Malaysia mulls over solutions to Causeway congestion in first special committee meeting

The proposals include widening and extending the Causeway, building a covered pedestrian walkway, setting up a shipping lane and expanding the existing entry points. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is considering a slew of measures to ease congestion at the Causeway, including expanding the link, building a covered walkway and creating a shipping lane, it said on Thursday (Aug 22).

A special committee chaired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met for the first time on Wednesday to discuss ways to resolve the longstanding traffic problem at the two links connecting Malaysia's Johor state with Singapore - the Causeway at Woodlands and the Second Link at Tuas.

Travellers currently take between 40 minutes and two hours to clear the 1.06km-long Causeway during peak hours. Over 300,000 people cross the Causeway daily.

According to a statement by the Home Ministry on Thursday, immediate initiatives considered by the committee included increasing funding for the two entry points, forming a single border agency to oversee all the country's borders and entry points including ports, and conducting a study to identify issues and challenges in planning for future capacity needs.

Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamman last month announced the proposal to form a single agency to coordinate operations at the two entry points, to boost efficiency and reduce congestion.

He said that it was necessary to create a single agency because there are currently 23 government agencies from various ministries stationed at the Customs and immigration checkpoint at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar and 13 agencies at the Kompleks Sultan Abu Bakar checkpoint, both in Johor.

These include offices of the immigration department, Customs department, police, the road transport department, the health department and the highway operator.

The meeting on Wednesday also agreed to set up a sub-committee, comprising several ministers and representatives of the Johor state government and chaired by the Home Minister, to follow up on and fine-tune initiatives recommended by the special committee.

Proposals to be fine-tuned include widening and extending the Causeway, building a covered pedestrian walkway, setting up a shipping lane and expanding the existing entry points.

Earlier this year, the Johor government said it was looking to build a 1.2km walkway on the Causeway at an estimated cost of RM15 million (S$5 million) for those travelling between the state and Singapore.

Johor Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee chairman Mohd Solihan Badri had said the idea was mooted after the state government found that many people risked their lives walking across the link without proper facilities to ensure their safety.

Commuters often rush across the Causeway during peak hours in order to avoid being stuck in traffic.

Many bus passengers encroached on vehicle lanes to beat the traffic before continuing their journey on public transport upon reaching Singapore, he added. The footpath will be built on the existing motorcycle lanes on both sides of the Causeway.

The Home Ministry did not elaborate in its statement on how a shipping lane would ease congestion, although a similar proposal cropped up in 2003, when Tun Dr Mahathir mooted the idea of an S-shaped highway to replace the Malaysian side of the Causeway that would allow vessels to pass underneath.

The so-called crooked bridge plan was dropped by former prime minister Abdullah Badawi after he took over from Dr Mahathir in late 2003.

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