Flashback # Star50: New chapter in bilateral relations

yee-ping_03011998New crossing: (right) Hundreds of motorists line up to cross the second link when it opened to traffic on January 2, 1998. (Top) The Star’s report on its official opening on April 18, 1998 .

Computing marked a new chapter in Malaysia-Singapore relations when the Second Link opened in April 1998.

The bridge was built to facilitate movement on the Malaysia-Singapore causeway, which began in the 1920s and was then the only land crossing between the two countries.

With a price of RM 1.3 billion, the second link connects Tanjung Kupang to Gelang Patah, Johor, to Tuas in Singapore.

It is about 1.7 km on the Malaysian side. On the Singapore side, it is 0.3 km long.

1308967-2023-02CLICK TO ENLARGE

The three-way double link across the Strait of Johor was jointly opened by then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Singaporean counterpart Goh Chok Tong.

On the official opening day, April 18, 1998, Dr Mahathir said the link would play a central role in the economic and infrastructure development of both countries.

“This second passage will literally serve as a bridge to transport our two countries into the 21st century.

“It can also be seen as a triumph for ASEAN as it demonstrates the success of two of its members in their work for regional cooperation,” he said.

For his part, Goh said the bridge was not just another great feat of engineering.

According to him, this marked a new phase in Malaysia-Singapore relations.

“It’s a bridge to the future, it’s for future needs,” he said.

The second link has three main elements: the bridge, two highways and the Sultan Abu Bakar Customs and Immigration Complex.

Before it opened, then Public Works Minister Tun S. Samy Vellu said the bridge had the capacity to handle some 70,000 vehicles and 238,000 people per day.

It has also been estimated that it could alleviate 30% of roadway congestion.

Unofficial statistics have shown that some 300,000 commuters traveled daily between Johor and Singapore via the causeway and the second link before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

On March 18 last year, for the first time in its history, the Second Link and Causeway were shut down as countries around the world closed their borders to stop the contagion.

Thousands of travelers have been seen rushing to either side of the causeway and the second link to beat the midnight deadline for closing the border.

Since then, the two countries have made arrangements to facilitate some travel between the two parties.

But before the pandemic, countless people regularly used the second link because the bridge was very convenient.

Technician K. Susheendran, 34, said he had used the link for more than seven years to travel back and forth between his home in Skudai and his workplace in Singapore.

“I will normally use the second link when I travel in the morning, because the traffic and the clearance are faster compared to the roadway.

“However, if I come home at night I will check the traffic conditions on both bridges before deciding which route to take. It’s really good to have options,†he said.

Another Malaysian working in Singapore, Noor Azizan Junaidi, 30, said he preferred to use the second link although he lives in Pasir Gudang, which is closer to the causeway.

“I prefer to use the Second Link because the traffic jams are generally not as bad as the Giant’s Causeway.

1308964-2023-02“However, since my house is closer to the causeway, I will normally have to cross the causeway to get to Singapore (before the pandemic).

“I would use the Second Link, but probably only twice a week or so when the traffic conditions on Giant’s Causeway are really bad,†he said, adding that he was traveling between Malaysia and Singapore on his. motorcycle for over three years.

Noor Azizan, who works as a tool installation coordinator, said the second link helped reduce congestion on the roadway.

“This is particularly useful for people living in the Bukit Indah and Gelang Patah regions as they do not have to travel far to enter Singapore,” he added.

He also liked the design and accessibility of the Second Link, saying it was better than the Causeway.

Curious to see more features like this? Visit Starchive on our anniversary site for more stories from across the decades.

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