Tuesday, December 05, 2006

JB-Singapore MRT?

A new Malaysian company is toying with the idea of building a monorail network in Johor Baru and linking it to Singapore. According to Malaysia's BT today, little-known Jalur Mudra is having talks with Singapore's SMRT Corporation, which operates the Mass Rapid Transit network in Singapore, for a joint venture.

The project definitely sounds useful to help cater to the massive human traffic flowing between Singapore and southern Malaysia. Nearly 10 million Singaporeans entered Malaysia, mainly through JB, last year. This is more than the 8-odd million tourists to Singapore last year.

But can such a project take off? Will it help resolve traffic and straits woes?

Don't bet on it. There are just too many complications surrounding such a project. And even if it does take off, it won't be the ideal solution.

1. The project will most likely need a new link across the Straits of Johor to Singapore as there is simply no room on the causeway for a monorail track, no matter how slim it is.

2. Will Singapore agree to a monorail track from JB to Singapore via the Straits of Johor when the two governments could not even agree on a new bridge to replace the causeway that links JB and Singapore?

3. Will there be complications for immigration clearance? Or will travellers from Singapore zip to JB without passports under the proposed immigration-free zone in JB?

A more ideal solution is for Malaysia and Singapore to jointly agree on a new and wider bridge to replace the causeway, which retards the flow of water in the filthy Straits of Johor.

1. Singapore and Malaysia planners can then allocate space for the monorail project from JB to Singapore on the new bridge.

2. Planners on both sides of the causeway can also discuss the possibility of setting aside space on the new bridge for the bullet train service -- proposed by Malaysian tycoon Francis Yeoh -- from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.

3. Channelling the human traffic through the current custom and immigration facilities in JB and Singapore will be a neater solution, than possibly building new facilities just to cater to the monorail track.

Building a new bridge to replace the causeway will solve many problems in one fell swoop.

Malaysia and Singapore can make provision for wider roads and space for useful projects such as the monorail and bullet train service to cater to the massive cross-border flow of people. And an overhead bridge will also allow water to flow freely in the Straits of Johor after more than 80 years.