JOHOR BARU • The Sultan of Johor has said he wants to see Johor Baru grow into the second-biggest city in Malaysia, and has called for the Causeway to be replaced by a bridge.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, who is pushing for projects to modernise the capital of Johor state, told The Star in an interview published yesterday that, because Singapore is an expensive city, the overflow of business will come to Johor Baru.
Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding districts, called the Klang Valley or Greater Kuala Lumpur, make up the biggest metropolis in Malaysia, followed by Penang's Georgetown and its suburbs.
The Sultan said that in many countries there are often two competing main cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, Melbourne and Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and New York and Los Angeles.
"Johor stands in a season of transition. Being high-growth, socially progressive and strategic, the state is well poised to assume greater significance in the overall journey of the nation. Johoreans too are ready to leverage on the momentum to position JB as the second city of Malaysia," he said.
Several major projects are being carried out in the city, including the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD) and Coronation Square, along with luxury condominiums along the coast facing Singapore.
The IIDB aims to improve infrastructure in old JB and dot it with newer towers to leverage on its proximity to Singapore and Johor's lower costs compared to the Republic, officials have said.
The RM3 billion (S$1 billion) Coronation Square complex - named to mark the Sultan's coronation a year ago - will contain serviced apartments, an office tower, a hotel and retail podium, as well as medical facilities.
Meanwhile, Sultan Ibrahim has urged the various stakeholders to look again at the idea of replacing the Johor Causeway with a bridge.
He hoped Johoreans and Singaporeans could give their views on how the flow of traffic could be improved. "I feel sorry for the thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans who are stuck in traffic jams at the Causeway daily due to the congestion. It is worse during holidays and festive seasons.
"Also, many people are walking to Singapore daily due to the bad traffic jams," he said.
He said that if Singapore disagreed with building a tunnel to replace the Causeway, a swing bridge could be considered.
"I am sure if you work with Singapore, they will accept as it will be a win-win situation for both countries, but you will have to give a good reason to replace the Causeway," he added.
He also spoke about the rapid transit system (RTS) from Singapore to Johor Baru to improve connectivity. The RTS terminus station will be at Johor's Bukit Chagar, connecting to Woodlands MRT station on the Singapore side.
The Sultan also urged Malaysia's immigration authorities to keep all their booths open at all times at the checkpoints, as there are a lot of complaints that many of the booths are not open during peak hours and holidays.
Asked about Malaysian students who travel to Singapore for better education, the Sultan urged more international schools to open in Johor.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK