It has been nearly half a year since Malaysia closed its southern border with Singapore, which forced many who work on the other side of the border to stay put, or go home and potentially lose their income/jobs. This has caused much hardship and inconvenience, especially to those who have family back home.

After much bilateral discussion, both countries rolled out the reciprocal green lane (RGL) for travellers on shorter visits, and the longer-term periodic commuting arrangement (PCA) to resume cross-border travel. Today saw the first border crossings under the schemes.

The RGL allows for short-term travel for essential business or official purposes for up to 14 days, while the PCA allows Malaysia and Singapore residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work. The latter is the more “mass market” of the two schemes, and is only applicable for the two Johor-SG land border crossings, and not air travel.

It has proved popular, with many taking the opportunity to finally head home to meet their families. Some are going back to Singapore for work. According to Johor immigration director Baharuddin Tahir, applications under RGL and PCA are fully booked from now until August 21.

It’s not a free for all like pre-Covid days though – foreign minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein was previously quoted as saying that only 2,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans are allowed to cross daily under the PCA, while the RGL’s quota is 400 people a week.

Earlier today, many were seen walking home across the Causeway, with luggage in tow, as there’s no public transport available, and not many cross-border workers have their own cars. Seeing this, the Johor state government is looking into providing free shuttle bus services to ease the journey.

State public works, transportation and infrastructure committee chairman Mohd Solihan Badri told Sinar Harian that the state government will discuss with Perbadanan Pengangkutan Awam Johor (PAJ) to provide the service as part of the latter’s corporate social responsibility.

“We will request PAJ to prepare a small 22-passenger bus for free as part of PAJ’s CSR. The bus ride will be within Malaysia’s borders and will not enter into Singapore. Those who are walking from CIQ Woodlands are also welcome to take this bus to Johor,” he said today after visiting the CIQ at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar in JB, adding that prior approval from the national security council (MKN) is required.

Here’s hoping that this baby step at reopening our borders will be safe and successful.