Traffic builds up on Causeway even as new toll charges kick in

Traffic at the Malaysian customs check before going on the Causeway heading to Singapore at about 7.30am on Oct 1, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO 
Traffic at the Malaysian customs check before going on the Causeway heading to Singapore at about 7.30am on Oct 1, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO 
Midway through the Causeway from Malaysia to Singapore on Oct 1, 2014 at about 8.30am. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Midway through the Causeway from Malaysia to Singapore on Oct 1, 2014 at about 8.30am. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
The peak hour jam on the Causeway towards Singapore. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO  -
The peak hour jam on the Causeway towards Singapore. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO  -

SINGAPORE - Traffic was heavy on the Causeway on Wednesday morning as Malaysians and Singaporeans made their daily commute to work on the first day the revised toll charges on the Singapore side took effect.

Traffic was smooth in the early hours of Wednesday morning but it started to build up at 8am as it would normally, causing a jam on the Causeway.

For many like Mr Ben Yap, 37, the toll hike means an increase of $200 in transport cost per month.

The Singaporean operations manager travels back and forth from Johor Baru every day with his wife.

"But I think whatever I save from the exchange rate can still compensate for the toll cost increase," he said.

Others like Mr Gan Chit Kiong, 34, who moved to Johor in search of a cheaper lifestyle two years ago, said he might reconsider moving back to Singapore if Malaysia chooses to raise the vehicle entry permit cost too.

"The burden will be too much to bear at that point," he said.

It was business as usual when The Straits Times visited the Woodlands Checkpoint at 5.30am, with the new charges kicking in without a hitch.

Pumping petrol at Mesra petrol station was Mr Muhd Shawal, 40, one of those hit by the hike. The Singaporean businessman who lives in Johor was on his way to take his two children to school.

"What to do, I just have to accept it, I cannot say don't send them to school or don't do my business," he said.

Mr Shawal, who imports food and equipment from Johor to Singapore, added: "There is no way to reduce the toll cost so I will just have to try to cut down on my operation costs."

In August, Malaysia raised the toll rates for vehicles entering Johor from Singapore and implemented a new toll for Singapore-bound vehicles.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced it would match these rates shortly after the changes were made.

Since then, business chambers representing companies in Malaysia and Singapore have voiced concerns that the toll hikes will have a negative economic impact.

In September, Malaysian government officials said that they would be meeting with their Singapore counterparts to clarify the reasons behind the revision of charges at the Causeway. According to the LTA, it has been a longstanding policy for Singapore to match the tolls set by Malaysia.

A two-way trip by car via the Causeway will now cost around S$13.10 in combination with tolls levied by Malaysia.