Singapore and Malaysia to launch VTL across Causeway from Nov 29

The land scheme will only be for citizens, PRs and long-term pass-holders of both countries for now

Nov 25, 2021

SINGAPORE and Malaysia will launch the much-anticipated Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for land, for a restricted group of travellers, on Nov 29 - the same day the quarantine-free scheme for air travel between the neighbours takes off as they restore connectivity.

The land scheme will only be for citizens, permanent residents (PRs) and long-term pass-holders of the country they are entering, as priority is given to them to visit their families, announced Singapore's Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday (Nov 24).

Also, there is a daily quota of 2,880 for this group of travellers making their way across the Causeway, for a start. The travel must be made by designated VTL buses.

In contrast, the VTL for air travel between the two countries is for general travellers, who together with those under VTL for other countries are subject to a daily quota of 10,000. More than 4,000 travellers from Malaysia have been approved as at Nov 22 to enter Singapore by that channel.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement: "The launch of the VTL (land) is a big step towards reconnecting our people and economies, and will further enhance our bilateral relationship."

Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong told the media at a doorstop on Wednesday that the VTL (land) could next be extended to trains before rolling it out to private vehicles. This is because booking for train tickets would allow the authorities to control the human traffic as both countries reopen the borders in a safe and calibrated manner.

"I think it will take some time before we would allow private vehicles to travel across... If we were to do that, there will be some form of a booking system or registration system, so we know how many people are going across every day. I think the system has to be put in place. The immediate focus is really on bus (travel); the next step may be on trains between the two places," he said.

General travellers will be able to travel under the VTL (land) scheme when the public health situation in both countries permits.

Also, the authorities will work towards restoring quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Malaysia through the Tuas Second Link.

Gan did not talk about raising the daily quota to the rumoured 5,000 under the VTL (land) with Malaysia's Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali. This is because the pace at which the VTL (land) would expand will be determined by the pandemic situation on both sides.

Both countries, however, will review the situation every week to determine whether there is scope to increase the capacity on a weekly basis.

Gan issued a realistic reminder to those hoping to do shopping across Causeway in the near future: "We also discussed (this) - it is probably not possible for us to revert to the pre-pandemic situation, in which we had, maybe, more than 100,000 people travel across the Causeway every day. So I think it will take some time before we are able to reach that status."

The current arrangement for cargo drivers remains unchanged, as it has been running quite smoothly, he said. Malaysian cargo drivers are allowed into Singapore but need to take an on-arrival antigen rapid test if they have not been fully vaccinated.

The periodic commuting arrangement (PCA) will also not be affected at the moment, as the scheme for travelling between Singapore and Malaysia comes with a stay-home notice but suits those who are not vaccinated. But the PCA could be merged with the VTL (land) once the quarantine-free scheme has stabilised and capacity has increased, Gan said.

The 2 designated bus operators for the VTL (land) scheme are Transtar Travel and Handal Indah (also known as Causeway Link). Both will operate 32 daily designated trips each (16 trips from Malaysia to Singapore and vice versa) and the maximum capacity for each bus is 45 fully seated passengers per trip. This translates to up to 2,880 travellers each day.

Bus tickets will go on sale on Nov 25 at 8 am. Tickets are priced at S$15 and S$8 for adults and children respectively per trip to Malaysia, and RM20 (S$6.50) and RM10 for adults and children respectively to Singapore, regardless of the bus operator used. Travellers are required to purchase their bus tickets online at least 3 days before departure. They must have remained in Malaysia, or any other VTL or Category 1 country/region in the last 14 consecutive days before arrival in Singapore.

Travellers must be fully vaccinated and test negative in a valid pre-departure Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (ART) or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 2 calendar days of departure. Those entering Malaysia will need to take an additional supervised on-arrival ART. Unvaccinated travellers who are aged 12 and below can travel to Singapore if accompanied by a fully vaccinated VTL traveller.

All travellers are also required to submit the SG Arrival Card with electronic health declaration via the ICA website or through the SG Arrival Card mobile application at least 3 days before their arrival.