Toll protest causes long traffic jam at Singapore-Malaysia border

Bus drivers angry at steep rises in tolls charged to cross the Malaysia-Singapore border stage strike during Friday rush hour causing long queues

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 2:12pm

Massive traffic jams disrupted the morning rush-hour at the Malaysia-Singapore border on Friday as Malaysian bus drivers staged a wildcat strike to protest against a sharp increase in toll charges to enter the city state.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority said in an advisory to local motorists early on Friday that heavy traffic was due to a protest “against [an] increase in Malaysian toll fees by Malaysian bus drivers”.

Images on social media showed dozens of Malaysia-registered buses used for ferrying workers and students into Singapore standing stationary at the Johor Bharu city checkpoint in southern Malaysia.

Huge crowds of stranded commuters waited for the strike to end while some were seen walking across the one-kilometre causeway, one of two land crossings between the neighbours.

A photographer at the scene said buses started moving at around 10am local time after at least two hours of standstill, although the heavy traffic showed little signs of abating after that.

Malaysian media reports said bus drivers were persuaded to end their strike after local authorities promised a review of increased toll rates within a week.

Starting on Friday, buses will have to pay a toll of 13.30 Malaysian ringgit (HK$32.21) at the Johor Bharu checkpoint in Malaysia for a round trip, a more than five-fold increase from the current 2.30 ringgit.

The increase will affect all motorists, including owners of private cars, who will now have to pay 16.50 ringgit from 2.90 ringgit for a round trip.

Malaysia announced the increase shortly after a July 1 announcement by Singapore that it will raise a permit fee for foreign vehicles from S$20 (HK$124) a day to S$35.

The increases have generated widespread consternation among both Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Over 310,000 commuters travel between Singapore and Malaysia daily through the two land crossings, according to the Malaysian government.

Singaporeans frequent Johor Bharu on weekends for tourism, dining and grocery shopping.

Around 200,000 Malaysians work in Singapore, mostly in factories and in the services sector. A number of Malaysian students also commute to Singapore daily from Johor Bahru.