The Johor state government is planning to build a 350m covered walkway for pedestrians on the Malaysian side of the Causeway, at a cost of RM30 million (S$9.9 million), a senior Johor official said.
Once completed, the project would make it more comfortable for the hundreds of people who walk across the land link connecting Johor Baru to Woodlands, said Mr Mohd Solihan Badri, Johor’s state executive councillor for the public works, infrastructure and transport committee on Sunday, as quoted by Bernama news agency.
Before the coronavirus pandemic led to the general closure of the Causeway, more than 300,000 people used the land link each day, including some 100,000 who commuted daily to work in Singapore.
Most commuters used motorcycles, cars and buses to get across what is reputed to be the world’s busiest border crossing.
But in normal times, hundreds of people are often seen walking across the Causeway daily to reach the other side faster due to the traffic snarls.
And because there is no motor traffic on the Causeway now, the only commuter traffic are the people walking across. It makes sense to build something to better serve them.
Malaysia’s federal government has doubled its initial allocation of RM15 million after the walkway was redesigned, with the addition of escalators and air-conditioning, Mr Mohd Solihan told reporters on the sidelines of the Johor state assembly proceedings.
“The construction will involve the Home Ministry and Works Ministry as the Johor Causeway is maintained by the Malaysian Highway Authority,” he said.
Mr Mohd Solihan did not say whether the covered walkway would be built on pedestrian paths on the existing 1km road link, or whether a new structure would be added by the side of the link.
“The distance of 350m ends at the border with Singapore. However, for Singapore, I’m not sure how long the distance is going to be,” Bernama quoted him as saying.
According to Mr Mohd Solihan, pedestrians are actually prohibited on the Johor Causeway, but the authorities have not taken any action against them.
This is new to me. It explains why a covered walkway was never constructed, even though the Causeway is close to a century old (it opened in 1923).
If the covered walkway becomes reality, then the movement of pedestrians across the Causeway will unofficially be “legalised”.
He said Singapore Consulate officials in Johor Baru whom he met had expressed interest in the project, Bernama reported.
It will make sense for Singapore to complete the walkway on its end of the crossing, as long as the cost is not prohibitive.
What a curious way to commemorate a hundred years of the Causeway’s existence. It was originally built with rail and motor traffic in mind, but now, humble pedestrian traffic - probably numbering in the dozens daily, not the usual hundreds of thousands - is its raison d'être.