Thursday 30 May 2024
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The city of Johor Bahru (JB) is located a mere kilometre away from Woodlands, Singapore.

Currently, the Johor causeway is regarded as one the busiest border crossings in the world.

In view of the increasing number of crossings, both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments have decided to build the Rapid-Transit System (RTS) for better connectivity and mobility between the two nations.

The line is about 4km long and will be able to carry 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction once it is ready by 2027.

Singapore has built the new Thomson-East Coast MRT line to connect Woodlands North MRT Station (the terminus for the proposed RTS) all the way to the city centre at Gardens by the Bay.

I had the opportunity to use this MRT line when I was transiting via Singapore from Batam a month ago. Upon reaching Singapore, it was convenient to connect to the MRT Thomson-East Coast Line and it took me about 45 minutes to reach Woodlands North MRT Station.

However, since the RTS is yet to be operational, the 45-minute breeze of a journey across the island of Singapore had to end at Woodlands North MRT Station without direct connection into JB.

Just imagine how convenient the travel experience would be once the RTS is up and running.

Singapore has prepared itself by commencing the service of Thomson-East Coast MRT line years before the RTS is slated to operate. Malaysia too, should prepare itself in exploiting the RTS for its economic benefit.

As it is going to be much easier to travel across these two nations by the year 2027, JB should take advantage in positioning itself as a transit city to accommodate spillover tourists from Singapore, one of the most visited cities on the planet.

The price of hotels in Singapore is three times that of JB. This is the weak spot that Malaysia must take advantage of.

This is not a weird scenario. I remembered the time when I attended a conference in Geneva, Switzerland. I had to stay in Ferney-Voltaire, France, which is located just a stone’s throw away, as the accommodation tariffs in Geneva are off the charts.

It was much cheaper staying in France and commuting rather than staying right at the city centre of Geneva. But then again, unlike JB-Singapore, one does not have to pass through immigration checkpoints when crossing from Ferney-Voltaire to Geneva.

Singapore and Malaysia (as of 1 February 2023) have introduced international automated gates which I think would allow fast and efficient immigration clearance.

In view of these developments, I believe the Malaysian government should equip Johor Bahru with a better and efficient public transportation system to complement the much-awaited RTS service. JB must be equipped with facilities of what a vibrant tourist city should have in maximising its capabilities.

With these potentials, it is not possible to transform JB into a rival city of the south.

Dr. Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli is associate professor at the Faculty of Syariah and law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and a research associate at the Asian Institute ofInternational Affairs and Diplomacy (AIIAD), Universiti Utara Malaysia.

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