(Photo Credit: The Star)
The crooked bridge idea at the Causeway first brought up by Dr Mahathir during his first tenure as Prime Minister may now return.
The crooked bridge idea at the Causeway first brought up by Dr Mahathir during his first tenure as Prime Minister may now return. Johor’s Chief Minister Osman Sapian said on Tuesday (16 Oct) that the Johor state government will be meeting their Singapore counterparts soon. On the meeting’s agenda is the possibility of reviving the crooked bridge between Johor and Singapore.
“We will discuss issues including water price, bilateral development and investments. We will try to attract investors from Singapore to Malaysia. We might also discuss the crooked bridge project with them to see if they want to join us or otherwise, and also the third bridge project. We will get feedback from them,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
He said Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali would attend the meeting as well, and the meeting would be held in Singapore on either 27 or 28 October. Datuk Osman also added that he brought up the idea of the crooked bridge in a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last month.
“The bridge has its benefits. Perhaps past prime ministers didn't feel comfortable continuing a project started by Dr Mahathir,” Mr Osman said. "So he said if we want to do it, no problem, because it would not involve demolishing the Singapore parts of the bridge, only on our side.”
Currently, Osman said there are plans to expand the Johor-Singapore Causeway. The plans include widening the footpath for more human traffic, and to include more bus lanes to allow more feeder buses to transport more people across the Causeway.
Background on the Crooked Bridge
Back in 2001 during his first tenure as Prime Minister (PM), Dr Mahathir first brought up the idea of replacing the link between Johor Bahru and Singapore (Woodlands) with a bridge. Such a bridge would be lifted and curved to allow ships to pass, ease traffic congestion, allow stagnant water to pass through and improve the marine environment.
However, the key reason for such a bridge was to allow ships to sail through the Johor Strait. The Malaysia-Singapore second link at Tuas is lifted like a normal bridge, allowing ships to pass through. Since the link at Woodlands sits fully at sea level, the Johor Strait is essentially sliced into two portions—limiting the access for ships.
Thus, the idea of a six-lane, S-shaped highway was born. This bridge curves in such a way that allows ships to pass through. Such a bridge would also greatly benefit the two ports in the southern Malaysian state of Johor.
Back in 2003, just before Dr Mahathir ended his first tenure as Malaysia’s PM, he announced that Malaysia would build the crooked bridge on their side of the Causeway. This would be in the situation that Singapore refuses to demolish their half of the Causeway to make way for a bridge.
His two successors, Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak, both failed to go ahead with the plans to build the S-shaped highway.
His immediate successor, Abdullah Badawi, couldn’t get Singapore to agree to a complete demolition of the Causeway. At least, not without including working out other bilateral issues as a package. Tun Abdullah first tried to go ahead with a complete demolition, while allowing the Singapore Military to use Johor Airspace.
After receiving pushback in 2006, he proceeded with the idea of a ‘scenic bridge’ to be built only on the side of Johor. Less than three months after that, he dropped the idea completely, citing concerns over sand sales and Singapore using their airspace. This was despite the RM100 million (currently S$33.1 million) already invested in the project.
The still-influential Dr Mahathir proceeded to viciously attack his immediate successor, politically. This was shortly after Abdullah Badawi failed to follow through with the Causeway replacement. Political observers say this was the main reason why Mr Abdullah resigned the premiership in 2009.
Tun Abdullah’s successor, Mr Najib Razak, proceeded to strike a deal with Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong. Not for demolishing the Causeway, but for building a third link between Singapore and Johor.
According to Dr Mahathir, former PM Najib told him that Malaysia could not go ahead with the crooked bridge as there was an agreement on both sides to not touch the Causeway unless both countries agreed.
“But he couldn't show me the agreement,” Dr Mahathir said.
On Singapore’s end, the city-state saw “no significant benefits”, amidst “huge financial costs” on its side. However, Singapore did say that they were open to a package. Besides the crooked bridge, the package would include agreements for Singapore’s military to use Johor airspace and Malaysia selling sand and raw water to Singapore.
However, talks were suspended in April 2006 due to protest from Malaysian ruling political party, Umno, in Johor over Singapore’s requested trade-offs.
(Photo Credit: TODAY)
The proposal for a third link had been stagnant until recently, when current Malaysian PM Mahathir said that there is “some” plan for a third link in August this year. This statement came after reports surfaced, saying Johor was in talks with Singapore to build and complete a bridge in the next three to four years.
When asked about the plan to build a third link, PM Mahathir told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that, “there is some plan in the offing... there is already some plan”.
However, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport says otherwise. A statement from the Ministry in response to media queries said, “we have not received any official proposal or communications from Malaysia regarding a third link between Singapore and Malaysia”.
Reports from Malaysian media said that the third link might be built to the Singapore Island of Palau Ubin, just off the country’s north-eastern coast. Such a link would start at Pengerang near Kota Tinggi in Johor and ease congestion at the two existing links.
“Yesterday, I had a discussion with interested parties about the possibility of a third link from east Johor. We observed that the area was close to Pulau Ubin - they were only about 3km apart,” Mr Osman said.
Mr Osman added that the link via Palau Ubin might have a different customs and immigration system from those used at the two existing links.
“We may use a new system. It could be that Singapore and Malaysia's immigration checks will be conducted just once either in Pengerang or in Pulau Ubin,” said the chief minister.
He also mentioned that the prospective project was still under research. When completed, the federal government would study the findings.
Update: 18 October, 10.25am
Economic Minister Azmin Ali played down the idea of reviving the crooked bridge on Wednesday (Oct 17). However, he did say that he will look at the proposal once Johor submits it to the federal government. He added that priority for developmental projects will remain on those that will affect Malaysians directly.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, he cited projects that the Pakatan Harapan government will focus on, “for example like roads and hospitals that would benefit the rakyat (people)”. He added that projects like the crooked bridge would depend on the country’s financial situation, which he said was “not good at present”.
“Once we see the proposal, the Ministry will look into the matter and see whether we will have the capacity at this point of time to continue with the project, or maybe consider upon another situation when it is much better for us.”
The Johor Crown Price Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim also chimed in on the matter on Twitter. He said the new government should instead look into boosting investment in healthcare, saying the country is in dire need of it.
“In my opinion, it’s better to go ahead with the hospital in Pasir Gudang that the government tunda (postponed) and increase healthcare budget for the state. All hospitals in JB, including districts, needed more beds and medical equipment. Just my humble opinion,” tweeted the 34-year-old.
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