Do Singapore and Johor need a third link?

By On October 27, 2018

Do Singapore and Johor need a third link?

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Login"; document.querySelector('body').innerHTML += noteHTML; document.querySelector('.timeoutmsg-area .close-button').addEventListener('click', function() { document.querySelector('.timeoutmsg-area').classList.add('hidden'); }); } } function timeoutNote() { var oneMin = 60000; var timeDur = 120; var timeoutDuration = timeDur * oneMin; setTimeout(timeoutEvt ,timeoutDuration); } Do Singapore and Johor need a third link?
At the Tuas checkpoint, queues can be especially long during festive seasons and the wait to get across could stretch for hours. View of the Pasir Gudang industrial area in Johor from Punggol Point. The suggestion of a new bridge leading to Malaysia
For people who have to commute to work, mostly Malaysians entering Singapore, the traffic jams on the Causeway can prove to be a daily nightmare.
At the Tuas checkpoint, queues can be especially long during festive seasons and the wait to get across could stretch for hours. View of the Pasir Gudang industrial area in Johor from P   unggol Point. The suggestion of a new bridge leading to Malaysia
At the Tuas checkpoint, queues can be especially long during festive seasons and the wait to get across could stretch for hours.
Fruit seller Chua Jit Hian, a Pengerang resident, said business is bad and hopes a new link will bring in tourists.
Fruit seller Chua Jit Hian, a Pengerang resident, said business is bad and hopes a new link will bring in tourists.
At the Tuas checkpoint, queues can be especially long during fes   tive seasons and the wait to get across could stretch for hours. View of the Pasir Gudang industrial area in Johor from Punggol Point. The suggestion of a new bridge leading to Malaysia
View of the Pasir Gudang industrial area in Johor from Punggol Point. The suggestion of a new bridge leading to Malaysia has sparked discussion.
Published3 min ago

Commuters say a link could improve traffic but concerns, like cost, need to be considered

From the tranquil waterfront district of Punggol, the skyline of towering cranes and industrial buildings of Johor's Pasir Gudang looms across the water. Boats cruise along the deep Johor Strait and wild otters splash around near the jetty.

Here on the north-eastern tip of Singapore, a new bridge leading to Malaysia could one day become a reality, if the idea floated by a Malaysian Land Minister Xavier Jayakumar earlier this month to ease traffic jams receives the thumbs-up from the govern ments of both countries. It will then be the third road crossing, in addition to the Causeway in Woodlands and the Second Link bridge in Tuas.

Singapore says it has not received any official proposal or communications from Malaysia on any new link, but Mr Jayakumar's proposal has sparked fresh arguments for a solution to unplug the bottlenecks at the two links. Some 300,000 people commute there daily, mostly Malaysians entering the Republic by bus, motorcycle and even on foot to get to work.

One of them is Malaysian factory operator Ain Ahmad, 45, who said she must wake up at 3am to get ready or risk getting to work late and having her salary docked or having to clock overtime hours to make up for lost time. She has made the 1.05km-long trek by foot across the Causeway several times.

"Sometimes I even run until I'm all out of breath and sweaty. But unfortunately, I'm not as fast as Usain Bolt, and I'll still be late for work, so I' ll have to do overtime" she told The Sunday Times. "And working overtime means I have to finish work late, so I get stuck in the evening jam! Tell me, how can I wake up early the next day?"

Frustrated workers share tales of their daily commute - which can take as long as six hours on Fridays and Saturdays - about near-accidents with inconsiderate motorists or hilarious toilet mishaps.

  • 300,000

    Number of people who commute to Singapore daily, mostly Malaysians entering the Republic by bus, motorcycle and even on foot to get to work.

"Once, I had to call in sick because I had a major stomach upset and accidentally did the "No. 2". It was so stressful because I was on my bike in the middle of the jam. Now I stay away from eating anything spicy for breakfast," said a Malaysian operations manager who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee. No. 2 is slang referring to moving the bowels.

Most people int erviewed say they are keen on the idea of a third link, believing it will reduce traffic congestion and cut travelling time for Malaysians residing in eastern Johor, like in Masai.

Analysts also throw their support behind a third link, especially on the eastern side of Johor, which they believe will not only improve connectivity for commuters, but also serve large and important industrial facilities in such thriving townships as Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Langsat.

Dr Francis Hutchinson, senior fellow at the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, told The Sunday Times that about 70 per cent of the traffic between Singapore and Malaysia is by road, which entails crossing one of the two existing linkages.

"In addition, a substantial portion of the traffic between Singapore and Johor is by firms that want to send their goods through Changi," he said. "This would alleviate the Causeway of a lot of heavier cargo-bearing traffic, reducing crossing times between th e two territories."

