Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Your Morning Walks Getting More Exciting

Credit: SGAG

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




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.


Drivers' refusal to pay tolls strands thousands
Workers resorting to walking into Singapore because of a protest by Malaysian bus drivers at the Johor checkpoint. Photo: Gron Chong

From disrupting businesses to causing havoc for furious commuters — many were late for school or work, and some had to rush for their flights at Changi Airport — the traffic standstill on the Causeway during the morning peak period yesterday had huge repercussions.

Ms Molly Chittick, senior sales manager from Transtar Travel, which runs round-trip shuttle services between Changi Airport and Johor, and Resorts World Sentosa and Johor, said their buses from Johor were stuck at the Causeway for hours. The company has 15 buses in Johor, with each bus ferrying about 20 to 30 passengers. The first bus was supposed to leave at around 5am yesterday and reach Singapore at about 7am. However, it only managed to enter Singapore at about 10am. The schedules of the remaining buses, which leave roughly every 30 minutes to an hour from Johor, were all delayed as a result.

“But our customers understand, they don’t blame us. They know it is not something we can control,” she said, adding that some of the customers could have missed their flights.

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M'sian toll-hike protestors warn: We'll do it again
JAMMED UP: (Above) Thousands of commuters had to walk across the Causeway just to get to work in Singapore. PHOTOS: THE STAR, FACEBOOK

Thousands of stranded passengers forced to walk across Causeway when hundreds of buses go on strike in Johor Baru during morning rush hour.

A six-month pregnant woman with a history of fainting spells and breathlessness walked 1km across the Causeway so she could get to work in Singapore yesterday. Mrs Wong Hui Juin was forced to disembark at the Custom & Immigration Quarantine Complex (CIQ) in Johor Baru because of a strike by operators of workers' buses over the toll hike which came into effect at the CIQ yesterday.

The strike, which lasted from 4am to 8am, affected thousands of commuters, including workers and students, on both sides of the Causeway.

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Malaysia's new tolls have trickle down effect on heartlands
WALK: Commuters were forced to cross the Causeway on foot after bus drivers went on strike.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Last Friday's protest by 200 bus drivers and operators at the Malaysian Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex saw a ripple effect in the heartlands.

Mr Chua See Yuen, 60, who runs a coffee stall in Woodlands, had to scramble awake when two of his 'kopi kias' (coffee boys) alerted him to the incident.

They eventually turned up at work, three hours late.


Stranded Malaysians walk across the Causeway
Making it on foot: Malaysian factory workers working in Singapore walking across the Causeway

Hundreds of Malay­sians stranded by the blockade took to crossing the slightly over 1km Causeway on foot after waiting for buses that never came.

Many of the commuters, who included schoolchildren, their family members and factory workers, were not even aware of the blockade which forced traffic to a standstill. Some even decided to turn back and skip work for the day.

Front office executive, Adrian Dinesh, 30, said the scene was like a marathon taking place along the Causeway. “The bus stop before the checkpoint was brimming with people, and yet there was no bus in sight. Everyone was just fed up that there was no public or factory bus to ferry them to work,” he said, adding that most decided to make the journey on foot.

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Protest against toll fees hike results in delays; passengers forced to walk across Causeway
JB bus drivers strike at Checkpoint

SEVERAL drivers manning private Malaysian buses mounted a strike at the Johor Baru (JB) Checkpoint to protest against the hike in toll fees that kicked in yesterday, refusing to ferry their passengers - factory workers and school children coming into Singapore - beyond the JB checkpoint.

The strike is said to have started at 6am, the start of the daily peak travel time.

These passengers disembarked at the Malaysian Customs Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) and walked into Singapore to board buses to their workplace; many of the school children were late for school.

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Commuters stranded in JB bus strike trek to Singapore
Malaysian buses are blocking all but one lane at the Johor checkpoint

The strike staged by Malaysian bus drivers at the Johor checkpoint early Friday morning (August 1) caused a bottleneck, affecting workers and students travelling to Singapore.

The strike was sparked by new toll charges imposed by Malaysia. Announced by the Malaysian Highway Authority last week, the new toll charges for vehicles heading into Singapore are RM6.80 (S$2.65), RM10.20, RM13.60, RM3.40 and RM5.50 for Class 1 to Class 5 vehicles, respectively. Only motorcyclists are exempted from paying toll.

Commuters who spoke to Channel NewsAsia said while they were aware of the toll increases, the strike caught them by surprise. But the crowd was orderly, although some appeared frustrated.

related:
Malaysian bus drivers stage strike at Johor checkpoint
New toll charges at Johor implemented ‘smoothly’: Malaysia’s Works Ministry
Malaysian opposition decries toll hike

Getting around another Causeway jam


A protest by bus drivers over Malaysian toll hikes caused a massive jam at the Johor Bahru checkpoint last Friday (Aug 1). Some companies and workers have come up with contingency plans, just in case a similar incident occurs again.

Soverus Security Solutions, for instance, is looking at rolling out a creative scheme, in case its Malaysian staff are delayed at the Causeway again — it will give S$100 to staff with motorcycles who offer pillion rides to their colleagues who take the bus.

CEO Paul Lim called the scheme a win-win situation: “The guy that gets the ride doesn’t have to (cost) the company a single cent for transport. The guy that rides the bike in, he gets S$100, which is more than enough to cover one month’s biking fuel.”

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Higher VEP, GVP charges come into effect at Causeway today
A Malaysian highway user pays a toll station in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Foreign-registered-cars and goods vehicles entering Singapore will now have to pay more as the new charges on Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) and Goods Vehicle Permit (GVP) fee comes into effect beginning today.

The new rate increase was announced by Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) on July 1, 2014.

From Friday, the city-state has raised the VEP to S$35 (RM90) from S$20 per day, while the GVP fee for foreign-registered goods vehicles is raised to S$40 from S$10 per calendar month.

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Bus drivers stage strike at Johor checkpoint
A commuter, among those who were affected by delays in bus services coming from Johor Bahru, shouts as he demands to be let into a bus travelling to Malaysia at the bus terminal at Singapore's Woodlands Checkpoint. — Reuters pic

An early morning strike involving Malaysian buses carrying factory workers into Singapore forced people to “walk over” to Singapore.

According to Channel News Asia, the protest at the Johor checkpoint was aimed at the new toll charges imposed by the Malaysian government.

The strike however has ended and traffic had returned to normal. According to the portal, a caller claimed the strike by the bus drivers caused heavy traffic congestion at the Johor checkpoint which also caused the workers to disembark at the Malaysian CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex) and walk a long distance into Singapore to board buses to their workplace.

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Malaysian opposition decries toll hike

DAP Johor Chief Boo Cheng Hau and PKR deputy secretary-general Steven Choong with bus drivers at the Johor checkpoint

Malaysian opposition parties Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) have come out in support of the bus drivers who staged a strike at the Johor checkpoint on early Friday morning (Aug 1).

The bus drivers went on strike to protest an increase of more than 400 per cent in toll charges at the Johor Bahru Customs which came into effect on Friday.

The Malaysian authorities confirmed to Channel NewsAsia reporter Sumisha Naidu later in the morning that the strike had ended. Chinese daily Sinchew in Malaysia reported that the traffic situation had returned to normal by 8am, after the local authorities promised to look into the revised toll charges.

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A Toll for a Toll – When Will the Causeway Madness Between Singapore and Malaysia End?

Believe it or not, paying a toll to cross a bridge usually isn’t such a big deal in most parts of the world. Then again, most toll bridges are within the same country and don’t connect two nations the way the Johor-Singapore Causeway bridge does.

And that’s when the problems start.

Now, Malaysians and Singaporeans on both ends of the causeway are left with no other option but to pay for the expensive mistakes of politicians on both sides. And it’s looking like it’ll be a very expensive one at that – costing commuters who travel to both sides daily thousands of dollars.

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JB toll hike: Singaporeans boycott JB and Msian buses strike
Yesterday five of us JB regulars bade farewell to JB with a party in…JB of course

From today the JB toll for inbound AND outbound (a new toll) will cost RM 16.50. And, the Singapore regime, with greed as its core value, has vowed to match that.

Once a week on average each of us spent about RM 200 in JB. That means we pumped about RM 4000 into JB economy every month.

It’s not a question of affordability. People the world over cross borders if there is the pull factor of bargains to be enjoyed. Once this is diminished, it’s no longer worthwhile.

