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MANPOWER has been beefed up at the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints during the peak travel period with all or most car counters open to facilitate prompt clearance, according to Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam was responding to recent reports of longer waiting times at the land checkpoints due to the higher volume of travellers as well as more stringent security checks. He also highlighted that waiting times are not as severe as cited in reports last week.
With the year-end and ongoing school holidays, the number of travellers crossing the land checkpoints daily has spiked to 430,000, up from 400,000 travellers normally.
"During this period, we have actually stepped up our manning, utilised more manpower resources," said Mr Shanmugam. "ICA actively monitors the queue situation on a real-time basis to optimise the clearance of people, goods and conveyances as quickly as possible. Based on the increased manning, all or most counters are open."
"Our officers are working very, very hard, they are working round the clock," he added.
On the occasion where certain counters are closed, this could be due to a change of shift or because the officer has been re-deployed to a busier zone such as the Old Woodlands Checkpoint, where new lanes have been opened to better distribute the traffic.
Mr Shanmugam, who visited the Singapore side of the Woodlands checkpoint on the morning of Dec 19, noted that waiting times on the Singapore side are, at most, under three hours. From speaking to over a dozen travellers last Saturday, he found their average waiting time was between one and one and a half hours.
"But of course, they would have to wait on the other side as well," he added.
Mr Shanmugam also highlighted: "People understand that, as a result of what has happened in Paris and the heightened terrorism threats worldwide, ensuring the safety of Singapore and Singaporeans is ICA's foremost priority. We have to check passports and vehicles."
Some 100 ICA officers have also been working overtime given the higher flow of traffic, reported The Straits Times (ST), citing figures from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
The ICA has also started carrying out customs checks at immigration counters, while drivers are waiting for clearance, which could cut waiting time for travellers, ST reported. The move helps to eradicate the backflow of vehicles waiting to enter lanes for security checks after immigration.
Known as forward check, this was rolled out at the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints on Sept 21 and Dec 1 respectively.