Work to expand the Woodlands Checkpoint to five times its size will begin in 2025, and the first phase, comprising an extension at the Old Woodlands Town Centre and Bukit Timah Expressway, is targeted to be completed progressively from 2028.
Afterwards, the Old Woodlands Checkpoint will be demolished and integrated with the extension, which is expected to be fully operational by 2032, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on Jan 29.
ICA said it plans to redevelop Woodlands Checkpoint in several phases over the next 10 to 15 years, including through land reclamation, which will be done by JTC Corporation, the government agency overseeing Singapore’s industrial spaces.
The expansion work will not disrupt the checkpoint’s operations.
After conducting feasibility and technical studies to determine the amount of land needed to meet future demand, ICA said it assessed that the land needs for the redevelopment “can only be met through land acquisition and land reclamation”.
An ICA spokesman told The Straits Times the planned area of the redeveloped checkpoint, including the existing facility, is about 95ha, which is a little more than double the size of the Marina South precinct. The current checkpoint spans about 19ha.
The spokesman did not specify the size of the reclaimed portion.
Reclamation work is tentatively scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2024 and is estimated to be completed by 2029.
ICA said the work will start after reclamation plans are finalised and after considering feedback on an environmental impact assessment report.
JTC conducted an environmental impact assessment to evaluate the potential impact of the proposed work. The report recommended measures that can be put in place to reduce the impact on the environment, ICA said.
“Based on the report’s findings, we do not expect any major environmental concerns arising from the works,” said the authority.
ST has asked JTC for more information.
The redevelopment efforts come as the volume of travellers at Woodlands Checkpoint returned to pre-Covid-19 levels of about 300,000 travellers daily. This number is often higher during long weekends and holidays, ICA noted.
It is up from about 230,000 travellers a day in 2000.
The number of travellers passing through Woodlands Checkpoint, one of three land checkpoints in Singapore, is projected to reach 400,000 a day by 2050.
The current checkpoint opened in 1999. The Old Woodlands Checkpoint was decommissioned in 2000 but continued to be used for immigration clearance from 2007 to ease congestion. It is still in use today, mainly to clear cargo or motorcycles.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jackson Tan, commander of Woodlands Checkpoint, said: “Despite various initiatives to reduce congestion, we are still constrained by the existing space and infrastructure to make further improvements to address the traffic congestion.”
With the redevelopment, the aim is to cut average clearance time at Woodlands Checkpoint from 60 to 15 minutes during peak periods across all vehicle types, including cargo vehicles, cars and buses.
ICA said it aims to incorporate more automation, such as automated in-car immigration clearance systems, and provide holding areas for vehicles within the checkpoint to lower congestion on the roads and the BKE leading to the checkpoint. It also plans to carry out security checks away from the checkpoint to mitigate security risks.
Under the first phase of the redevelopment, an extension at the Old Woodlands Town Centre will be built.
It will have 21 cargo lanes going in both directions and 78 arrival car lanes, which will increase cargo clearance capacity by 30 per cent and arrival car clearance capacity by 95 per cent, ICA said.
The arrival car lanes can also be converted into 156 arrival motorcycle lanes, allowing ICA flexibility to manage peak-period traffic.
As part of an extension to the BKE, a direct route to the expressway will be created for vehicles exiting the checkpoint to ease peak-hour congestion on the roads, ICA added. The surrounding road networks will also be upgraded to improve traffic flow.
ICA said the BKE extension will be aligned with the eastern edge of Marsiling Park, to minimise the impact on a sensitive ecological site in the western side of the park. Neither ICA nor JTC provided more details when contacted.
To reduce noise to residential areas near the construction sites, noise barriers will be built, ICA said. Traffic signs will also guide road users, as some road networks will be affected.
Even so, consultant Nicholas Lai, who lives in Marsiling, said he is worried about potential noise and dust when work begins.
“The expansion is a good initiative, as the jams at the checkpoint and along the Causeway can be inconvenient when travelling to and from Johor Bahru. But 10 to 15 years is a long time to live with construction in the neighbourhood,” said the 37-year-old.
The subsequent phases of redevelopment include building clearance facilities on acquired and reclaimed land, and retrofitting the current Woodlands Checkpoint.
These plans are subject to further design studies, and more details will be announced once the studies are completed, ICA said.
Asked if there are plans to upgrade the Causeway to alleviate jams, the ICA spokesman said: “The Causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore has sufficient capacity and there are no plans for any upgrading works.”
During the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in October 2023, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained to Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim why Woodlands Checkpoint needed to be redeveloped, which will require land reclamation. PM Lee also said he was glad Datuk Seri Anwar supported the project.
Mr Anwar had said Singapore required land that is under the Malaysian authorities for the redevelopment, and that Malaysia would facilitate the sale.
“We can facilitate the sale, so that Singapore can have the facility to then make sure that the flow is made more easily, both for Malaysian workers to Singapore, and Singaporeans coming, particularly during the weekends, into Johor,” he said.
In May 2022, ICA announced that nine Housing Board blocks in Marsiling Crescent and Marsiling Lane will be acquired to make way for the redevelopment.
Flat owners were offered the same benefits as those under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, such as the option to buy a new flat with a fresh 99-year lease in Woodlands Street 13.
Residents will have to move out by the second quarter of 2028, and the replacement flats are expected to be built by the fourth quarter of 2027.
Credit : THE STRAITS TIMES