ICA blames bomb hoax, cars breaking down and rampant queue-cutting for “exacerbating” jams

Instead of addressing commuters’ concerns that the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) is not opening up more lanes to expedite the immigration process at checkpoints, ICA blamed a bomb hoax, 2 incidents of cars breaking down and rampant queue-cutting for “exacerbating” the horrific jams at both Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints.

In a statement to the media yesterday (19 Dec), ICA said that the traffic jams at the checkpoints last weekend was “exacerbated by motorists who failed to observe lane discipline through rampant queue-cutting”. “Additionally, cars had broken down on the Causeway on two occasions during this period, and there was one bomb hoax incident. These led to severe congestion for both arriving and departing traffic,” it added.

It said that its officers “are working round the clock and doing their utmost to ensure that travellers’ needs continue to be met without compromising security”.

“During this peak period, ICA officers have put in many overtime hours. All our available resources are being used. From time to time, during shift changes or redeployment of officers to other high traffic areas, certain counters may have to be temporarily closed,” it added.

ICA reiterated that it will continue to take the necessary measures to improve clearance efficiency as much as possible, “without compromising security”.

It advised motorists to better plan their journeys, and to check ICA’s Facebook page and information from traffic cameras available online on the prevailing traffic situation at the checkpoints.

Meanwhile, ICA warned to expect heavy traffic from tomorrow till New Year’s Day – especially at weekends – at both the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints.

“The ICA strives to ensure expeditious checkpoint clearance for all travellers. However, security must still be our top priority. We seek travellers’ patience and understanding in this,” it said.

Netizens’ observations contradict ICA’s statement

Netizens have taken to the ICA’s Facebook page complaining about the long queues to clear immigration at the checkpoints.

Many have observed that ICA did not bother to open up more booths to cope with the long queue generated from the slow immigration clearance by ICA.

One commuter, Philip Wen, even wrote to the media to complain against ICA. He was stuck in a severe traffic for 4.5 hours trying to return back to Singapore from Johor Bahru.

In his letter to TODAYonline, Philip said that the traffic crawl was due to shortage of custom officers at the checkpoint.

“There was just one or two custom officer(s) checking cars at each of the booths. There are usually four to five booths for each of the six lanes, but only one booth was open a lane. I asked the officers why so few booths were in operation despite the huge volume of incoming cars, but did not get a reply,” he related what happened to him at the checkpoint.

He went on to say that some even fell asleep in their vehicle due to the long wait, “It was an incredible sight to see drivers on my left and right sleeping, while motorists behind patiently waited for them to wake from their power nap.”

He added that at one point, ICA suddenly opened up a second booth, perhaps “sensing that more motorists may be stepping out of their vehicles to enquire about the jam”.

“The human resources department of the ICA has some explaining to do. It must be aware that with year-end heavy traffic, the booths must be fully open and manned to avoid just such a situation,” he wrote.

After TODAYonline published his letter, he noticed that it was “tweaked” into something which he felt was an inaccurate depiction of the situation. Hence, he sent TOC the original letter which was published unedited.

Many netizens agreed with Philip that the lack of operating more counters on Singapore side is the cause of the congestion at the checkpoints.