Johor Baru needs a walking entry permit for Singaporeans

OCTOBER 13 — I go to Johor Baru (JB) a lot. Why not? Food is delicious. Shopping is cheap. Cinemas are spacious. And beyond the city lies an entire nation full of beautiful sights. 

It is no exaggeration that I think Malaysia is one of the world’s most beautiful countries offering a variety of landscapes and experiences.

My family and I, we often drive to JB. As a family of four, the logistics of getting into the family car and across the border is so straightforward. 

It is also a land border crossing that offers the luxury of not having to emerge from your car so we can sit comfortably listening to our music or our podcast (our preference is to listen to a true crime podcast using the thrill of the whodunit to while away the wait) till we clear immigration.

This is why the announcement of the mandatory Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) registration was cause for concern. 

Who in our family would be delegated the task of getting the permit? One had to register online and then collect it in person in JB. 

Online, so many people have wondered what if you could only collect the permit after the deadline – how would you enter? 

The answer to me seemed obvious — a fine, of course. But my cynicism proved wrong; it seemed if you had a confirmation slip you could enter. 

Perhaps then this VEP process was being enforced with the best of intentions as a means to monitor and regulate traffic? 

Perhaps, my family should simply get ourselves organised and on it.

The need for VEP registration was first announced in 2017. Two years later and I will confess — we left it to the very last minute.

The deadline was October 1 and in September none of us had even begun to unravel the process fully. Then, fortunately, it has been postponed. The official reason was the delays caused by technical demands from processing so many cars.

We did not even try but apparently many other more conscientious Singaporeans or Singapore-registered vehicles — who probably need to travel for more pressing reasons than cendol — discovered the registration process had hiccups. The website was often difficult to load and sometimes not available.

Now the VEP expectation has been kicked down the road to next year. So, our delegation deferring saved us this time, but it looks unlikely to hold up for long. 

Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke said in a press conference it is likely to come into effect next year.

As a common commuter, my frustration is this: if the hassle of procuring this permit would translate to shorter jams, I would be the first in queue. 

Every year the jam at the causeway has been getting increasingly worse — and these days it is not uncommon over a weekend to see friends and family FaceBooking their purgatory as they sit in their cars for hours.

Perhaps — along with the VEP — both governments can also consider a secondary option. The WEP – a walking entry permit. 

If I could walk to JB to makan and jalan-jalan, I would be a very happy neighbour. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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