The link between Pasir Gudang and Pulau Punggol Barat, as proposed by Mr Jayakumar, will benefit both countries, said Dr Terence Fan, transport analyst from the Singapore Management University.

"It will help to increase access to Seletar airport from that part of Johor, and make it easier for staff and business-related visitors from Singapore to access the industrial areas in Pasir Gudang," he added.

THE WEAKEST LINK IN PENGERANG

Tucked away in a corner of Johor's south-eastern town of Pengerang, a regional oil and gas hub is rising up and set to open next year. When completed, the US$27 billion (S$37.2 billion) Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex is expected to be Malaysia's biggest refining and petrochemical complex.

Once-bustling fishing villages have been moved and the small jetty in Tanjung Pengelih - which used to receive hordes of Singaporeans looking to enjoy a laidback weekend of fishing an d cycling - has become quiet and dull.

Despite this, a 70-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal remains the fastest, most direct way to reach Pengerang from Singapore. By comparison, it takes 2.5 hours to drive there via the Causeway.

Hoping to bring greater development to Pengerang, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian in August suggested a bridge linking the town centre in Sungai Rengit to Singapore's Pulau Ubin, and then an undersea tunnel to the Singapore mainland. The suggestion has been met with scepticism, at least in the short term.

When The Sunday Times arrived at the Changi terminal at 9am last Tuesday, there was no queue in sight. After a three-hour wait, only four people - all foreign tourists - had turned up. The boat was chartered for $130, and the cost split evenly.

On reaching Tanjung Pengelih, no taxi or Grab car was waiting at the jetty, cellphone reception was poor, and construction materials lay in heaps on a freshly-cl eared plot nearby.

A Pengerang resident, 60-year-old fruit seller Chua Jit Hian, complained that many of his neighbours have moved and his business has dropped by 90 per cent.

"Maybe a bridge from Singapore will be able to attract more tourists and help to bring more business here," he said.

Others, however, were less enthusiastic.

Human resources manager Hasrin Shah, 50, questioned if the proposed link is worth the huge funds needed to build it.

"How often will Malaysians or even I travel to Singapore? I don't wish to see the governments of both countries waste their money on what might potentially be a white elephant," he said.

Mr Ahmad Nasir, 42, who works in the construction business, said a new bridge is unnecessary if plans are under way to build a cross-border rail line between Johor Baru and Singapore.

Mr Ahmad was referring to the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) connecting Bukit Chagar station in Johor Baru to Woodlands North in Singapore.

Construction of the 4km line, which is able to transport as many as 10,000 travellers in one direction per hour, is expected to begin next year and open in 2024.

For Singaporeans, the bone of contention is developing a bridge through Pulau Ubin, which many regard as the last village in Singapore.

The 1,020ha island is also home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of the country's richest ecosystems, with mangrove swamps teeming with wildlife such as flying dragons, sting rays and mantis shrimp.

NSman Syawal Jasmin, 19, who visits the island every week to go fishing, said: "Instead of having a peaceful time alone and being able to relive the kampung days, there will instead be plenty of people on the beach walking around, and I won't be able to relax."

CROOKED BRIDGE

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad himself has revived his 2002 plan to build a "crooked bridge", one that would replace Malaysia's half of the Causeway and curve in a way that will allow vessels to pass under it.

People The Sunday Times talked to had trouble visualising the S-shaped half-bridge, and they asked to see a sketch.

"I don't understand how a longer winding road can help to reduce jams. It will also look quite ugly," Malaysian clerk Joyce Tan, 35, said.

Said ISEAS' Dr Hutchinson: "It would make more financial sense to invest additional resources in multiplying means of connectivity, rather than replacing what exists already," he added.

And there were ideas galore.

Malaysian operations manager Sivabala Doraisamy, 56, said a ferry service from Woodlands to Johor could ease the burden of commuters.

A Johor resident offered the novel idea of having travellators with motion sensors on the Causeway but easing the traffic jams may just be a matter of re-examining operations at the checkpoints on bot h sides.

Singaporean Aszri Sarkawi, 46, who lives in Johor Baru but rides daily to work in Singapore, said he noticed unmanned counters at the immigration checkpoints.

"We can build many bridges but ultimately, we have to ask ourselves if we have the capacity to employ more people manning the counters and carrying out security checks," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 28, 2018, with the headline 'Do Singapore and Johor need a third link?'. Print Edition | Subscribe Topics:
  • JOHOR
  • CAUSEWAY
  • TRANSPORT POLICY

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