KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Malaysia’s steep increase to toll charges on the Causeway was down to its need to fund projects such as the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) rather than retaliation to the republic’s move to raise vehicle entry fees, according to a transportation analyst.
Acknowledging that the sequence of events made the increase appear as a “tit-for-tat” response, Straits Times (ST) transport correspondent Christopher Tan said the move was a perfect opportunity for Malaysia to fill its coffers and pay off infrastructure works such as the RM1.27 billion EDL that feeds the Causeway.
“If this were indeed a political spat, there would be other signs: a suspension or slowdown of joint projects such as the MRT extension to Johor Baru and cross-border high-speed rail link. So far, there has been no hint of this,” Tan wrote yesterday.
Singapore revised its vehicle entry permit (VEP) fee on foreign cars entering the republic from S$20 to S$35 (RM51.26 toRM89.71) effective August 1.
More tellingly, Tan said a retaliatory response would have seen Malaysia singling out Singaporean-registered cars rather than applying the increase across the board.
While Tan saw no malice in the move, he said the hike would be a “royal pain” for motorists, especially when Singapore raises the charge on its side of the Causeway to be on parity with Malaysia.
Traffic volume is expected to decline with the increases, according to Tan, who predicted a decline in the 13,000 Malaysian cars and 19,000 buses that enter Singapore daily as well as 45,000 of the republic’s motorists that head in the opposite direction.
“Chances are, Malaysians will feel the pinch more, simply because of the stronger Singapore currency,” he concluded.
Malaysia imposed a nearly five-fold hike to toll charges for motorists using the Causeway effective August 1, in what was seen as a response to Singapore’s imposition of a higher vehicle entry fee.
Private passenger cars now pay a total of RM16.50 for a round-trip, up from RM2.90 previously collected in one direction.
Small trucks are now charged RM24.90, up from RM4.50 while toll for busses shot up from RM6.10 to RM33.30.
Yesterday, DAP national adviser Lim Kit Siang similarly concluded that the “unconscionable” hike to the Causeway toll charges was meant to subsidise the EDL, which remains free of toll charges following a pledge by the government.
Lim also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to institute a moratorium on the increase upon his return from a two-day working visit to the Netherlands, saying the unpopularity and “great sense of injustice” should suffice to trigger the review.