New MRT security checks will lengthen travel time but measures need update: Khaw

A security checkpoint set up at Yishun MRT Station. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

The newly implemented security screening at MRT stations will lengthen travel times for commuters but a balance needs to be struck between public safety and efficiency.

This was said by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a written answer to Parliament on Monday (19 November). “As commuters become more familiar with the screening process, we expect additional time taken to be kept to a minimum,” he added.

Over a six-month trial that began earlier this month, commuters at selected MRT stations may be randomly selected to undergo enhanced security screening processes. These include walking through metal detectors and having their bags passed through X-ray scanners.

Khaw was replying to a written question by Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Desmond Choo, who asked how the Transport Ministry would minimise inconvenience and delays to commuters, as well as how the transport operators’ preparedness can be further improved in the face of security threats.

Timely to review, update security measures

In his written reply, Khaw said that it is timely to review and update the security measures, given that Singapore’s public transport system has expanded significantly and remains a “soft target for perpetrators who wish to do us harm”.

“The six-month trial is necessary to allow the  LTA (Land Transport Authority) and PTOs (public transport operators) to fine-tune the security operations, and develop the capability to step up our response against heightened security threats, when the situation warrants,” he said.

Mindful of commuters’ needs

Khaw said that the authorities chose to start the trial over the year-end holiday period so that affected commuters can be sensitised to it before the start of the new year.

In addition, he assured that the authorities will be mindful of the needs of various groups of commuters – such as students sitting for their GCE A Level examinations – so that help can be rendered if necessary.

As for the preparedness of the PTOs, Khaw said they, along with the LTA, would conduct regular security and emergency exercises involving 100 per cent checks to test their response against security threats.

Third security exercise in December at Hougang MRT Station

So far this year, two exercises have have been conducted – one each at the Newton and Holland Village MRT stations – with a third exercise planned for Hougang MRT station next month.

“Such exercises are crucial to ensure the security preparedness of our PTOs and relevant agencies, and to help commuters familiarise with security protocols in the event of heightened security,” said Khaw.

Joseph Goh, the LTA’s deputy director of public transport security division Joseph Goh, had assured commuters earlier this month that they would not be stuck in long queues during the screenings.

He explained that officers select commuters randomly and the checks are done one at a time to ensure there is no congestion.

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