
According to Mr Lim (not his real name), a Singaporean coach driver whom TOC spoke to, these occurrences have been happening the past few years. The Singapore coaches which ferry tourists from Singapore to Malaysia have to pay for licenses in Malaysia, and the costly insurance as they have to enter Malaysia. And because of these expenses, the reduced number of jobs due to the presence of Malaysian buses illegally ferrying tourists into Malaysia is affecting their income and thus their livelihood.
Mr Lim says that if LTA is really serious in clamping down on these illegal behaviour, they should deploy LTA enforcement officers at the checkpoints to check the Malaysian coaches/buses coming in and out of Singapore Customs and ensure that if these buses are coming into Singapore without any passengers, that they have good reasons for doing so.
Other coach drivers told TOC that they themselves have seen such acts very often but are unable to take videos or photos of these to present to LTA as evidence because of the restriction on photography at the customs checkpoints.
So even if we disregard the possibility of other undocumented cases and given that there had been already three of such cases this year, is there a growing trend that LTA should be aware of?
So, it is questionable that the Transport Minister would say that there “has been only one case of a Malaysia-registered bus caught entering Singapore to ferry tourists to Malaysia in 2013, and none in the prior two years.
Perhaps he should look deeper into the matter.