New fee takes toll on Singapore drivers in JB

Some Singaporeans who live in Johor Baru, such as Mr Ng (above), are enjoying the less-crowded checkpoints.
Some Singaporeans who live in Johor Baru, such as Mr Ng (above), are enjoying the less-crowded checkpoints.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

With an additional $6.60 entry toll on Singapore-registered cars entering Johor Baru, some 12,000 Singaporeans who live there but work here will be most affected. The Straits Times finds out how these families and businesses are coping.

New charges imposed on Singapore-registered cars entering Malaysia may cause inconvenience to many motorists.

But for Mr Mohd Fadil Mohd Ismail, 47, a manufacturing specialist, it will change his life - the Singaporean will return to his home country after having lived in Johor Baru for three years.

As he shuttles back and forth everyday to Tuas for work and drops off his children, who go to school here, the toll of RM20 (S$6.60) per entry will set him back RM600 every month.

Since Tuesday, Singapore-registered cars entering Malaysia at the land checkpoints have to pay the new road charge. The ones most affected by the change are Singaporeans who live in Johor - estimated at 12,000 - but work in Singapore.

Mr Fadil had been thinking about returning, and with this new charge, his decision was made.

  • MONTHLY EXPENSES

    These are Mr Fadil's monthly expenses while living in Singapore and in Johor Baru.

    The Singaporean lives in Johor Baru, but works here as a manufacturing specialist. His family lives on his income of $2,700 a month.

    LEISURE

    Singapore: $70 (Internet only)

    JB: RM212 (S$70, Internet and cable TV)

    GROCERIES

    Singapore: $400

    JB: RM400

    TRANSPORT, INCLUDING CAR MAINTENANCE, PETROL

    Singapore : $400

    JB: RM400

 

The sole breadwinner supports his wife and children aged 20, 16 and 14 on $2,700 a month.

"The toll would be more expensive than my monthly expenditure on groceries," he said, adding that it would defeat the purpose of moving to Johor Baru for its lower cost of living and space.

He and his wife leased out their maisonette in Singapore, which had a mortgage of $2,500, and rented a semi-detached house for $680 a month.

But he began to think about moving back because his car's certificate of entitlement (COE) expires in January next year, and he would not have a car to get around.

The new fee was the clincher, he said.

He arranged for renovations to his flat in Choa Chu Kang to start on Saturday, and hopes to be able to move in by next month.

He will miss his time in Johor Baru, he said, and will probably see less of his children. "They are going to be spending more time with their friends in Singapore," he said.

Mr Goh Huan Khoon, 46, a Singaporean car parts supplier who has a home in Johor Baru and customers in both places, said he will limit his trips there. "Usually, I go to JB to refuel. But now, I will go only when I have work there," he said.

But while some are budgeting their travel, it makes other Singaporeans living in Johor Baru happy customers. Mr David Ng sailed through the checkpoints on both sides and was home in just 20 minutes during the evening peak on Tuesday, when he would usually wait till after 9pm to skip the jam at Woodlands.

Mr Fahmi Rais, who has lived in Johor Baru for six years, also enjoyed getting home an hour earlier.

"My wife had the time and energy to cook. Usually we would eat out because we'd be so tired by the time we reached JB," he said.

Mr Fahmi, former vice-president of the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association, estimated that a third of the Singaporeans living there returned to Singapore over the years because they found the traffic jam at the checkpoints intolerable.

Singapore has said it will match Malaysia's road charge in some form, affecting Malaysians who work here.

Malaysian Mohd Rezal Hamid, 36, who works at a sushi factory here, and travels by car occasionally, said he has to drive in when it is raining heavily. At all other times, he rides a motorbike.

"I will have no choice but to continue driving so I hope it will be affordable," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'New fee takes toll on S'pore drivers in JB'. Print Edition | Subscribe