SINGAPORE: As commuters filed into Little India MRT station at around 10am on Monday (Nov 12), some were selected to place their bags through an X-ray scanner and walk through a metal detector.
They were randomly picked to undergo checks on the first day of the Land Transport Authority’s enhanced security screening trial, and some did not hesitate to express their dissatisfaction at the process.
"This is ridiculous," a male commuter said loudly, as security officers scanned his body after the metal detector beeped as he walked through. "To do this at the airport is okay, but to do it here? It’s unacceptable."
When Channel NewsAsia asked him about his experience, the man, who declined to be named, said: "The whole process is very tedious. It slows down my journey. Of course it does."
On average, four people were screened every 10 minutes at Little India station when Channel NewsAsia was there.
Security staff signalled to selected commuters to place their belongings through X-ray scanners before they walked through the metal detectors.
After the screenings, most of which were done within 90 seconds, they entered the fare gates. Channel NewsAsia observed that there were no queues.
However, another man who was screened frowned as he placed his two plastic bags and a haversack into the X-ray machine.
He told Channel NewsAsia: "This is a waste of my time. The selection does not seem random at all, they are picking people carrying bags like me. I’m already in a rush for work and now they make me do this."
A lady, who was carrying a small handbag, was also selected for the screening and she took less than 30 seconds to complete the checks.
She expressed concern at how long the process could take during the morning and evening peak hours.
"Especially the morning crowds, that will be a bit hard if they are going to screen everyone," she said.
But some commuters, like 45-year-old Subramaniam Balasubramaniam, said he accepted that the checks are part of efforts by authorities to make Singapore more secure.
"We feel safer with these random checks. It's our duty, as people living in this country to support (measures like these)," added the manager, who has been a permanent resident in Singapore since 2005.
Deputy director of LTA's public transport security division Joseph Goh assured commuters that they will not be stuck in long queues during the screenings as officers select the commuters randomly and the checks are done one at a time to ensure that there is no congestion.
Speaking to reporters at Little India MRT station on Monday, Mr Goh said: "This is similar to how bag checks are currently being conducted. As these checks are random, it will not cause delay to the majority of the commuters."
He stressed that the trial was conducted as part of the agency's efforts to review its security measures.
"We know from incidents elsewhere that public transport systems are particularly vulnerable, perhaps because of the large number of people passing through. Therefore we learn from this and are planning to implement enhanced security screenings at MRT stations," said Mr Goh.
The LTA security screening trial, which is set to run for six months, will be conducted at different MRT stations across the country.
LTA confirmed that commuters travelling through Little India, Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Panjang and Yishun MRT stations could be selected to undergo screening, but the location and timing of the checks could change in subsequent days.
In response to how officers would randomly select commuters to be screened, Mr Goh said that they have undergone training to look out for commuters who are carrying bulky items, for instance.
"The officers are trained to conduct their own assessment to pick passengers to check … there's no fixed formula of who we pick," said Mr Goh.
He added that LTA will use data collected from the trial, such as the time taken for an individual to be screened, to improve the "effectiveness and efficiency of the process".
"We seek commuters understanding and support as we work towards keeping our public transport system safe," he added.