Source: Singapore's The Business Times (20 Jan 2007) The illustration shows the current toll rates for lorries and heavy vehicles, not cars and motorcycles.
Sometimes, you have to wonder whether policy makers look at the big picture at all.
Take the case of the toll rate at the Second Link connecting southern Malaysia and Singapore.
According to a report on Thursday, the Malaysian government will jack up the toll rates by 27% on vehicles using the Second Link Expressway from Jan 1. The other bridge connecting the two countries is the overused causeway, which links Woodlands in Singapore and the southern Malaysian city of Johor Baru.
The report said passenger cars using the Second Link route will have to pay RM10.80 (S$4.60) next year, compared with RM8.40 now, The Sun newspaper quoted Works Minister S. Samy Vellu as saying.
Rates will also go up at two other Johor toll booths. At the Perling toll, passenger cars will have to pay RM2.30 compared with RM1.80 now. And at the Lima Kedai booth, the toll will be increased to RM3.90 from RM3.10.
The report said the rise in the toll rates is part of contractual obligations the Malaysian government signed with companies that built and manage the highways.
So far, the argument sounds logical. But the whole argument falls apart when it is seen in the wider context of essential infrastructure between Malaysia and Singapore.
Here are some bigger questions and issues concerning the two major arteries:
1. Shouldn't the Malaysian government be lowering toll rates at the Second Link to encourage more motorists to switch from the perennially congested causeway to the Second Link? Toll rates are substantially lower at the causeway, which is owned jointly by the two countries. Even more motorists will avoid the Second Link and flock to the causeway following the jump in the toll rates at the Second Link.
2. So far, it's not clear whether the Singapore government will follow suit in jacking its toll rate as well on motorists using the Second Link, which was built jointly by the two countries. The Singapore government had a policy of matching the Malaysian toll rate when the Second Link bridge was opened in 1998 although the rationale was debatable.
3. Shouldn't Malaysia and Singapore sit down and discuss ways to promote greater usage of the Second Link and ease the congestion on the causeway? Shouldn't the two governments help facilitate the massive cross-border flow of people instead of imposing any further burden on them?
4. Shouldn't the two governments think of fresh ways to ease the flow of people and goods between the two countries, as they couldn't even agree on a simple overhead bridge to replace the aging causeway and clean up the dirty Straits of Johor?
5. Shouldn't the two governments refer to the recently minted Asean Charter, which waxes lyrical about cooperation and dispute resolution in the Asean spirit, to help resolve their bridge problems?
While the two governments remain at odds with each other over a host of bilateral issues, people on both sides of the causeway will continue to bear the brunt of the causeway bottleneck.