A Toll for a Toll – When Will the Causeway Madness Between Singapore and Malaysia End?

Jeff Cuellar


Believe it or not, paying a toll to cross a bridge usually isn’t such a big deal in most parts of the world. Then again, most toll bridges are within the same country and don’t connect two nations the way the Johor-Singapore Causeway bridge does.

And that’s when the problems start.

Now, Malaysians and Singaporeans on both ends of the causeway are left with no other option but to pay for the expensive mistakes of politicians on both sides. And it’s looking like it’ll be a very expensive one at that – costing commuters who travel to both sides daily thousands of dollars.


A Toll for a Toll – That’s How We Roll!

Trust and communication key to every relationship – including international relations between two nations. That being said, I can say safely say that both sides are to blame for this mess – it always takes two correct?

Whether Singapore or Malaysia came out with their toll increases first doesn’t matter – what matters more is the fact that neither side bothered to communicate their actions to one another.  I know, some of you might say “but a nation doesn’t need to inform its neighbour about what it plans to do or not”, and you might be right.

But again, it’s that attitude that caused this problem in the first place.

The causeway is more than just a bridge – it’s a link between the two countries that accounts for plenty of commerce going both ways. Both sides should have known that any toll/fee increase from one side would elicit a reactionary “I’ll raise my toll too!” response from the other.

Now, we’re all caught in something of a “price war” that’ll only end up hurting everyone in the end.


Who’s Getting Hurt Worse?

The toll/fee increases on both sides will hurt everyone. In the short term, it’ll be Malaysian commuters working in Singapore who’ll be facing the financial brunt of a nearly 100% increase in their toll/fee costs. Singaporeans living in Johor who cross the causeway daily will also feel the effect.

In the long run, it’ll probably be economy of both countries that’ll suffer as the price of goods coming into Singapore from Malaysia will increase to absorb the cost of transportation across the causeway and less Singaporeans travel to Johor Bahru on day trips.

Single trips aside, let’s look at how the proposed tolls will affect motorists who have to travel to either side of the causeway on a daily basis:

For the Malaysian Working in Singapore

Old Toll (Round Trip) New Toll (Round Trip) Total Increase Annual Cost (5 days a week)
$2.90 RM ($1.20SGD) +$20 SGD VEP $16.50 RM ($6.50 SGD) + $35 SGD VEP 95.75% Increase $9,545 SGD


For the Singaporean Travelling Daily to Johor Bahru (Malaysia’s Proposed Toll Increase)

Old Toll (Round Trip) New Toll (Round Trip) Total Increase Annual Cost (5 days a week)
$2.90RM ($1.20 SGD) $16.50RM ($6.50 SGD) + $50RM ($19.50SGD) Entry Fee 2000% Increase $6,240 SGD

As you can see, the toll increases on both sides of the causeway pretty much screw everyone – especially working-class Malaysians who drive to Singapore every day to make a living. NO doubt paying double over the course of a year just to cross the causeway has a lot of Malaysians scared.

Singaporeans are affected by the increase too! Especially the minority that need to travel to Johor Bahru on a daily basis for business matters or because they have a home there. For the rest of us day travellers, that’s 50 less Ringgit that we’ll be able to spend in Malaysia, which is an expensive inconvenience that’ll probably lead to less day trips to Johor Bahru.

Of course, Malaysians working in Singapore and Singaporeans visiting Malaysia can avoid the expensive toll by travelling via motorbike, carpooling or taking the ferry (a poor option, but an option nonetheless).

Well, you can try swimming also – good exercise if you can avoid the sharks and security personnel on either side throwing you into a cell. However, I don’t think using the excuse that you “didn’t want to pay the toll” will fly.

Commuters taking passenger cars across the causeway won’t be the only ones affected by the toll increase however.

The toll also affects the following vehicle types:

  • Buses (previously $2.30RM, now $13.30RM round-trip)
  • Taxis (previously $1.40RM, now $8.20RM round-trip)
  • Class Two Vehicles (previously $4.50RM, now $24.90RM round-trip)
  • Class Three Vehicles (previously $$6.10Rm, now $33.30 round-trip)


The Biggest Question Right Now is – What’s Next?

For this, I’ll defer to tried and tested predictive method known as Occam’s Razor. I know, it sounds like something you can find in the Men’s aisle at NTUC Fairprice along with Colgate Toothpaste and Gillette shaving cream.

Well, it’s not actually a razor – it’s a principle that simply means, “The simplest outcome/answer is usually the correct one”.  And in the case of the toll increases well… the outcome will probably be ugly.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has already made it known that it’ll increase the toll on our end of the causeway to match those made by Malaysia, meaning that a “tit-for-tat” response will likely be Singapore’s response.

Ideally, it would have been nicer if both nations could have sat down to talk about toll/fee increases to come up with a solution that didn’t involve such a dramatic increase for commuters (a gradually rising toll/fee over X number of years would have been nice).

However, now it’s looking more like a “personal” fight between the two nations – by the way, why are the tolls/fees increasing again? I think that’s something that both sides need to explain to the people who’ll be paying it.

Of course, that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong.


What do you think is the best resolution to ending a potential “price war” over the Causeway toll on both sides? Share your insights with us on Facebook! For even more useful information on everything personal finance, visit MoneySmart today!


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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.