Newton MRT station holds biggest security screening exercise
Commuters go through X-ray machines, metal detectors at Newton MRT station as part of Exercise Station Guard
It normally takes two to three minutes to walk from the North-South Line to the Downtown Line at Newton MRT station.
Commuters took a little longer yesterday - about eight minutes more - as they had to pass through a security check before tapping in.
The security screening was part of an emergency preparedness exercise held by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and transport operator SBS Transit.
Called Exercise Station Guard, it aimed to test security measures in the event of a threat. It took place from 10am to 6pm and was the biggest exercise of its kind so far here.
Commuters did not seem to mind the slightly longer travelling time, although some felt it would be disruptive during weekdays.
Speaking to The New Paper, Ms Low Bee Hong, 52, a part-time waitress, said: "The queue moved quite fast, and it took only five to 10 minutes to clear both the queue and the screening.
"It is fine today because it is a Sunday, but it will be harder to wait if I am rushing for work."
Ms Pam Kaur, a 55-year-old retiree, added: "A few extra minutes is nothing to ensure our safety. I would rather have this than be faced with a threat."
The screening mirrored what travellers have to go through at airports.
Commuters' belongings and bags were placed on trays and scanned by X-ray machines while they had to walk through metal detectors before entering the fare gates.
About 60 staff from LTA and SBS Transit were involved in the exercise, with 1,500 to 1,600 commuters passing through the security screening each hour.
Announcements were played at Newton MRT station to remind commuters that the exercise was taking place.
Said Mr Joseph Goh, deputy director of public transport security at LTA: "The goal is to let the staff understand the challenges and constraints of such an exercise, as well as let commuters know this is what they can expect if there is a security threat."
A press release issued on Jan 26 by LTA and SBS Transit said commuters should cater for "additional travel time to factor in the security screening", and they were also reminded to avoid large baggage, which might take a longer time to clear.
A scaled-down version of the exercise was carried out at Stadium MRT station last year, and it is set to become more regular.
"There will be more of such exercises this year," LTA's Mr Goh said.
"We have to start slow to fine-tune the process."
He said in the event of heightened security, there could even be screening at multiple stations, depending on manpower.
The exercise comes as Singapore faces its highest terror threat in years, with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat saying last Friday that security spending will be a "major item" in this year's Budget.
Mr Alex Goei, chief executive officer of SBS Transit Downtown Line, said: "We are testing out different ways of ensuring security in the event of a possible attack... We will also step up the frequency of patrols in stations and trains during periods of heightened security."