Review what’s bad, retain what’s beneficial

I applaud the newly-elected government’s commitment in fulfilling their manifesto; ensuring they are not merely empty promises.

Just a day after winning the election, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the first order of business – to look at the country’s finance and economic management with one of it being the review of mega projects.

As someone who will benefit from some of the infrastructure plans, I strongly feel that we should retain some of the mega projects, particularly the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR).

I travel to Singapore for work every day from Johor Bahru and the commute is still a hassle even though I’ve been doing it for almost six years now. I opt to ride my motorbike because it’s the fastest and most flexible way of getting around.

However, most Malaysians who travel daily with motorbikes to Singapore would agree that there are literally thousands of people going across on bikes every day and if you are commuting to Singapore in the morning and back to Johor Bahru in the evening, be prepared to queue as it could take over two hours just to get across each checkpoint.

Overall, that’s a two and a half to four hour average commute daily. The problem is not just the traffic jam to clear immigration but driving during peak hours in both Malaysia and Singapore takes a longer time to reach your destination.

The evening traffic jam is the worst, as traffic builds up as early as 4.30pm. Friday evening is a nightmare.

Though I’ve gotten used to the endless queuing (sometimes getting stuck in a traffic jam under the scorching sun or when the immigration systems experience a technical glitch), I wish there was an easier way to do this.

When the HSR project was announced, it garnered mixed receptions. Some felt it was too costly and unnecessary at this point of time while others (like me) beamed with delight. Traveling to work will be a lot more convenient, I thought.

Still, I gave the project the benefit of the doubt and went to one of its road shows in Batu Pahat.

The project leverages on an improved travel experience of shorter travel time (90 minutes from KL to Singapore). Some dead town will be revived too through their economic development programme.

Sure, the project may sound costly but it’s beneficial in the long run. I’m all for Tun M’s efforts in reducing the country’s debts, but I hope the HSR project won’t be at its expense.

It’s a relief to know that I can finally move back to Batu Pahat and commute to Singapore using the HSR rather than rent a room in Johor Bahru. With the HSR, I (and thousands of other Malaysians who are in the same boat) can spend more time with their families and still work in Singapore.

We can’t look past the HSR’s main objectives: to build an efficient travel mode between KL and Singapore, encouraging economic and development growth as well as creating job and business prospects.

Some of us might be able to come back and serve our country given the right opportunities. For as long as the objectives are met, perhaps it’s wise to retain the project.

Mohd Ismail Yahya is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.