Dr M can’t understand why Singapore doesn’t want new bridge

Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his visit to the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex in Johor Bahru today. (Bernama pic)

JOHOR BAHRU: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed “bewilderment” over Singapore’s rejection of Malaysia’s proposal to build a new bridge to solve the long-standing congestion problem at the Johor Causeway.

The prime minister said Singapore had adopted this stand despite enjoying years of “subsidies” over cheap water sourced from Malaysia.

He said the building of the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) would only ease the congestion at the Causeway.

“You just see, we are willing to sacrifice money to support Singapore so that they can buy cheap water for themselves but when we want to build a bridge to solve the traffic problem, they refuse to have the bridge … I don’t know why.

“In the year 3000, I will not be around. By that time, there will be 100 million people in Johor wanting to go to Singapore. Still there will be no new bridge, so I don’t see how we can be so accommodating to Singapore with Singapore not accommodating us,” he told reporters after visiting the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) here today.

Mahathir said many commuters from Johor Bahru used motorcycles to travel to and from Singapore, which made it impossible for them to use the RTS.

Apart from that, improving efficiency at the CIQ would not be able to fully solve the congestion issue, especially during weekends and festival periods, including Hari Raya, he said.

“We have some ideas to reduce congestion at this building but it’s not adequate. When it comes to festival seasons and weekends, we will continue to face jams.

“We may improve efficiency but as long as there is no bridge, we will not be able to solve the problems at the Johor Causeway,” he said.

According to recent reports, the number of people passing through the CIQ on a normal day is 250,000 while between 40,000 and 50,000 cars, 70,000 motorcycles and 3,000 to 5,000 lorries or buses use it daily.

On the issue of the water price review, Mahathir hoped that negotiations between the two countries could continue as soon as possible.

“We could not discuss this matter because we could not fix a date for the talks. One day of delay in discussing this matter means we lose millions. In fact, it can even reach a billion ringgit,” he said.

In April, the two countries agreed to seek an amicable settlement on the water issue, including the possibility of resolving the dispute through arbitration on the basis of mutual consent.

Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore is allowed to extract 250 million gallons per day (mgd) of raw water from Sungai Johor at the rate of three sen per 1,000 gallons.

In return, Johor can buy treated water from the republic at 50 sen per gallon.