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Malaysian bus drivers stage ‘strike’ at Johor Checkpoint

SINGAPORE — Malaysian buses ferrying factory workers and school children into Singapore are reported to have staged a “strike” at the Malaysian Checkpoint at Johor Bahru this morning (Aug 1).

SINGAPORE - Malaysian buses ferrying factory workers into Singapore staged a strike early this morning (Aug 1) at the Johor checkpoint to protest new toll charges imposed by the Malaysian government.

The Malaysian authorities confirmed to Channel NewsAsia reporter Sumisha Naidu later in the morning that the strike had ended. Chinese daily Sinchew in Malaysia reported that the traffic situation had returned to normal by 8am, after the local authorities promised to look into the revised toll charges.

MediaCorp's hotline received at least five calls about the incident. One of the callers, Mr Tan, said he saw many Malaysia-registered buses ferrying factory workers stopping their vehicles at the Johor checkpoint and refusing to continue their journey into Singapore.

Mr Tan said the strike by the bus drivers caused heavy traffic congestion at the Johor checkpoint. He said factory workers had to disembark at the Malaysian CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex) and walk a long distance into Singapore to board buses to their workplace.

Another caller said the congestion at the Malaysian CIQ had also affected school children travelling into Singapore. He said most of them will be late for schools this morning.

The bus drivers are apparently striking over an increase of more than 500 per cent in toll charges at the Johor Bahru Customs which came into effect today.

Announced by the Malaysian Highway Authority last week, the new toll charges for vehicles heading into Singapore are RM6.80 (S$2.65), RM10.20, RM13.60, RM3.40 and RM5.50 for Class 1 to Class 5 vehicles, respectively. Only motorcyclists are exempted from paying toll.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) sent an advisory at 8.05am saying that bus services 160, 170, 170X and 950 have halted services to Johor Bahru until further notice. The suspension was due to a “protest against increase in Malaysian toll fees by Malaysian bus operators which impeded flow of bus traffic through the Johor Bahru Checkpoint,” the advisory said.

By 9.40am, the LTA had updated that services 170, 170X and 160 had resumed "partial service" into Johor, while service 950 had resumed full service.

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) also issued a travel advisory observing that buses plying the Causeway did not seem to approach the Woodlands Checkpoint as usual this morning, leaving more travellers to walk towards Woodlands Checkpoint instead.

In response to this, ICA officers have been deployed to ensure that travellers are cleared smoothly without compromising security and to perform crowd control.

The ICA also advised motorists to check on the traffic situation at both land checkpoints before setting off. Travellers leaving Singapore by Woodlands or Tuas Checkpoint will be able to know in advance the traffic situation from LTA’s Expressway Monitoring & Advisory System (EMAS) installed along the AYE and BKE respectively.

Meanwhile, Malaysian opposition parties Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) have come out in support of the bus drivers.

DAP Johor chief Boo Cheng Hau posted a message on Facebook urging the Johor Bahru Malay Chamber of Commerce, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Indian Chamber of Commerce to “untie and form an alliance with other non-governmental organisations to fight for a review of the toll hike”.

PKR deputy secretary-general Steven Choong posted several photos of him with the bus drivers on strike. “We are outside the CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) with bas kilang (factory bus) drivers who refused to pay the new toll. They have caused a massive jam since 5am,” he wrote on Facebook.


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