'Causeway not being replaced'

NST, April 15, 2014


SISTER NATIONS: 'Friendship Bridge' will complement existing link, says Johor exco member

JOHOR BARU: THE proposed Malaysia-Singapore Friendship Bridge will not serve as a replacement for the current Causeway linking the two countries, but will complement it.

There is also a possibility that the structure will not be a traditional bridge, but an underwater tunnel instead.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said these were the possibilities that were being discussed, following the announcement of the proposed bridge by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently.

"The bridge may not necessarily be above water, like in the case of the Second Link.

"It could be in the form of an underwater tunnel," he said, adding that it was just a concept to link the two countries.

He said, in the event that it was built near the Causeway, the new bridge would complement the role of the former, not replace it.

"The Causeway will remain intact. It will not be demolished," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Speculation has been rife that the bridge will span across Sungai Johor from the future oil and gas hub in Pengerang due to its vast economic potential. This has been lent credence due to the fact that there has yet to be any link connecting south-east Johor to the island republic.

Insiders also believe that there is a possibility the bridge will connect Puteri Harbour, which is nearer to the state administrative capital of Nusajaya, to Singapore.

This is due to Nusajaya being the centre of the Iskandar Malaysia growth region and would serve to draw Singaporeans to the area, which is slated to feature the best in accommodation, healthcare and education.

Pressed on the possible location for the new bridge, Hasni said while the reasons given were equally valid, the state government was looking beyond these points.

"All these locations are possible. However, the state government will take into consideration the existing traffic volume between the two countries.

"(The new bridge) must also maximise the use of the present Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex at the Sultan Iskandar building. We will ensure the location is to our benefit.

"Judging from this, the present Causeway is one of the best possible sites we are looking into seriously."

Najib first announced the idea of the Friendship Bridge following his meeting with Singapore premier Lee Hsien Loong at the 5th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders Retreat in Putrajaya, last week.

The project, which he had described as a long-term initiative, would not only serve as a new road connecting the two countries, but would also be a symbol of the growing friendship that Malaysia and Singapore shared.

Friendship bridges are common in many Indochina countries in Southeast Asia.

For example, Thailand and Laos share four such links, mostly located above the Mekong River.

Hasni said there was a mutual understanding between both countries over the need for a third connection and assured the public that any discussions would be different from those which had involved the previous "crooked bridge" idea.

"It is no longer a crooked bridge, as it affects our feelings.

"The shape of the bridge will be a bilateral decision eventually.

It was a bridge which would be acceptable by both parties, not something that would serve to strain the relationship between the two countries, he said.

"Leaders from both countries are more than willing to sit down and discuss the matter.

"We will start from where we last left off about the bridge."

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed had mooted the idea to demolish the Causeway and replace it with a "crooked bridge" during his tenure.

His successor, Tun Abdullah Badawi, however, scrapped the project.