Bus tickets from one company for Singapore-Malaysia VTL trips sold out in 20 minutes ahead of Nov 29 border reopening

·5-min read
Express buses are seen at the parking lot at Terminal Bandar Tasik Selatan in Kuala Lumpur June 8, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Express buses are seen at the parking lot at Terminal Bandar Tasik Selatan in Kuala Lumpur June 8, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — A bus company offering trips from Singapore to Malaysia under the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme sold out of all such tickets for the next 30 days in just around 20 minutes when it opened sales online this morning.

The land VTL scheme, set to start in four days on November 29, allows people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel between the two countries without having to undergo quarantine.

The Straits Times (ST) reported that the bus tickets for VTL-designated buses between Singapore and Malaysia were offered from 8am today, with virtual waiting rooms created on the websites of the two bus companies providing such services.

According to the Singapore daily, bus firm Transtar Travel’s website places customers in a virtual waiting room, with those able to make ticket purchases having 15 minutes to book tickets and were allowed to choose up to five slots per trip.

ST said all of Transtar Travel’s tickets for the VTL buses for the next 30 days were sold out by 8.23am this morning.

When Malay Mail checked this morning, Transtar Travel’s displayed a notice asking customers to wait before they can enter the portal to buy bus tickets.

The notice read as follows:

“You are now in the queue. Thank you for your patience. We are experiencing high user volume and have placed you in a virtual waiting room. You will be let in to the bus ticket purchase portal when slots are available. Alternatively, you may come back later.

“This page will be automatically refreshed when you are let into the bus ticket purchase portal. Please do not close your browser or refresh it manually.”

As for Malaysia bus company Handal Indah or Causeway Link, ST reported that the queue for the website’s virtual waiting room exceeded 4,600 people.

Based on a screenshot of Causeway Link’s website in the ST report, passengers in the queue at a virtual waiting room were told how many users were in line ahead of them, and the estimated time before they can enter the website.

A check by Malay Mail of Causeway Link’s Facebook page showed the company having released its VTL bus schedule for the “first week” of November 29 to December 5, with a list of time slots for trips between Larkin Sentral in Johor and Queen Street in Singapore and vice versa, and with bus fares at RM20 for the Singapore-bound trips and S$15 for the Johor-bound trips.

Causeway Link in a comment on its Facebook page said it would be selling tickets for VTL bus trips up to December 5 first, while Facebook users could be seen in comments below asking if tickets would be released daily or when tickets for those beyond December 5 would be sold.

Just like other Facebook users who commented on Causeway Link’s Facebook page, a check by Malay Mail of the VTL booking link resulted in a “403 - Forbidden: Access is denied” error message or a “504 Gateway Time-out” message or a message that “The service is unavailable”.

Other Facebook users were seen saying that their queue in the virtual waiting room for two hours resulted in them being given a new queue number or asked to get a new place in the queue, or with the website also showing the 403 error message.

According to ST, the VTL land scheme will currently see up to 2,880 individuals being able to cross the Singapore-Malaysia border daily, with 1,440 in each direction.

ST said the VTL bus tickets are offered for sale 30 days ahead of travel, and are required to be booked three days before the travel date. Ticket prices for the Malaysia-bound trips are S$15 for adults and $8 for children, while buses headed towards Singapore will have tickets priced at RM20 per adult and RM10 per child.

ST said Transtar Travel’s VTL bus trips are 16 to Johor Baru and 16 to Singapore every day, while Causeway Link will also offer 16 trips each for both directions. With a total of 64 VTL bus trips every day, each bus will carry a maximum 45 passengers for each trip.

Those who can travel under the land VTL scheme have to be citizens or permanent residents of the country they are travelling to, or have to be holders of work pass, student pass and long-term visit pass, ST said.

Further information can be found in this guideline on Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s website.

Among other things, the guideline said VTL travellers have to register online first and to undergo Covid-19 testing two days before departure, and be at the departure points two hours in advance, while those who arrive in Johor would have to do a Covid-19 test upon arrival.

Separately, ST yesterday reported Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong saying that the daily number of travellers allowed under the land VTL — now at 2,880 — will be reviewed every week.

Gan was also quoted saying that VTL bus is currently only for designated buses as there is a booking system that would enable the managing or deciding of how many could travel under the scheme, but with both Malaysia and Singapore to look into whether train journeys would be possible under the VTL.

Singapore’s Business Times quoted Gan as saying that a registration system would be in place if private vehicles are eventually allowed under the VTL between Singapore and Malaysia, but that the next step may be train journeys following the bus trips.

"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 was quoted saying.

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