The reopening of the land border between Singapore and Malaysia sparked a rush for bus tickets, with thousands of hopeful travellers left waiting online to buy seats.

More than 20,000 people were queuing on the ticket portal of Handal Indah Sdn, one of the two operators that will serve the route when it opens on Nov. 29. Later Thursday morning, the Malaysian bus company’s website wouldn’t even open. Transtar Travel Pte., meanwhile, directed users to a “virtual waiting room” and said the ticket-purchase page would open when slots became available. “We are experiencing high user volume,” it said.

As many as 2,880 people a day will be allowed to travel in the initial phase of the reopening of a causeway linking Singapore and the Malaysian Peninsula, according to an agreement announced Wednesday. Each bus has a maximum capacity of 45 passengers.

Prior to the Covid pandemic, some 300,000 people crossed the land border each day, for work on the other side or tourism. Those who have been working in either country will get priority for tickets, the Singapore government said Wednesday.

“Many workers from both Singapore and Malaysia have not been able to see their families for many months,” Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said in a statement. “We seek the understanding of workers who may not be able to purchase a bus ticket to travel home immediately due to limited capacity.”

Transtar’s website showed all tickets for the next 30 days sold out in about 20 minutes, the Straits Times and Channel News Asia reported.

“The current quota will allow only a fraction of daily pre-pandemic travel, but it will provide a meaningful economic boost nonetheless,” said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC Holdings Plc. “With high vaccination rates on both sides, it appears likely that restrictions will be further relaxed in due course, allowing for a much greater number of travellers in both directions over time. Even then, however, it will take some time before mass tourism will resume.”

Follow more stories on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign on to read the HT ePaper