Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Johor's new CIQ complex gets off to crawling start

JOHOR BARU: Beng knew what to expect as he manoeuvred through yet another night of traffic jams on the Causeway on Monday night.

It was tiring, but he persevered on his rattling motorcycle as he made his routine daily after-work journey from Singapore to Johor Baru about 11.30pm.

When the traffic got too heavy, the 42-year-old cook parked his motorcycle at the side of the Causeway.

He heaved a sigh of relief as he reflected that this would be the last time he would be at the 41-year-old Malaysian checkpoint at the end of the Malaysian side of the Causeway.

Beng was excited about the opening of the brand-new Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex.
"I knew from reports in the newspapers that the old building would be closed at midnight.

"I have seen the (new) building from afar and it looks marvellous. Now, we have something to boast about to the Singaporeans. I am proud to be a Malaysian," he said.

At a minute past midnight last night, the Causeway checkpoint was shut down and the new CIQ complex opened.

The opening of the new CIQ complex was, however, not as smooth as expected.

Although the authorities had expected that the closure of the old checkpoint would smoothen the passage of vehicles from the Causeway, traffic almost came to a standstill when motorists were directed to a two-lane expressway to the new CIQ complex.

JohorImmigration director Mohd Nasri Ishak, however, described the situation as a "minor congestion".

He blamed it on motorists adapting to a new route and a few "technical glitches".

CIQ personnel were seen trying to regulate the traffic flow and to direct the traffic to the toll booths instead of queuing up in one long line.

Another problem was that many motorists were unaware that the CIQ toll booths would only accept payment via Touch 'n Go cards.

A Singaporean was caught off-guard as he did not have any ringgit with him to buy the RM20 prepaid Touch 'n Go card.

"I only have Singaporean dollars. Can I still buy a card?" he asked.

Fortunately, the Touch 'n Go personnel were accepting payment in foreign currency.

A Malaysian, Chan Pon Sock, 30, said he only knew about the Touch 'n Go payment system upon entering the CIQ complex.

The CIQ complex houses impressive checkpoint facilities -- with 38 lanes for cars, 50 motorcycle lanes and 18 lanes for buses.

However, on leaving the CIQ complex, many road users were caught by surprise when several policemen with light batons signalled them to stop.

As more and more motorists were stopped, one or two cast a wry glance at reporters and photographers.

"Are we in trouble? Why are they stopping us? Have we done anything wrong?" a motorcyclist with a Singaporean plate registration number asked.

What a relief it was when told that they would be "flagged off" by a number of dignitaries, including Johor Baru mayor Datuk Mohd Naim Nasir and Johor Customs director Muhamad Subre Ishak, to mark the first entry to the CIQ complex.

Johor's new CIQ complex gets off to crawling start
New Straits Times, Malaysia