Foreign cars entering Singapore will be levied a new entry charge from Feb 15, in line with earlier government pronouncements that the Republic will match similar fees implemented by Malaysia.
In an announcement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority said a reciprocal road charge of $6.40 per entry will apply at both the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints. It said the fee mirrors Malaysia's road charge of RM20 (S$6.40) for non-Malaysia registered cars entering Johor that was implemented on Nov 1 last year.
On Jan 9, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament that Singapore intends to match Malaysia's road charge.
He pointed out that Malaysia collected about RM13.93 million in road charges from Singapore vehicles in the seven weeks from Nov 1.
Singapore's reciprocal charge will be collected with the vehicle entry permit (VEP) and toll charges for the two crossings, which can amount to as much as $41.50 for cars. During Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) hours, foreign cars without an in-vehicle unit are also levied a fixed ERP charge of $5 a day.
VEP does not apply on weekends, public holidays and after 5pm to before 2am on weekdays.
The new charge translates to a cost increase of at least 14 per cent for Malaysian drivers entering Singapore. However, housewife Noraini Mokhtar, 48, said it is unlikely to make a huge dent on cross- border commutes. "If you have to go, you have to go," she said.
The Johor Baru resident, who said she comes to Singapore about once every fortnight to settle personal matters, noted that the new charge will not affect her much.
But Malaysian businessman Prasad Natyala, 64, who has an office in Singapore, said: "Both governments have done nothing to improve traffic flow at the crossings - you can get stuck at the Causeway for two to three hours - yet they want to charge ordinary citizens who contribute to the economies of both countries more."
Mr Natyala, who lives in Johor Baru and commutes to Singapore two to four times a week, added: "I hope they will come to their senses."
However, SIM University economist Walter Theseira said Singapore's reciprocal charge should be seen as "encouraging the Malaysian authority to bear in mind the consequences of its actions on its own citizens" when it introduces any foreign levy. "As a sovereign state, we have to take a stand," he said. "We must not be seen as an easy source of revenue."
Veteran transport consultant Bruno Wildermuth, however, said "Malaysia had every right to make Singaporeans share in the cost of using its infrastructure".
"We (Singapore) have been charging them (Malaysians) for more than 25 years for using ours. Why should we get a free ride?"