Creating a poor first impression


Both the interior and exterior of Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex in Johor Baru need sprucing up. — Bernama

Upgrades needed at JB’s main border checkpoint as users increase

A FEW days ago, a friend to traveled from Singapore to Johor by bus to have lunch with some ex-schoolmates from Melaka.

This was his third bus ride into Johor since international borders reopened in April.

Borders with the island republic had been closed since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During our journey to the restaurant in Skudai, I was taken aback by some of the negative feedback he shared about his short trips to Johor Baru.

ALSO READ: Johor MB: Free shuttle buses to reduce congestion at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar

These included the poor condition of Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex (BSI) in Johor Baru and problems at the integrated Larkin Bus Terminal, which is supposed to mirror Terminal Bersepadu Selatan in Kuala Lumpur.

He told me that during all three trips, many of the autogates at the BSI immigration counters were faulty, so people had to head to the manual counters with immigration officers to scan their passports.

Many of the escalators too were not functioning, forcing people to walk long distances as there are only two lifts at the complex, he added.

Besides the BSI building, faulty escalators are also found at the adjoining JB Sentral building.

My friend took a feeder bus from BSI to Larkin Sentral to board an interstate bus to Melaka.

Upon boarding, the driver told him not to sit on one of the seats in the front as there was a hole in the roof.

At Larkin Sentral, he was forced to pay RM2 to print his boarding pass despite having purchased the ticket online before being allowed into the lounge area where all the monitors and screens were not functioning.

As he had no way of knowing if his bus had arrived, he then walked around looking for the vehicle to ensure he did not miss his trip back to Melaka.

After hearing this, photographer Thomas Yong and I decided to take the bus from Larkin Sentral to BSI and back.

Several of the immigration autogates at the complex were under maintenance at the complex in Johor Baru during StarMetro’s visit.Several of the immigration autogates at the complex were under maintenance at the complex in Johor Baru during StarMetro’s visit.

We observed that the situation at Larkin Sentral had improved and all the monitors at the departure lounge were working except for another lounge which is used by those going to BSI or Singapore.

The 15-minute bus ride between these two places was also comfortable but the machine did not dispense change for the RM2.60 ticket.

The bus looked like it needed maintenance and the ride was bumpy, especially when the vehicle hit potholes.

Once at BSI, what caught my attention was the “under maintenance” or “upgrading” signs in many parts of the building, especially the escalator areas.

This complex is huge and it is tiring for pedestrians who enter from JB Sentral, as it is a 15 or 20-minute walk to the immigration counters.

Since there are only two lifts, those in a hurry will need to go up or down more than 67 steep steps, which can be a problem for the elderly and those with a lot of luggage.

I noticed that at least four autogates were not functioning during my time there.

However, many immigration counters were open that day.

The bus terminal at the BSI had huge potholes and I also saw a man, who appeared to be of unsound mind, walking around and urinating in public.

Recently, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi made a surprise check at BSI and posted a video, saying that he had heard the people’s complaints and would look into them.

The Home Ministry manages BSI which is one of Malaysia’s busiest checkpoints and used by thousands daily.

Now that international borders have reopened after a two-year halt due to the pandemic, funds need to be allocated to ensure all checkpoints nationwide including BSI are fully operational.

Maintenance or upgrading works should not take more than a year to be completed.

Contractors who fail to get the job done should be terminated and additional immigration staff need to be redeployed to BSI to ensure all counters, be they for pedestrians or vehicles, are open.

Prior to Covid-19, the immigration department was the largest agency at BSI with over 1,400 personnel.

However, many were redeployed during the pandemic.

More government officials and politicians should follow Onn Hafiz’s move and carry out personal spot checks to see the situation for themselves.

They should talk to people using the facilities, especially during peak hours in the morning and evening.

Besides its interior which should be spruced up, the outside of the building also needs maintenance including patching up potholes at the bus waiting area while vagrants loitering around BSI should be discouraged from hanging around there.

More auxiliary policemen should also be deployed to prevent untoward incidents including crimes from taking place.

Fixing all these problems and issues at BSI should be paramount, as the traffic to and from the checkpoint is only going to increase as more people commute across the Causeway, especially with the Singapore school holidays approaching.

We do not want visitors’ first impression of Malaysia, especially Johor Baru, to be marred by poor facilities and faulty equipment.

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