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Migrant workers at Tanah Merah dorm have to wait hours for shuttle bus; operator says it's only a peak-period problem

A video by Transient Workers Count Too shows long queues of migrant workers waiting for a shuttle bus back to their dormitoryThe dormitory is run by Changi East Dorm Dwall, a subsidiary of engineering and logistics company HuationgIt is not located near any public transport and workers have to take a bus to a location near the Tanah Merah Ferry TerminalThe dorm residents told TODAY that they sometimes have to wait up to three hours during peak periods to take the shuttle bus The intervals between buses are also long, they said

By Charlene Goh Published October 1, 2023 Updated October 1, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

SINGAPORE — When migrant worker Syed Abu fell ill with the flu and had to see a doctor, the 31-year-old had to wait three hours for a shuttle bus to take him back to his dormitory in Tanah Merah. 

“I was so tired but I had no choice,” said Mr Abu, who stays in the Coastal Dormitory located at Tanah Merah Coast Road. 

The dormitory — run by Changi East Dorm Dwall, a subsidiary of engineering and logistics company Huationg Global — was the subject of a recent Facebook video by non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

In the video uploaded on Friday (Sept 29), vice-president of TWC2 Alex Au said that the dormitory is located “in the middle of nowhere” and has no medical facilities.

He said it is located beyond Changi Airport’s runways, in a security zone and is highly inaccessible.

To access public transport, migrant workers have to pay S$1 to take a shuttle bus to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is located around 5km away, he added. 

However, the 35- to 45-minute bus intervals are “inadequate” and there are days when the men have to queue for two hours for a seat on the shuttle, said Mr Au. 

The video shows long queues of migrant workers apparently waiting for a bus.

Coastal Dormitory began operations in the second quarter of 2021 and can accommodate 10,400 people, a 2022 annual report by Huationg stated.

TOO FAR TO WALK

When TODAY visited the shuttle bus point at Changi East Pass Office on Sunday (Oct 1) at 11am, buses full of workers arrived at 30-minute intervals. There was no queue observed. 

The workers would then have to walk for about 10 minutes to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to take a public bus to elsewhere. 

Speaking to TODAY after alighting from a shuttle bus, Mr Than Aung said that he had seen long queues for the bus during peak periods such as weekend nights and holidays.

“There can be like 100, 200 or even 300 people queuing. But each bus can take only around 40 people,” he said.  

The workers said that sometimes they have to skip two or three buses before they can board one.

Walking is not an option for those who do not wish to wait, said Mr Than, who pointed out that the dormitory is about a 30-minute bus ride from the drop-off point. 

Agreeing, Mr K Gopal, 37, said: “No, cannot walk, it is very far. It’s 7km from the dormitory to the terminal.”

Mr Gopal was returning to his dormitory after spending the morning shopping in Little India. He has been staying in Singapore for six months. 

According to Mr Gopal and other workers TODAY spoke to, the S$1 bus fee was implemented about three months ago. The ride was free before that. 

On the added charge, Mr Gopal said that he is fine with it and “it’s not a problem”. 

But for 33-year-old S Kumar, this counts as extra expense he has to unwillingly fork out.

He said that a round trip would cost S$2 on top of what he needs to pay for the public transport to travel to other parts of Singapore. 

In response to TODAY’s queries, Coastal Dormitory said that the long queues were due to workers returning to the dormitory at the same time on Sunday, leading to a greater demand for the bus service. 

“This is similar to Singaporeans going to work at peak time in the morning and evening after work,” the dormitory operator said. 

It added that most of the residents have their company-arranged vehicles plying in and out of the dormitory. 

“The bus service is another additional service provided to those residents who would like to go out without their company transport,” it said. 

In the event that a worker falls ill or there is a medical emergency, Coastal Dormitory said that its staff would assist him. 

“This is already a standard operating procedure. When there is any emergency, an ambulance can come in smoothly,” it said. 

On the amenities provided in the dormitories, the operator said that the dormitory is “spacious with full facilities” such as a gym and provision shops. 

“These feedback are from some disgruntled resident who do not wish to stay there,” it added. 

Coastal Dormitory also said that it is currently engaging with its residents and receiving feedback on the number of workers taking the bus on weekends before adjusting its frequency. 

It added that the bus service is hardly used by the residents on normal days.

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