SINGAPORE: Traffic on the roads leading to Mandai Columbarium were choked for a second day in the lead up to the Qing Ming weekend, with authorities encouraging visitors to check real-time traffic conditions before visiting the facility.
A spokesperson for the National Environment Agency (NEA) told CNA on Monday that the agency was aware of “slow-moving traffic” towards the Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium from about 9.30am to 12.30pm.
NEA runs both the Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium and the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium.
“Members of the public are encouraged to check www.nea.gov.sg/qingming2021 for real-time traffic conditions before visiting Mandai Crematorium & Columbarium and Choa Chu Kang Columbarium during the Qing Ming period,” said the spokesperson, adding that visitors should take shuttle buses or public transport on peak days.
NEA had cautioned earlier this month that crowds at Mandai were expected to be larger this year, due to higher niche occupancy. To curb crowds and improve traffic flow, it had also implemented an e-booking system for visitors planning to drive to Mandai Columbarium during peak days over several weekends.
This year’s Qing Ming festival falls on Apr 4.
On Monday, photos emerged on social media of congested traffic along the roads leading to Mandai Columbarium.
When CNA visited the area on Tuesday, traffic had started to build up at about 9.10am. By 9.30am, a queue of cars stretched from the road outside the complex to the inner drop-off point. Some drivers honked at slow-moving cars.
Most visitors CNA spoke to said they had to wait at least 30 minutes to arrive or to leave.
Housewife Valerie Tan, 58, who reached the inner drop-off point at about 10am with her siblings, said that she had been stuck in traffic for 30 to 40 minutes. They joined the line outside the main gates.
“This is the first time seeing a jam to enter,” Ms Tan told CNA, adding that her family usually arrives earlier, at about 8am. “(I) thought won’t have (a jam).”
Retiree Wong Chai, 79, arrived around the same time. He said he was only stuck in traffic for about 15 minutes, and observed that the traffic flow seemed to be worse than usual.
By 10am, CNA observed that the traffic condition had worsened, with about 150 cars queuing in single-file from the drop-off point all the way out from the Mandai Lake Flyover to Mandai Road. A few traffic wardens were stationed at the main gate to control the flow of cars into the complex.
Mr Teu, 38, arrived at the columbarium at 8am in a bid to avoid the crowds. He had taken time off work so that he could avoid the weekend crowds. At 10.30am, he found himself waiting for his ride, which was stuck outside the gates.
“I think what is happening is consistent, year after year,” he said, pointing to cars stalled at the parking lots just beside the drop-off point. “The way the vehicles park, same choke point,” he said.
The civil servant pointed to idling cars waiting for lots at the car park as an issue, saying they could have moved further into the complex to make way for other cars to enter.
He added that it would be fine if everyone was “cooperative”, but it was frustrating to see the jam because of cars just waiting for lots to open up.
Mr Teu’s car reached the drop-off point at about 11am.
Similarly, Ms Jac Tan spent about an hour waiting for her ride to arrive. She had arrived at the columbarium at about 8am to 9am to avoid the crowds.
At 10.45am, she told CNA that she had been waiting almost an hour.
“This year is very bad,” she told CNA. She said that she had intentionally chosen to visit the facility early on a weekday, "but still jam".
She expressed annoyance at the vehicles waiting in the car park. “(The wardens) just let them park. Should ask them to go one round instead of waiting, (and now there is a) jam,” she said.
Ms Tan’s ride also arrived at about 11am.
Engineer Desmond Hoo, 48, felt that NEA should have also implemented its booking system for weekdays.
“I thought today is weekday (so it would be) less crowded. I took leave, but in the end it’s still crowded,” he said. “I think appointments should apply for weekdays too.”
Mr Hoo estimated that it took him about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the drop-off point from the main gate.
Additional reporting by Ian Cheng