SINGAPORE: Migrant workers have been using an illegal transport service provided by truck drivers to return to their dormitories in Kranji Way from Kranji MRT station at night on Sundays and public holidays, reports the Straits Times. They have no other option. There is no public transport to serve them.
Although SMRT Bus services 925 and 925M ply in the area, service 925 does not operate on Sundays, and 925M ends its service at 7.40 pm on Sundays and public holidays. Workers returning to their dorms on Sunday after 7.40 pm say they must pay truck drivers $2 each to take them back from Kranji MRT station.
Taxis are too expensive, and they don’t want to walk 4km or more in the dark to get back to their accommodation from the MRT station.
Westlite Kranji Way
Workers’ housing in the area includes the Westlite Kranji Way dorm.
Westlite Kranji Way is a 1,300-bed Quick-Build Dormitory developed by Jurong Town Corporation to new specifications addressing COVID-19 requirements. It began operations in the second half of 2020. Located beside the Kranji Dam and within a stone’s throw from the Sungei Kadut Planning Area, Westlite Kranji Way provides convenience and accessibility for companies within the Kranji industrial estate.
The Westlite website says the dormitory includes en suite bathrooms, individual lockers, single beds, a barber shop, outdoor sports courts, a food court, multipurpose halls, a shared kitchen with cooking facilities, weekly pest control and fogging, and transportation arrangements.
But workers have to find their own way back on holiday nights.
Why no other transport
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) says service 925M, which does not operate after 7.40 pm on Sundays and public holidays, mainly caters to people visiting Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves.
“When planning bus services, LTA balances serving as many commuters as possible with factors such as ridership and financial prudency,” a spokesman told the Straits Times.
Transport operator Singapore Maxicab director Mohamed Ali told the Straits Times they offer transportation service, including pick-ups on workers’ days off. “[But] Most of the employers said, ‘Never mind, just pick them up only on work days.’”
Danger of travelling on the back of lorries
It is illegal to transport workers on the back of a lorry unless the owner or hirer of the vehicle employs them. The only other exception is in the case of medical emergencies. A first-time offender can fined up to S$1,000, jailed up to three months, or both jailed and fined.
The dangerous transport of migrant workers on the back of lorries has been debated for over a decade.
Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng asked the Government in August to consider forming a workgroup to discuss the need for a timeline towards an eventual ban on ferrying workers by lorry.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said the Government recognises it is “not ideal” for workers to be transported on lorries and “understands the genuine concerns from employers”.
But she added, “The employers stated that if the Government imposes a ban, many companies — especially small and medium enterprises — will not be able to continue operating their businesses,” said Dr Khor.
Nevertheless, Dr Khor added that the Government would continue to roll out measures that will address “a multitude of factors behind accidents”, such as driving behaviour and vehicle speed.
She told the House that the average number of fatalities from road traffic accidents involving persons on board lorries had halved from around six per year from 2013 to 2017 to around three per year from 2018 to 2022. The average number of injured persons on board lorries had also been reduced by about a third.
Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh said business groups wanting to continue the practice “are resorting to scare tactics to support their cause”, reported Today in August. “We should not be misled by their campaign,” he wrote in a Facebook post.