Allow people to cross the Causeway on foot as an alternative to driving, suggests Malaysia official

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Johor Causeway should be opened up for people to walk into Singapore as an alternative to driving and paying the new toll, said Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.

Both the Malaysia and Singapore governments, he said, should also look into the details under a project to extend the Republic's Rapid Transit System into Johor.

"The faster we implement this system, the better it is for people to use public transport to get into Singapore," Syed Hamid said in an interview on Sunday.

This, said Syed Hamid, would definitely help reduce the number of motorcycles and vehicles on the Causeway.

The public were previously allowed to walk across the Causeway but this stopped when the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) building was opened in 2008.

Syed Hamid said he would also be meeting his officers on the bus blockade last Friday and submitting the drivers' suggestions to the government.

Describing the blockade as unnecessary, Syed Hamid said it had inconvenienced motorists as well as affected the livelihood of Malaysian workers in Singapore.

"The bus operators should have spoken to the Singaporean companies about the increase in costs," he said.

On Friday, the factory bus drivers had stopped metres away from the Johor CIQ building's entrance and parked their vehicles across the three-lane highway to protest against the toll charges, causing traffic to come to a standstill and forcing commuters to cross over to Singapore by foot.

The EDL is an 8.6km-long expressway in Johor Baru connecting the North-South Expressway Southern Route in Pandan to the CIQ complex in the city centre. It is regarded as a toll-free expressway to the CIQ complex, allowing users to bypass Jalan Tebrau.

However, a controversy has erupted following the decision to impose toll collection inside Johor CIQ as some who do not use the EDL but want to travel to Singapore will also have to pay the toll. Although an average of 220,000 motorists use the EDL daily, only about 40,000 to 50,000 users travel to Singapore and have to pay toll.

The Malaysian Highway Authority has explained that the collection was needed for the maintenance of the EDL and other CIQ facilities.

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