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Malaysia to review plan for steep rise in Johor Baru tolls
Publication Date : 31-07-2014
Following an uproar over what commuters say is a steep toll hike at Johor's main border checkpoint, the Malaysian government said that it will review the move.
Last Friday, commuters who travel between Singapore and Johor Baru often were caught off guard by news that they would have to pay an increase of more than 500 per cent in toll charges at the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) from tomorrow.
Passenger cars, whether Malaysia- or foreign-registered, will have to pay 16.50 ringgit (US$5.17) for a two-way trip - that is, 9.70 ringgit (US$3.04) when they enter and 6.80 ringgit (US$2.13) when they leave Johor Baru.
At present, there is a one-way charge of 2.90 ringgit (US$0.91) for cars entering Johor Baru. Only motorcyclists are exempt from paying the new toll hike.
The hike was announced in a statement from the works ministry, which is under the federal government.
The sharp increase had Johoreans working in Singapore, who travel both ways every day, fuming.
Deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government is studying other possibilities for commuters who enter Johor Baru and Singapore daily, to avoid burdening local motorists.
He also assured motorists using the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) - an 8.1km expressway that connects the CIQ to the North-South Expressway heading to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur - that it will remain without a toll. The EDL offers quicker access to Johor Baru city centre from places in the state's outskirts, such as Kota Tinggi and Skudai.
"That's why we are thinking of different toll lanes and booths for users of EDL and those who use other routes," Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times yesterday.
Analysts said the steep toll hike appears to be a response to Singapore's decision to raise the vehicle entry permit on foreign vehicles from S$20 (US$16.06) to S$35 (US$28.10), from tomorrow.
On top of the higher tolls, the Malaysian government will also impose a fee, reportedly 50 ringgit (US$15.68), on Singapore-registered vehicles entering Malaysia via Johor Baru by the year end, although the details of its implementation are still under discussion.
Dr Yeah Kim Leng, an economics lecturer at the Malaysia University of Science and Technology, said that any increase in the toll should be more gradual.
"The overly steep toll hike will create an immediate hardship to citizens and a jump in inflation," he said.
Muhyiddin had justified the toll hike by saying it would be used to maintain the EDL and other JB CIQ-related facilities.
"For Singapore, they may increase their toll as they have the right to do so as well," he said.
Analysts like Pong Teng Siew, research head of Jupiter Securities, said the government appears to be charging motorists at the CIQ in an effort to pay off the private toll operator that built the EDL.
Over the years, the government has awarded contracts to build expressways in the country. These projects come with concessions to enable the companies to collect tolls as revenue.
Early this year, the government made a U-turn on a decision to raise the tolls on several major expressways in the Klang Valley after a backlash.