MP SPEAKS I am responding to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Wee Ka Siong's statement recently that the collection of toll hikes at Johor Baru's Iskandar CIQ was only meant for MRCB Prasarana Sdn Bhd, This statement is deemed to be misleading.
Currently, an ordinary car has to pay RM6.80 each way to-and-fro the Johor Causeway payable to MRCB Prasarana Sdn Bhd, and an additional RM2.90 on the return trip from Singapore payable to Plus Berhad, which it has been collecting for the past 29 years.
This shows that the federal government has approved double toll charges at Iskandar CIQ without justifiable grounds.
The toll fees will amount to RM33 at both Iskandar and Woodlands CIQs from Oct 1 when Singapore's LTA pegs the corresponding toll hikes.
There are two private companies- that is, MRCB Prasarana Sdn Bhd collecting tolls for Eastern Dispersal Link, and Plus for the old concession at the Iskandar CIQ, where no highway services have been provided since 1984.
There are questionable double toll fees collection and overlapping of MRCB and Plus concessions.
Wee, as the minister in the Prime Minister's Department, is the best person to help give a clear explanation as to why two separate concessions were awarded to MRCB and Plus respectively, and double toll fees are charged at Johor Baru Iskandar CIQ.
Wee ( right ) is urged to direct the economic planning unit of the Prime Minister's Department to release the details of the following concessions in question for the public's benefits:
(1) In 1984, Plus was awarded the concession to collect tolls at Senai Toll and Johor Baru CIQ without any highway services being provided but accordingly it was to raise funds to complete the North-South Expressway from Bukit Kayu Hitam ending at Johor Bahu CIQ.
In what circumstances that the North-South Expressway southbound ending point has been shifted from Johor Baru CIQ to Pandan which is eight kilometres away from the Iskandar CIQ?
Had the government amended the concession with Plus and allowed MRCB to take up another concession to complete the North-South Expressway by connecting the EDL from Pandan interchange to Iskandar CIQ?
(2) When the government awarded the EDL concession to MRCB which in fact completed North-South Expressway, according to the original plan building a highway connecting Bukit Kayu Hitam up to Johor Baru CIQ, why Plus was not made to pay the construction cost of EDL after having been collecting toll at Johor Bahru CIQ without providing any highway service for the past 29 years?
'Make public details of concessions'
Wee also is urged to direct the economic planning unit in the Prime Minister’s Department to make public the details of the two concessions awarded to MRCB and Plus to collect tolls at Iskandar CIQ respectively. Apparently the BN government has sacrificed the general public's economic interests for the interests of a few cronies.
I reiterate the projections that Plus has collected tolls about RM1.5 billion at Johor Baru CIQ without any highway services provided which could pay up EDL's RM1.1 billion construction cost and yet still make a handsome profit of RM400 million in the past 29 years.
The government should follow Singapore's measures by imposing vehicle entry permit (VEP) on foreign-registered foreigner-driven vehicles while giving exemption to Malaysian owned foreign-registered vehicles.
According to an online poll done by Johor Pakatan Rakyat Reserach centre (JOPREC), the majority of the respondents who agree with the imposition of VEP on foreign registered vehicles think that Malaysian-owned foreign-registered vehicles should be exempted.
I urge the government to review concessions awarded to Plus and MRCB, and to consider the possibility of having Plus shoulder the construction cost of EDL and abolish all toll collection at Iskandar CIQ, as the Singapore government had announced that it will peg abolition of toll collection at Woodland CIQ if Malaysia abolishes toll collection at the Causeway.
On the contrary, Malaysia could impose VEP with the equivalent amount of the VEP imposed by Singapore on foreign registered vehicles in in order to raise funds to improve the public transport system in Johor Baru, especially for the MRT and LRT connecting various parts of Iskandar Malaysia to Woodlands MRT Station and Keranji MRT Station and other parts of Singapore Island.
Smart identification cards
I laud the efforts of both Malaysian and Singaporean governments to abolish toll collection at the Causeway concurrently which would improve better commercial and cultural ties between Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore.
In order to reduce traffic jams at the causeway, both governments should look into the possibility of smart identification cards for both countries' citizens working on both sides of the Causeway and biometric identification system for clearing the traffic congestion on the Causeway and Second Link, while the public transport system connecting both countries should be improved without delay.
In the meanwhile, proposals have been raised for KTM Bhd to increase services specifically between Johor Baru railway station and Woodlands railway station only during rush hours - that is, between 5am to 9am and 5pm to 10pm, in order to reduce traffic jams at the Causeway.
I also emphasise that efforts also have to be made to improve municipal bus services within Johor Baru area itself by combining the 11 municipal bus services into not more than three consortia.
This will cut down adverse competition among too many bus companies which tendto only run profitable routes, jeopardising the quality of bus services in Johor Baru.
BOO CHENG HAU is Skudai assemblyperson and Johor state assembly opposition leader.