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Bag checks and security screenings at Newton station along DownTown Line (DTL) on Sunday (4 February) (Source: SBS Transit Facebook page).

Commuters feel that LTA’s new security measures at MRT stations are unnecessary and time consuming

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) began the new security screening trials yesterday at MRT stations. The six stations selected for the trial include Little India, Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Panjang and Yishun stations where some commuters are selected to walk through a metal detector and have their bags x-rayed.

The new measures have already set off a collective groan from many commuters who feel the checks are unnecessary and time consuming. According to a Channel NewsAsia report, one commuter said, “"This is a waste of my time. The selection does not seem random at all, they are picking people carrying bags like me. I’m already in a rush for work and now they make me do this." The LTA had actually noted that the checks were random, although officers were trained to identify potential threats such as bulky bags.

Now, a horde of people use the MRT every single day in Singapore. In fact, the LTA has reported that the LRT and MRT record about 3 million passengers a day. It stands to reason that implementing a random security screening at MRT stations, a service many people use on a daily basis, can cause precious delay. It’s one of the biggest concerns that many commuters bring up.

Even though not every person is screened, it’s inevitable that those security screenings will result in a delay. The LTA even said that the screenings are done one commuter at a time to prevent queues.

Here’s the problem: people use the MRT every day, carrying shopping bags, backpacks, projects – so if officers are trained to perceived bulky bags as threats, then that’s half of commuters who have to ready to be screened ‘randomly’. But if they’re only screening one at a time, wouldn’t they decide to not screen a suspicious commuter just because a line is forming at security? How helpful is that to safety?

And how far is too far? Will commuters eventually have to add an extra hour to their commute time as buffer for security screenings? And what if a commuter has just been grocery shopping to get a new kitchen knife? Is that a threat as well?

Netizens are not keeping quiet on this either. As soon as the measures were announced, there was a flood of complaints from regular commuters:

Others questioned the need for such high security at MRT stations, pointing out that these measures are signs of paranoia:

While others still suggested that perhaps heightened security at stations should only be implemented during special occasions, and perhaps find a more efficient way to screen all passengers.