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Malaysians Protest Over 400% Toll Hike By Malaysian Government

The Malaysian Highway Authority’s Johor Causeway toll of cars is now RM 16.50 instead of RM 2.90, amongst other increases for taxis, buses and commercial vehicles. The explanation for the toll was that it was for the maintenance of the JB CIQ and the EDL, the smaller newer highway in JB that connects to the NS highway. Malaysians are angered as those using the EDL but not the Causeway get a free ride, while those who use the Causeway but not the EDL are subsidising for the EDL users.

Furthermore, this toll looks different from the VEP that the Malaysian government wanted to introduce in 2015 in retaliation to the proposed Singapore-side fee increase from $20/day to $25/day for foreign cars driving into Singapore.

The in-out toll will hit Johor residents who work in Singapore as well as commercial vehicles heading into the Singapore market and port, and back. The thousands of bikes entering Singapore daily are exempted for now from the toll so the industry and retail workers biking into Singapore would be unaffected so far. As this is separate from the tit-for-tat VEP by Putrajaya and with Johor re-asserting its economic independence e.g. Iskandar, a simplified explanation is that could be an attempt to dent Singapore’s economy by driving up daily costs of Johor-Singapore commuters and businesses, deterring them from driving south.

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Applaud The PTOs

When the authorities started to introduce air-conditioned public buses in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were complaints from some among the commuting public that this would result in fares increases.

Some two decades or so later, it is safe to say all of us are thankful that our buses and trains provide at least a cool ride home or to the office, even as we have to put up with the crowds.

A little walk down memory lane provides some perspective to how far we have come, as far as public transport is concerned. (Click here for a rather well-detailed blog post about this: “Those Years When We Waited For Our Buses Together”.)

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Food security and the Vehicle Entry Permit

When Malaysia wanted to raise the Vehicle Entry Permit in a tit-for-tat move against Singapore, one Calvin Cheng had this to say: “When Singapore raised the price for the Vehicle Entry Permit for Malaysian cars, there was a reason for it.

Singapore controls its car population which results in high car prices. Over the last few years, COEs have also risen. It is unfair for Singaporeans if Malaysians can drive their far cheaper cars into Singapore and use it within Singapore as they like. Therefore Malaysians have to pay a VEP to use their cars daily in Singapore. Since car prices in Singapore have risen, it is only fair that VEPs should also rise.

Malaysia on the other hand does not have similar car population control measures, as they have a lot of land. Their introduction of a VEP for Singaporean cars is purely a petty, tit-for-tat measure. The Malaysians have further decided to increase their toll charge by 400%. This is different and separate from the VEP they said they would introduce.

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Bus drivers cause traffic chaos at CIQ
Traffic standstill: The parked factory buses at the CIQ

A group of factory bus drivers stopped metres away from the entrance of the Sultan Iskandar Customs and Immigration Check­point (CIQ) building here to protest against the toll charges being implemented there, causing traffic to come to a standstill.

The drivers parked their vehicles across the three-lane highway, blocking access to all other heavy vehicles.

The pre-dawn blockade forced scores of commuters, including schoolchildren and factory workers, to trudge across the Causeway into Singapore on foot.

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New Causeway toll a big blunder

The Singapore Land Transport Authority has now announced Singapore will match Johor's new higher Causeway tolls "in the next few weeks". At the same time they published the following impact write-up on motorists using the Causeway to allow a few weeks for the public to digest and make enquiries

Damn the Malaysian Works Ministry and the Foreign Ministry and all other ministries and departments for designing the absurd and totally illogical method of collecting toll to pay the toll concessionaire MRCB Lingkaran Selatan Sdn Bhd. And worse, they did not even pre-warn the motorists of its implementation with sufficient time to digest and make enquiries for a few weeks like Singapore LTA did

 Everything is so transparent and proper over the Causeway but it is a “black hole” on this side as no one knew the rationale of charging only those who drive in and out of the CIQ and who may not even use the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL)

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Transport Woes
– ChemicalGenerationSg: Malaysians Protest Over 400% Toll Hike By Malaysian Gov
– SpotlightOnSg: JB toll hike: Singaporeans boycott JB and Msian buses strike
– Money $mart: When Will the Causeway Madness Between Spore & Malaysia End?
– Five Stars and a Moon: Food security and the Vehicle Entry Permit
– Fresh Grads: Applaud The PTOs

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Full Coverage:

The Star Online: Stranded Malaysians walk across the Causeway