Surviving the Causeway crush

Surviving the Causeway crush

Throw in the school holidays, Christmas shopping and the weaker Malaysian ringgit, and you have the reasons for so many Singaporeans heading up north for shopping.

But that also means traffic snarls that can last three hours if you try to get through the Causeway.

So how do you survive it?

With plenty of smiles, said Singaporeans The New Paper interviewed.

Oh, and it's a good idea to pack food and load the tablets with lots of movies.

Banking associate Mazlindah Abdul Ma'moon, 44, said her family makes sure their iPad is stocked with movies and that their car has plenty of food and tidbits.

"I also make sure my kids go to the washroom before embarking on the trip," she said.

Ms Mazlindah and her family, which includes three children aged 14 to 19, were going to a relative's wedding.

They travel to Johor Baru weekly to shop and eat there.

She also travels there so her two sons can practise motorsports at a circuit there.

On Saturday, The New Paper team drove to JB via the Woodlands checkpoint. Progress was halted at Woodlands Avenue 3, as more than a hundred cars were lined up in front of us, waiting to cross the border.

Technician Sumarni Kader, 39, was heading to JB with her family for their monthly shopping trip.

She told TNP, speaking while in her car at Woodlands Avenue 3, that the average drive from that point to past the Johor checkpoint is about an hour.

But judging from the jam, she was expecting a journey twice as long.

Her family passes the time by playing games on their mobile devices and watching movies on the car's DVD player. These activities help pacify her three children, aged seven to 15.

"On top of tidbits and drinks, I sometimes cook fried rice for the trip," she said.

How popular is JB as a shopping destination?

The Straits Times reported that Singaporeans make up 40 per cent of the 27 million people who visit Johor Bahru City Square each year. The mall is the closest to the Causeway.

The TNP team finally passed the Johor checkpoint three hours after we had reached Woodlands Avenue 3, where the jam had started.

Drivers are not the only ones affected by the jams. Bus passengers also face huge crowds at the bus stops.

When it is really bad, some abandon the wait for a bus, preferring instead to walk across the Causeway.

A 45-year-old technical manager, who wanted to be known only as Mr Faran, was one of the many who chose to go on foot.

"It takes so long to board a bus that walking into JB is actually a much better option," he said.

There were also traffic jams on the roads leading back to Singapore.

The TNP team took one hour and 40 minutes to travel from the Johor checkpoint into Singapore, past the Woodlands checkpoint.

The trip would normally take about half an hour.

But Ms Mazlindah and her family say the hassle is worth it.

"The journey in took us almost three hours and the journey back took almost two hours. But we managed to do everything we had set out to do," she said.

But for others, like Madam Sumarni, the trip was simply too time-consuming.

She said: "I left JB at around 6pm and was stuck in the jam until 9pm.

"I didn't even manage to get all my shopping done as we wanted to leave early to try to avoid the jam."

This article was first published on December 22, 2014.
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