RTS may be solution to one of the world’s busiest border crossings

It will enhance vehicle and traffic flows through the CIQ Complex before entering the Causeway

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link is needed as the RM85 million proposed allocation in Budget 2020 will only provide a temporary respite to the bottleneck at the Johor Causeway.

The popularly known 1.1km Johor Causeway is one of the world’s busiest border crossings with an estimated 350,000 travellers daily.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng when tabling the budget recently said the allocation would facilitate the opening of 50 more counters for the motorcyclists and streamlining the immigration process and PLUS highway counters.

He said these plans will enhance vehicle and traffic flows through the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex before entering the Causeway.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the RM85 million allocation is a temporary measure to help the immigration process and ease the traffic flow.

“It is not enough to solve the chronic congestion at the Causeway but is a relief, which would speed up the immigration process, especially with the use of the latest technology like artificial intelligence.

“This will eliminate the manual process. If possible, there should be green lanes for Malaysians who are working in Singapore since they are going to and fro to Singapore every day,” Soh told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a text reply.

The government said about 300,000 people use the Causeway daily.

The condition at Johor Causeway has become critical. The number of travellers using the Causeway has even reached 400,000, according to Johor’s state assembly debate last year. It is estimated almost 60% of the total users of the slightly above 1km Causeway are pedestrians.

The Johor state government had proposed the construction of a covered walkway on the Malaysian side.

State Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee chairman Mohd Solihan Badri said the covered walkway will be 12ft wide and stretch across 1.2km, with six feet space heading to Singapore and six feet heading to Malaysia.

It is expected to be built on top of the existing motorcycle lane, equipped with an air-conditioner, escalator and a checkpoint for pedestrians. The cost of the construction is estimated at no less than RM15 million.

“We hope the RM85 million is to include the consideration of this walkway. As of now, the pedestrian has to walk on the road, which is very dangerous.

“If the federal government approved this project as early as January, we could start work the month after and can be completed within a year,” Mohd Solihan told TMR.

“This is a better facility compared to Singapore’s walkway which is currently not covered,” he added.

On Oct 16, the Johor state government had separated lanes for buses heading towards the Sultan Iskandar Building (BSI) at the Causeway to reduce congestion at the checkpoints.

Mohd Solihan said from now, factory buses that are going to the BSI must use the entrance from the Inner Ring Road, while public buses will use the entrance from the Eastern Dispersal Link –— an expressway located 2km away parallel from the ring road.

“Factory buses are not allowed to take passengers at stations, like public buses to ensure a smoother journey. This needs additional enforcers such as auxiliary police and People’s Volunteer Corps which translate to a bigger allocation,” he said.

It was reported that there are a total of 553 registered public buses and 920 registered factory buses that ply the Causeway route every day.

Mohd Solihan also added that the Special Committee on the Causeway Congestion, which is chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has not discussed any possibility to reconstruct the scenic bridge, an idea mooted by Dr Mahathir when he was the PM the first time.

Soh said although the congestion does not contribute significantly to the country’s economy, it does reduce the users’ productivity.

“This is why RTS Link could be one of the best choices for commuters. It can also enhance economic activities between Singapore and Johor,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said the 4km RTS Link line connecting Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru to Woodlands in Singapore would proceed, but Putrajaya would need more time to start the project.

The project is estimated to cost around RM4 billion. It would be able to shuttle 10,000 passengers every hour each way.