Traffic congestion at checkpoints due to failure to provide enough customs booths

Letter writer wrote to TOC, “I have written to Todayonline and they have published an edited version which I feel is inaccurate.” and asked that the letter to be published in its entirety. Below is the letter with some edits to the abbreviations.

by Philip Wen

Recently, Singapore customs officers warned of severe traffic congestion at Woodlands and Tuas of up to 4 hours or more due to year-end holidaymakers.

This is not accurate. On 16 December, I was caught on the way back to Singapore. Traffic tailed back to almost Pelangi Shopping Center in Johor Bahru (JB). At first, I thought that it was the Johor side that is causing the delays but upon reaching near the Customs booth, I can see that the start of the jam was actually at the Singapore end and had stretched all the way to JB customs and beyond.

After hours of waiting and waiting, I finally made it to the Singapore customs side and can clearly see the reason why we had to endure this crazy jam.

It was a surreal sight to see only 1 or 2 customs officer serenely checking cars with ONLY ONE custom booth opened per lane. From the limited ​vantage of my car, the entire Checkpoint Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) building comprising of all 6 inbound lanes must be operating at the absolute lowest level – one booth for each lane.

I asked the customs officers why so few booths were opened despite the huge volume of incoming cars​ without receiving an answer. ​ The massive self-inflicted jam started early in the evening and took on ominous dimensions as the night wore on. Many had to go for toilet breaks and many actually fell asleep in the car while waiting. It was an incredible sight to see drivers on my left and right sleeping while the cars behind patiently waited for them to awake from their power nap.

While speaking with the customs officer, a lady with a kid also approached to ask for the toilet.

Sensing more motorists may be stepping out of their vehicles to inquire about the lack of proper customs services, a second customs booth came on like magic.

My journey from KL to Johor took 4 hours but my journey from Johor to Singapore took 4 1/2 hours. I reached home around 5 am on a Sunday morning.

The Human Relations department of the CIQ has some explaining to do. They must be aware that with year-end heavy traffic, the customs booths must be fully manned to avoid just such a situation.

The jam on 16th Dec has nothing to do with heightened security screening of cars for drugs or for terrorist activities or even exceptional car traffic. It was simply a HR/ Operations ​FAILURE​ to provide enough customs booths. Try imagining our International airport being manned by two traffic controllers or just operating on one runway.​ Even building a 3rd bridge with Malaysia would not make a difference if Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) continues to provide a skeleton crew to man the booth.

Perhaps, there is a hidden agenda behind this recent spate of extreme jams at our border crossing with our neighbor. Whatever the reason, please do not subject Singaporeans and others to this unnecessary jam.