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Having a shut-eye at Woodlands MRT station before their shift starts

Commuters at Woodlands MRT station would have noticed more than 20 people sleeping on benches and along a walkway there between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The adults, mostly men, were also spotted on the fringes of the station, sleeping along a pavement and a closed road, and next to heavy machinery with wheels, sparking safety concerns among some passers-by.

Speaking to The Straits Tmes, Mr Robert Lim, 29, a production supervisor who lives in Woodlands, said: "It is quiet by the time I leave the bus interchange for home at 11.30pm. The authorities should look into the safety of the people who sleep at the side of roads, especially near the equipment."

As it turned out, half of those sleeping in the area were foreign workers resting before starting work there, while the others were rough sleepers.

Responding to queries, a spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said there was night work to erect noise barriers on the tracks between Woodlands MRT station and Marsiling MRT station, and pointed out that the workers have proper accommodation to return to after work.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the installation of the noise barriers started at the end of 2020 and is expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

"Since the beginning of works for this sector, a sheltered space behind Woodlands station has been designated for the workers to rest while waiting for works to commence," said an LTA spokesman.

"We have since reminded our contractor to ensure their workers' welfare and safety by getting them to make use of the designated rest area and to observe prevailing safe management measures at all times."

When ST visited the station early this month, the workers had reverted to resting in the designated area.

Over seven visits to the station last month, ST observed them arriving between 11pm and 11.30pm in mini-lorries and staking out various resting spots.

They would then sleep on cardboards and plastic sheets, with their hard hats and safety boots next to them.

When the train service ended at around 1am, they would rouse themselves and enter the station to begin work.

One worker, who declined to give his name, said: "What choice do we have? (Our) boss say come early, we go to the station early."

Workers would sleep on cardboards and plastic sheets, with their hard hats and safety boots next to them.ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

Due to the nature of the work at the station and the need to ferry other workers elsewhere, LTA said this particular group had to be dropped off at the Woodlands location earlier.

Said its spokesman: "As works are in close proximity to an operational MRT line, they can only be carried out at night after train services end. Due to transport arrangements across multiple worksites, workers assigned to this site are usually ferried to the site slightly earlier, before works commence."

MOM has taken employers to task when it finds workers sleeping rough.

Between 2019 and 2021, it fined and warned 20 employers for failing to provide proper housing for their workers who were found to be sleeping rough.

It also warned 64 workers against sleeping in the open during the same period.

Said the MOM spokesman: "In the past few years, the vast majority of work pass holders found sleeping rough had proper accommodation but still chose to sleep in the open. They were warned not to do so as this compromises their safety."

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENTSLEEP