Long queues and delays all in a day's work

Malaysian Yap Boon Hock, 50, wakes up at 4.30am to ride from his rented home in Johor Baru to Pasir Panjang in Singapore, where he works as a welder. This has been his daily routine for the last 20 years and he is used to jams, long delays and having
Malaysian Yap Boon Hock, 50, wakes up at 4.30am to ride from his rented home in Johor Baru to Pasir Panjang in Singapore, where he works as a welder. This has been his daily routine for the last 20 years and he is used to jams, long delays and having to cope with bad weather at times.ST PHOTO:ARLINA ARSHAD

The Sunday Times joins two Malaysians as they commute to and from work in Singapore, to experience first-hand what they face crossing the Causeway.

After a light breakfast of two steamed buns and a cup of coffee, Malaysian Yap Boon Hock hopped onto his orange Honda motorcycle and sped off to join the morning crowd at the Causeway.

Waking up at 4.30am to ride to work has become a daily routine for the 50-year-old, who has been working as a welder in Pasir Panjang for the past two decades. His family lives in Negeri Sembilan and he drives from his rented home in Johor Baru to visit them every week.

"Having more bridges to Singapore will certainly help me," he told The Sunday Times. "Even after 20 years, I still need an alarm clock to wake me up."

But he makes it a point to have a meal, no matter how late he is. "You must eat because you might get stuck in the traffic jam. I'm lucky because my bosses are very understanding," he said.

The Sunday Times saw dozens of "bikers" - as the riding commuters call themselves - having their breakfast at 24-hour coffee shops in Johor Baru at 4am. The number began to dwindle within the hour. "Sorry, sister, I'm late already," a man in a helmet waved The Sunday Times away at 5am, as he rushed off to buy curry puffs.

The journey on the crossing was fast and smooth but a bottleneck had formed at the Singapore checkpoint at around 6am. Traffic crawled to a stop. While waiting for Immigration and Customs clearance, many bikers turned off their engines and removed their helmets. Some whipped out their mobile phones to watch movies while others were seen nodding off.

"This is normal. Things could get worse, like bad weather. And then you can't do anything but wear your poncho and wait in the rain," Mr Yap said calmly.

It was 45 minutes later when we arrived in Singapore, after clearing Customs and security checks.

The father of three school-going children said his salary of S$2,000 keeps him at his job. "What to do?" he said. "It's a small sacrifice for a better future."

Arlina Arshad

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 28, 2018, with the headline 'Long queues and delays all in a day's work'. Print Edition | Subscribe